Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

Home Network Recommendation

2020-11-25 Comments off

Today I received an email from one of our neighbors, actually their son! He’s a gamer, super technical, and after replying, I thought it would be better to document my recommendations here and update based on feedback from Rob and others.


First, determine whether you need to replace the cable modem.  Once you know it needs to be replaced, I recommend buying separate devices for each layer of your home network – cable modem, security device, then switch/wireless.  This lets you buy the most cost-effective device with exactly the features and performance you want for each layer of the network.


Cable modem

I like the Arris/Motorola cable modems, reference link below for Wirecutter recommendations.  I wouldn’t go crazy.  I have an old ARRIS SURFboard SB6183.  It Just Works.  Also, I have 100Mbps service and it’s not a bottleneck.  It’s DOCSIS 3.0, but if you get a new one, make sure it supports the latest DOCSIS 3.1 standard.  That’s all you need – match the rated performance of your cable modem with your Internet connection speed.  There’s no advantage to getting a 1Gbps cable modem for a 200 Mbps connection.  



I use a Meraki security appliance, but only because I got it free through a certification program.  When I replace it, I’ll probably buy a Ubuquiti USG or similar.  You would be appalled at the stuff it blocks and attempted connections I see on a regular basis.  Reference links below and note that you would buy the USG with a Cloud Key for management (detailed in how-to link below).



Get a good, 1Gbps switch with 8 or more ports to connect your laptop and other devices as needed.  Make sure the switch does *not* have a fan, you want everything to use passive cooling and be silent.  Early switches required fans, they all go bad, and they all make too much noise.



I have a Google WiFi mesh which works well.  I bought three access points, but only need two for our house (two story colonial with a basement).  If you live in an apartment, I would just get a reliable access point and locate it to get the best coverage in the apartment.  Make sure anything you buy supports WPA2/3 and use a complex admin password to secure your AP.


Bonus Tip

If you don’t already have a spare Raspberry Pi, buy two or three and configure one to run PiHole. PiHole can provide DNS services, but more important is it is a very effective ad filter for your home network.  You will notice it on your phone immediately and you also benefit from having a local DNS server that you control.  On my network it’s filtering >30% of the DNS queries from our Roku TV to our phones and laptops. I’m using a Model 3B Raspberry Pi and be sure to buy a reliable power supply like the Anker Elite Dual Port 24W ($11 from Amazon!).


Reference Links


The Best Cable Modem


Ubuquiti USG security gateway –


How To: Deploying a Ubiquiti UniFi Home Network including Multiple WiFi Access Points (Part 1) UPDATED


Pi-hole® – Network-wide Ad Blocking


Dashboard from Paul’s PiHole

Categories: Internet Tags:

Why do I hate DirecTV Now, let me count the ways

2017-02-07 Comments off

I got an e-mail from AT&T/DirecTV asking me to complete a survey on why I unsubscribed from DirecTV Now.  I spent quite a bit of time crafting a comprehensive answer, only to receive the notice below.  Part of my issue with DirecTV was the poor interface design. I now extend that criticism to the survey.  If you limit my response to 999 characters, why not tell me?  Then I won’t prepare a response that’s 302% larger than you will allow!

NOTE – there were two other text boxes, both limited the number of characters to other, smaller, and random quantities, both with no indication of what the limit would be. 


Here is my full response about why I unsubscribed from DirecTV Now:

DirecTV Now was a horrific
experience.  From the user
interface to buffering issues to the user interface (did I already say that,
yes, it’s that bad) to the content.  No type of DVR solution, ‘subscribing’ to channels was OK, but
non-intuitive to use.


No CBS channel.  At all.  Yes, I know you
have to negotiate with CBS, but it’s a gaping hole.  I added HBO and got two HBO channels added, which was underwhelming.  Even at $35/month rate it wasn’t worth
the money.  We watched ONE movie
(Deadpool) and the last 20 minutes of the film took almost an hour to watch due
to buffering issues.


Just so you don’t assume I have a poor Internet
connection, I have 200/10 Mbps (up/downlink speeds) and a commercial grade
firewall and wireless AP (Meraki).  Chemical engineer by degree, working in IT and connected to the Internet
since 1986 (not a typo), Cisco and other certifications.  Let’s just assume the problem is on your end and not my home


Streaming from a laptop to a Chromecast was
USELESS.  I stream other content
(YouTube, other) to Chromecast with no issues using the exact same configuration
(laptop, wireless channel, etc).  Streaming from my PHONE (!!!) worked better than the laptop, and I can’t
account for that.  Is the Android
app that much more efficient than streaming from a browser on a


No Roku support out of the gate.  Roku and beer are gifts from GOD, and you don’t support the Roku.  Seriously? 


