Friday, August 5, 2011

Verizon Wireless Service at The Land

I finally decided I really needed to figure out why Verizon didn’t work at the land even though our phones would show signal.  I think I figured it out.

Simple Explanation:  There is Verizon signal, but it’s actually incredibly weak.  With the house being positioned at the top of hill there are clear communication paths for radio frequencies (RF) so your phone gets the best possible signal.  You can “hear” the signal but it’s not strong enough for communication.

More Complex Explanation:  Again, the open air hill position is optimal for receiving RF signals (even though there might not be much to receive).  The closest Verizon towers are 13 and 17 miles away, too far to work.  Many cell towers operate a pilot channel that has more range than the other channels because it doesn’t carry traffic.  It identifies you and assigns your traffic to one of the operating channels, much like a control channel.  On one of the calls I attempted while I was there Verizon was able to look at the switch logs and see that my signal was -93dBM and my SNR (Signal to Noise Ratio) was -19dB which is over 10 times an acceptable rate.  So, there’s signal around but it’s not usable. 

Furthermore, there is a US Cellular tower that is closer than Verizon that your phone could roam on.  However, even though the US Cellular signal is stronger since there is still the presence of native Verizon service the PRL (Preferred Roaming (tower) List) will not switch down to the US Cellular network.  This seems to explain the “random” inbound data occasionally received—there must have been times when my phone would cease to see the Verizon signal (possibly due to cell “breathing” or additional interference) and successfully roam onto the US Cellular service for a few moments or minutes.  I think this also explains how Sprint service previously worked for me—it must have been roaming on US Cellular and was not set to prefer Verizon over another carrier.

There may be a chance that the Verizon signal can be amplified by using the booster Steve has there but the antenna needs to be pointed at one of the towers.  Below is the tower information and GPS coordinates.  I’ve also attached google earth .kmz files of these locations.

·         27078 Tabor Ridge Rd House:  39.731194, -81.336422
·         Verizon Wireless “Warner” Cell Site #1152 13 miles SW  39.585008, -81.453342
·         Verizon Wireless “Buffalo” Cell Site #1130 16.74 miles NW  39.854394, -81.546272

Conclusion:  Use laser assistance to align the rooftop antenna towards one of the Verizon towers…or use AT&T or US Cellular.

Reddy Kilowatt

Our intranet “Portal” has a weekly changing feature called “wild cuts” which is supposed to be cool pictures taken by employees relating to Duke Energy.  I had never heard of this “Reddy Kilowatt” fellow…I imagine he’s kind of scary at night!

Wild Cuts: Reddy and Belews Creek 

Created in 1926, Reddy Kilowatt was a popular figure in the electric industry in the 1950s and 1960s -- as more than 300 utilities used the symbol in advertising and marketing.
It's lightly used now. But Reddy has had a prominent spot at Belews Creek Steam Station in North Carolina since plant construction started in the early 1970s. Reddy was originally high up -- a storage water tank behind the plant, similar to water tank structures you see in local towns and communities.
When scrubbers were added to the plant, Reddy and the water tank had to move. However, one question kept coming up in discussions with community groups about the scrubber project: "What's going to happen to Reddy?"
The decision was made to basically take Reddy's head (or the top of the tank) and relocate him to another part of the plant. Judging from the big smile, Reddy is pretty happy in his new spot.
Wild Cuts photographer Paul Phillips, a line tech in Rural Hall, N.C., took this shot of Reddy and Belews Creek. Phillips has worked at Duke Energy for 22 years.
If you have a Duke Energy-related photo that might look great on the Portal's rotating promo section, contact Randy Wheeless in Internal Communications.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Dark Red Side

As some of you may have heard, Tiffani and I bought a condo!  And we also got a dog!?  Its kept me insanely busy so I haven't even had time to tell you all about it.

