Switching to Cavalier DSL

For about a year and a half, I had been using Verizon‘s DSL service, along with Verizon local phone service. With this plan, I was paying approximately $34.95 per month for local and regional phone service (we use cell phones for long distance), along with several calling features. Additionally, I was paying $14.95 per month for my DSL (for the first year; it was $17.95/month thereafter), which gave me maximum speeds of 768k down/128k up. While this was admittedly slow, it was really all we needed.

In the last several months, we were considering upgrading our Internet speeds. One suggestion we got was to go with VOIP. The problem, however, was that we heard too many negatives about VOIP to be able to strongly consider it. The usual complaint with VOIP was the frequent internet downtimes and subsequent phone downtimes.

I then heard an ad on the radio for Cavalier Telephone. They promised speeds up to 10mbps for the low price of $25 per month. That was more than what I was paying, so I was reluctant to do anything about it. But then I noticed that their local calling plans were a full $10 less than Verizon, at only $25 per month. That meant that if I switched to Cavalier, I’d pay the exact same amount (before taxes), but get much faster Internet service.

The problem was that we were told that we were a full 17,900 feet away from the Central Office (CO). Cavalier told me that the maximum distance they provide DSL service to is 18,000 feet. Because I was so far away, they said that I probably wouldn’t get speeds of faster than 1mbps. However, they did tell me that they use Verizon’s phone lines to provide DSL service. After speaking with Verizon, they told me that they could guarantee up up to 3mbps.

At this point, I figured I had nothing to lose. Worse comes to worse, I’d have the same speeds as before, and I’d be paying the same prices. So I made the switch.

My service with Cavalier began exactly 8 days later, and after only a minor glitch, which they corrected over the phone, I was online. At a solid 3.4 mbps. Sweet. While that was pretty much the highest speed I attained, I do check my speeds every once in a while, and I average between 1.9 and 2.3mpbs down, and 400k up. As you can see, this is a tremendous difference. I have not experienced any down times since I began service (right before Pesach), and when I watch video’s on YouTube, they actually load to completion without me having to wait for the videos to buffer constantly. I’ve been very happy.

I did, however, have some problems with my phone service, but that will be in my next post, as this one is getting long.

Parking Ticket follow up

While I’m writing follow up posts, here’s a follow up on the parking ticket that I got.  First of all, thank you Dreamer for the link that showed me where I could fight the ticket online.  Turns out that it was good that I fought the ticket online, as I got a notice in the mail saying that my fine has been reduced to $40, instead of the original $60.  Additionally, the letter stated that I have the option of ignoring the notice, and get a full hearing.  The catch is that if they find me guilty,  I get charged the full $60.  However, if I’m found to be not guilty, then I don’t have to pay a thing.  Kind of a double or nothing.

So now the question is, what do I do?  Do I take the gamble and hope I don’t have to pay anything?  Or should I be relieved that I got a reduction in the first place and just pay the $40?  In any case, this shows that one has nothing to lose by appealing your parking ticket online.

Posted in Advice. 1 Comment »

24 Hours in New York

In 24 hours in New York, I had the following experiences:

  1. Mess up my signature on a kesuba, making the mesader kidushin write it all over again (how often do YOU sign your name in Hebrew?)
  2. Get a $60 parking ticket for parking on the correct side of a No Standing sign. Is there a way of fighting this over the phone? I don’t want to do it in person. Also, the person who gave me the ticket put down some wrong information on the ticket, so I’m guessing there is a way of fighting it?
  3. Figured out that it takes longer to find parking than it does to actually get to your destination, even if you’re destination is 30 minutes away.
  4. Almost smashed into a car on the BQE who decided not to take off any snow from the top of their car. The woman braked, causing the snow to fall and cover the entire windshield, blinding her, which caused her to all out stop on the BQE.

    Some good things:

    1. Hungry-Man Special at Garden of Eat-In – $4.95 got me a big pancake, two scrambled eggs, home fries, two slices of toast, coffee, and a tiny cup of orange juice.
    2. Krispy Kutlet’s at Subsational

      Note that the only good things involved food. Maybe that’s why I keep going back.

      Firefox Extensions

      There’s no question about it. I love Firefox. I’ve been using it since version 0.86 and haven’t looked back. I’ve tried using Opera and the latest version of Internet Explorer (IE), but I always found myself coming back to Firefox. Some of the benefits include increased security, tabbed windows, faster browsing, and more. One of my favorite reasons for using Firefox are the extensions that I can add to Firefox.

      Extensions are little bits of software that add functionality to your browser. In my every-day online usage, I use at least 4-5 of my extensions within the first 2 minutes.

      For example, when I open up my browser, I have the following showing up in the status bar at the bottom of the browser window: Status Bar So right away, I know the weather, including the fact that there is a severe weather alert (flood watch), how many new Gmails I have (none), and a host of other things.

      This list includes the extensions that I use, why I use them, and a link for where to get the extensions.