I took advantage of the free Amazon Fire offer because,
as noted, you don’t support the Roku (aka, Gift From God).  Nice device, but DirecTV sucks at life, so we were ‘less than pleased’
with the experience. We attempted
to watch Deadpool (previous reference) using the Amazon Fire.  Other services worked fine, but not DirecTV Now.


And, the user interface sucks.  As an example, I saved ‘favorite’ channels in the guide and selected
Favorites to display. It’s all too
easy to suddenly have every channel displayed.  Next, I can’t seem to pause, continue,
and skip over content (like my DirecTV DVR). Yes, I realize there are device
constraints (but, shall I note, not on the Roku), but you’re not even
trying. Did you pull one of those
“Design this for free and I’ll give you great recommendations” with the
interface design team?  Because it
LOOKS like that’s what you did.


I’m doing this all from memory.  It’s like a nightmare where I can still see the screen doing something I
don’t want/like, oh, and the BUFFERING, Oh, the BUFFERING!!!


To summarize:

– User interface sucks

– No DVR capability

– No Roku support

– Buffering issues (with long shows?  You tell me)

– No CBS content

– Poor performance with Amazon Fire

– Poor performance with Chromecast

= DirecTV Now Sucks at life


That’s the short version of why I unsubscribed from
DirecTV Now.  I’m working furiously
to experiment with OTA TV, a local DVR, and cloud based services.  I’m willing to bet anything I put together will be a better, more
satisfying experience than DirecTV Now.



Paul & Barb

Big Changes Ahead

2014-05-19 Comments off

I’m just back from TechEd 2014.  I was drinking Microsoft Kool-Aid from the firehose for a week.  I can summarize it in one word – “Cloud” (capital “C”).  This is an oversimplification, but that was the theme.

I came home totally committed to testing the Microsoft Cloud.  My original intent was to consolidate all my cloud services to one.  I did a quick analysis, and focused on the ‘top tier’ providers – Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, and Google Drive.  Based on my current ‘investment’, it came down to OneDrive and Google Drive and Google won for one reason – it seems that OneDrive has decided that random files need to be deleted.  For no obvious reason I find files in the Recycle Bin on multiple computers.  Most recently this was the PowerPoint and other docs I downloaded from TechEd.

Right now, I’m paying $1.99/month for 100GB of Google Drive storage.  This will tide me over until at least the Fall.

Next project is migrating my web sites (including this blog) to a Virtual Private Server.

Categories: Google, Internet, Microsoft Tags: , ,

Yahoo! Mail security issues.

I’m seeing a lot of issues with Yahoo Mail accounts being compromised, so I’m posting my notes here and will update as I understand the problem better.  An example is when you get e-mail from friends with a single, SPAM URL in the message and it’s sent to 10-15 people (in alpha order) from their Yahoo! Contacts.

I suggest that you NOT check the box ‘keep me signed in’ when you log into Yahoo Mail (highlighted in red rectangle on screen shot below).  From what I can tell, some web sites with malicious content take advantage of cached Yahoo credentials and send mail with these SPAM links to everyone in your Yahoo contact list.

I also recommend using “two factor authentication” wherever possible.  Two factor authentication uses something you know (your password) with something you have (phone number, cell phone).  When accessing a web site, you enter your password (something you know), and then are prompted to enter a code sent to your phone (voice), or your cell (text), which are things you possess.  This is used when resetting passwords on your bank or credit card web sites.

Another option is to consider moving to Google Mail which appears to be more secure, and I know from testing that Google’s two factor authentication is quite comprehensive and I use an Android app on my cell phone to generate a code.

Yahoo login – do not

Yahoo Two factor authentication reference links,2817,2409477,00.asp

Categories: Internet, security Tags: , ,


I’m late to the party, but if anyone is interested in Google+, let me know.

OK, it took less than five minutes for someone to ask, but my other condition is that you show you’re not a bot, and your connection come from a valid IP address.

Yes, I’m being a pain, but apparently that’s what it takes these days…

I’ll review tomorrow and process.



Categories: Internet, personal Tags:

Recommendations on setting up a web site.

I just helped Katie setup a web site (  While I’m walking through the process, I thought it would be worthwhile to document the process.  Partly this is for my reference, partly as a placeholder for friends and family setting up web sites.

I don’t have a favorite hosting site, but if you have an available server, I recommend WordPress for hosting most small business and personal web sites.


WordPress – download the latest version, and install using the Famous Five Minute Install

I install WordPress, customize wp-config.php, then setup Remote Publishing to support XML-RPC in the WordPress Administrative interface – Settings – Writing – Remote Publishing (screen shot below).


Next, you select Themes, set the About page, and typically us a Blogging tool such as Windows Live Writer.

Then, you want to publish the web site to

Google URL Submission

Yahoo URL Submission

Bing URL Submission

Categories: Internet, Software Tags: ,