The "house" is about a mile down the street from our apartments so it's still the same neighborhood and area which we really like.  For reference and when you come to visit:

283 McDonald Ave
Charlotte, NC 28203

We're still working on it but i'll try to update with pictures later.  Also near the end of a March a little stray dog was wandering around Tiffani's parking lot at work.  Long story short the owner couldn't be found and we have a little mutt named Gabriel or Gabe for short.  We actually think he might be a mix of chihuahua and miniature schnauzer--certainly terrier of some kind.  He's pretty much a puppy, the vet thought he was about one year old.  He's a baby and has the worst sad puppy eyes face--it'll melt your heart.  here's some pictures


We both had iPhones from AT&T and weren't getting very good reception at the new place.  So, my first thought was to get the femtocell they call the "AT&T 3G Microcell".  It's essentially a personal/home cell tower that broadcasts cell signal and connects to the cell carrier network via ethernet to your home network.  The signal was almost non-existent in the bedroom and stairwell.  However, in the living room and kitchen there are some windows and it's higher up so decent signal was available--about 3 bars, -89dBm.  Well, it created a problem because your phone is always looking for the best tower and strongest signal.  You may actually switch back and forth between regular cell towers and never know it because it's seamless.  The microcell is unable to seamlessly allow this switching repeatedly.  So, in the living room it would go back and forth and eventually drop the call.  I even tried moving the unit from downstairs to upstairs but it didn't help.  What I learned was that these devices don't do very well for supplementing coverage.  They have a very specific use and that's for a place with almost no signal so that there's never any question for your phone as to what tower it should connect to.  

I really like AT&T, or at least want to like them.  I don't really like Verizon.  It's hard to put my finger on why exactly but they just seem so arrogant and pompous.  they are the most expensive, offer the least features and value, and try to control everything you do.  They're so protective of their precious network.  Their pre-dominantly USA-only CDMA network that's slow and hasn't evolved and kept pace with the explosive growth and change in GSM.  And, since Qualcomm is the only manufacturer for CDMA chips they took vzw to the bank for their phones.  And they couldn't get the phones that everyone else in the world used.  Heck, they used to cripple bluetooth and GPS on their phones so you couldn't transfer images or ringtones and had to buy their wallpapers/ringtones/VZNavigator.  They were among the first to increase text msg charges to the unfathomable rate of 20 cents each on pay-per-use.  They were also the first to introduce "unlimited" data that was actually limited to 5GB/month.  because they thought you were too stupid to understand units of data or that you would ever use such an amount.  It's no doubt they lost the iPhone to AT&T becuase they would not concede to Apple's requests--they were Verizon, they were the boss.  you were lucky and fortunate to use their premier wireless service.  Only devices pre-registered with them can be activated on their network.  So no, you're absolutely not allowed to use a BlackBerry as just a phone and PDA without a data plan (something awesome to do on GSM if you don't want a data plan a BlackBerry is a fantastic feature phone).  This is what led to their support of Android and their despiration move to pay stupid Geoge Lucas to use the word DROID.  There is nothing about the history of Verizon and how they've acted in the past that would make me think they actually like a developing, emerging, and "open" OS like Android.  You know they were drooling over Apple's solid, popular, and controllable iOS.  here's another example of control:  thanks for meddling with my content before delivering...

But I digress because Verizon uses some of the lowest cell frequencies so they reach further distances from the tower and work better in buildings--hence the long standing notion that they have the best coverage.  Well, they have slightly better service at work for me, much better for Tiffani, and adequate coverage in all parts of the house for both of us.  So, I guess that's that.  Verizon doesn't work at Patrick's farm or Snowshoe but I guess I have to live with those two problems in exchange for solving my others.  Because I did so much work trying to fix AT&T and make it work they were very nice and offered to waive both of our early termination fees.  I polished up the phones and sold them on eBay to pay for the new phones and earned a little extra as well--to add to my future phone fund since there's probably no way i'm going to be able to wait 2 years to buy another subsidized phone.  If you want to keep up with my all my numbers here they are:

(704) 31-EVANS (313-8267) - This is my Google voice number and rings/texts all of my phones.  it's great except you can't send picture messages and it doesn't qualify for free mobile-to-mobile if we're on the same carrier.

(704) 620-2650 - This is my iPhone number on Verizon.  You can use it for FaceTime or free Verizon calling but I have less of a chance to hear it ringing.

(513) 235-MARK (6275) - This is my BlackBerry on Cincinnati Bell Wireless used primarily for work (PIN 21B36979 if anyone still uses BBM...).  It's connected to my inPulse smartwatch.  This is very handy for reading texts and alerting me of incoming calls.  This is part of why I love Google voice so much, I can get texts on my BlackBerry, watch, iPhone, and computer.