      1. Adblock – I’ve had this for the longest time, and it is awesome. In short, it blocks ads. When browsing sites, I never see Google ads, I don’t get those annoying flash ads, and OnlySimchas only takes a second to load because it completely removes all the ads from the website. When all those image ads don’t load, it helps things run smoother and faster. If there’s a page that you do want to see ads, you’re able to whitelist websites. This extension is highly recommended.
      2. All-in-one Gestures – This one is hard to explain, but basically, it saves you time by allowing you to make slight gestures with your mouse to control things in your browser. If I wanted to go back a page, instead of having to move my mouse to the back button, all I do is right click my mouse and move a 1/4 of an inch to the left and it goes back. If I want to close a tab, instead of finding the little ‘x’ all I do is right click and move a fraction of an inch down and then right. Once you get used to doing this, there’s no going back. When I’m at school using the computers there, I always end up trying to do my mouse gestures to no avail. The mouse gestures are fully customizable too.
      3. Dictionary Search – This is pretty straight forward. If you’re browsing and you see a word you don’t know, just select the word, right click, and select ‘Dictionary Search’ and it will open up a new tab with the definition.
      4. Download Statusbar – This keeps my downloads in a small and clean place that is easily accessible. You can see it in my image of the status bar above indicated by where it says 0:11.
      5. Fasterfox – Makes Internet browsing speedy.
      6. FireFTP – I don’t use this one very often anymore, but basically, it is an FTP client that is built into Firefox. Nice, fast, and secure.
      7. Forecastfox – Tells you the weather in a small, easy to read area in my status bar. Very customizable. You can select if you just want the temperature, a picture, the forecast, severe weather alerts, multiple zip codes, etc.
      8. Gmail Manager – Instead of always having to check my email, I set my Gmail manager to check my email every three minutes. This way, I always know when I have a new email. It supports multiple Gmail addresses, and you can set how often it checks your email for you (if you’re using dial-up, you may want to have it check less frequently). Also, if you mouse over the icon, it shows you who the email is from and the first several words of the email.
      9. Googlebar – While there is a search engine built into the browser, I frequently use this for many of the other great tools that Google provides. For example, it can translate pages, search for backlinks, go up directories, and more.
      10. Greasemonkey – I only found this one about a week or two ago, but I’m lovin’ it! (Get it? McDonalds and grease? Ok, I’m not sure if that’s really true). Basically, this extension has sub-extensions to it that change and customize the looks of websites to your choosing. This was very confusing to me at first, but once I figured it out, it became really cool and functional. Here are some of the Greasemonkey scripts I have installed. As you see, they mostly involve Gmail:
        • Gmail Conversation Preview – This script allows me to right click on a message in my Gmail, and it will show a preview of what is contained in that email. Great if you’re trying to find a specific email, but not sure which one it is. It saves you time because then you don’t have to open up each and every message.
        • Gmail + Google Reader -This script integrates Google Reader into Gmail. I used to use the Sage extension to check all my RSS feeds, but that still meant actively clicking on the Sage button and refreshing all my feeds. With this script, I don’t have to do anything. I always check my email anyway, and now I can see right away if I have new feeds to look at. I don’t have to refresh anything whatsoever, it just shows up. Here’s a small screenshot (that second to last one says Cocktails):
          Reader
        • Gmail Label Colors – This simply turns my labels into colors, which make it easier to identify in a whole list of things. So important stuff like information on graduation is now red, and not-so-important stuff are other colors, like blue or green.
        • YouTube embed – Often times, I visit forums, blogs, and other websites that have links to YouTube video’s. Personally, I find it annoying to always have to visit the YouTube site just to view the video. With this script, it automatically embeds YouTube video’s in the page you’re currently watching so that you can stay in the same page.
        • Tinfoil hat – I love the name on this one. For ease of use, many people will convert long links to links from TinyURL. The problem is that now when I mouse over the link, I don’t know where it is taking me. With this script, mousing over the link tells me the ultimate destination of the TinyURL link.
      11. IEtab -Unfortunately, some sites out there only work in Internet Explorer. Instead of having to open up a whole new browser, I can just use this extension to make everything function exactly as if it were in IE, and then it will work just fine.

      So that is pretty much it. These extensions will obviously only work on the computer that they are all installed in. But using these extensions really make browsing so much easier and faster. If you have some you want to add to the list, feel free to do so in the comments!

      Getting your VEIP extended

      If anyone recently got notice that you have to have your car tested for emissions at your local VEIP (Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program), it is possible to get the inspection deadline extended by about four months for free and you don’t need an excuse.  All you have to do is go to their website and follow the prompts.  My deadline was March 28, 2007, but I knew that with school and everything, it wasn’t going to get done.  After getting it extended, my new deadline is August 1.

      Song suggestions needed

      I just found out that since I’m a student at Towson Univeristy, I have access to over 2.5 million songs, all of which are free for me to download.  My school has partnered with Cdigix, which has its own music player that you download.  Once you log in using your school email address, you have access to over 2.5 million songs.  They’re all downloadable for free.  The downside, of course, is that you can’t download them to your mp3 player.  However, you do get to keep the file permenantly on your computer (and up to one other I think).  There is an option to pay $6.95/month to be able to transfer files to your mp3 player, but my iPod only holds 2gb, so I don’t need any more songs on there.  But I am looking to increase my song collection on my computer.
      I don’t have a radio in my car, so I’ve been kind of out of the loop on all the latest music, so if you have any song suggestions, feel free to let me know in the comments. No rap or too much heavy metal please.  I don’t mind country either.

      Tipping the mailman; yes or no?

      Do you typically tip your mailman?  Please discuss in the comments.

      This is carryover from my previous post where Lanie asks:

      I thought that mail men aren’t allowed to accept cash gifts. Is that wrong?

      Posted in Advice. 6 Comments »