Yes I'm happy to use an iPhone instead of Android.  Why?  Because it's the best hardware right now.  It's also rooted so it's much more powerful.  The Thunderbolt and LTE is pretty awesome but it's kinda big.  I'm not sure if I really like 4"+ phones to use everyday.  It also destroys batteries and the battery door is one of the worst designs ever.  That Nexus S with Google Wallet is pretty appealing though...

Ok, well that's my current phone status.  Back to working on the house and getting ready for the wedding!

Monday, March 14, 2011

I read a book?

I'm not a big reader so I was excited I read this entire book!

It Happened On The Way To War, A Marine's Path To Peace

This is a memoir written by Rye Barcott.  I was recently given the opportunity to read a proof copy of the book before it was published.  It's officially set to be released on March 29th, 2011.  Rye works for Duke Energy and held his first "book tour discussion" with a small group of interested employees.

It Happened on the Way to War from Center for Global Initiatives on Vimeo.

Since I was given a copy before it was published it was a PDF.  I didn't want to print it so I tried reading it on my iPhone and it wasn't too bad.  I ended up reading most of it on my 3.5" screen which I enjoyed.  It was great because I always had it with me and it was small and portable so I could sit or lay in whatever position was comfortable--which is always changing when I'm trying to read.  Here's an idea of what it looked like:


At the event I was lucky and my name was drawn to receive a printed copy of the book which Rye signed afterwards.  Hopefully I can convince Colbert on Twitter to have him as a guest.  Or maybe he'll land a spot on Opera.  I wish him the best, fantastic book.  If you'd like to read it follow the links to amazon or maybe you can borrow mine.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Let's play Words With Friends, now on Android!

Hey - Words With Friends is now available for Android and iOS. Let's play!
You can download it here:

My user name:  bobdobbins

It's really fun, pretty much the perfect mobile multi-player game because you play it when you have time so you're at your own pace.  See you in the game!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I want the iPhone 4

Can't pass up an opportunity to watch this again!

And now the iPhone is available on Verizon
Anyone surprised? It's been rumored and was pretty accurately predicted by the tech blogs.  I was most excited about the hype and talk finally ending.  jeesh, it was ridiculous.  Sasha Segan from PC Mag wrote a funny/interesting/accurate article on the worship of Apple, the iPhone, and Verizon:   The Verizon iPhone Isn't the Mobile Messiah   

Also, it's interesting to note that no one has said anything about price, except device cost on contract, such as plan and feature costs.  I feel like they could do anything they want when it comes to plan no family plan minute/feature sharing, no sms/mms combined plans, more expensive data plans, etc.  Verizon is already the most expensive national carrier so it could easily be quite pricey.  They'd expect people to pay pretty much anything because they think they have the best and most premier cellular network and a lot of people think that too.  It's like they're swooping in to save everyone's terrible cell service and that service is priceless.  I guessing you've probably already read about the phone and how it's the same/slightly different than the current att version from pretty much every news or media outlet ever.  

The Wi-Fi hotspot feature on other phones right now is $20/month, not sure if it'll be the same for the iPhone.  I wouldn't be surprised if AT&T added this functionality to compete, it's software based and i'm sure it currently been omitted as they've taken great steps to curb the data demand on their network--although they've been working to improve capacity as well. If you jailbreak/root the GSM iPhone there's an app called MyWi that enables Wi-Fi hotspot, USB, and  bluetooth tethering--without having to pay a monthly fee.  Having a Wi-Fi hotpot is a lot less desirable if you can't use the phone when its on and it disconnects when you get a phone call.  The lack of simultaneous voice/data on Verizon's CDMA service is quite annoying these days, IMHO.

Some people criticize BGR for being too much of an Apple fan boy and reporting on their news more than others.  I kind of agree but whatever, I read multiple blogs and tech sites anyways.  And, this is all the more relevant since this is Apple news.  I thought these were really good articles that match a lot of my thinking on this topic.

  1. Why I’m not switching to the Verizon iPhone: The SIM card
  2. Why I’m not switching to the Verizon iPhone: Need for speed
  3. Why I'm switching to the Verizon iPhone:  I need a phone
  4. Here's where the Verizon iPhone falls short
  5. Should I Buy a Verizon iPhone? (not BGR but good)

I'm actually very happy with my at&t service at the moment with where I live.  If that significantly changes or an LTE iPhone comes along then that might be a different story.  For now, let's just enjoy watching the mayhem.