Saturday, January 14, 2006

Essential BubbaTech: Internet Access

The Abomination

For any geek considering a move to the country, your first and foremost concern has to be internet access. The web is your gateway to the wider world and helps you feel like you haven't had to give up the perks of being in the city.

The problem is that most rural internet access sucks, to use a technical term. At our first pseudo-country ranch it was really rough. There was no cable, no DSL, no wireless, nothing but good old fashioned dialup. And the phone lines (as is often the case out in the country) were really, really bad. The fastest connection I could get was 14k. Yes, you read that right. 14k. It was inhuman.

I tried satellite internet, but it was actually even worse for my internet usage patterns than dialup. I was paying ten times as much for something that was half as useful. The problem with satellite internet is that every time your computer needs to make a transaction with the computer you're talking to, a signal has to go from your dish to a satellite up in space, and then from the satellite to the other guy. Each time that happens you have a 1.5 second lag built in (space is really really far away). So for gaming or online banking, it was awful, since each of those has lots and lots of transactions to get the job done.

Out here at Shiloh Falls, though, I got lucky. The little town of Bertram that's closest to us has a wireless broadband receiver/transmitter on the town water tower. So if you can see the tower from your house, you get a great DSL-speed connection wirelessly. Since you're only having to talk to a dish that's over the hill versus up in space, you don't have the lag problems of satellite communication.

Unluckily, the only way to see the tower from my house is if you sit on a very tall pole. Don't ask how I found that out, let's just say I had trouble sitting down for a few weeks afterwards. Next time I definitely need to remember Vaseline.

In any event, that is how we came to have The Abomination on top of the garage, pictured here. It's a 15-foot tall tower with a receiving dish on top of it, held in place against the high Texas winds with guy wires. I have to give Annie credit, she didn't give me much grief about it, even though it honestly looks pretty bad. Nothing disturbs that bucolic country ambiance like a big metal pole and dish jutting angrily into the sky.

It may be an Abomination, but I don't want to think about living without it. If I had to go back to 14k dialup service for my internet lifeline, I think the next thing hanging from that pole would be me.


Denise said...

That's not an abomination! That's the marvel of modern over obstacles. Consider it the Frank Lloyd Wright tribute in Bertram, or the RKO Tower that first showed up in town or even the Transco Tower in downtown Houston. Now it's not a white "H" on the side of the house, nor is it a "No Parking" sign spray painted on bricks, but you might want to think about that connection between gene pools and human behavior. Just a thought...

Denise said...

Mea Culpea on the left-out words in my reply! That's what I get for typing, cooking, typing, cooking. typing... What I meant to say in that second sentence was the "marvel of modern man over obstacles." In a true Jim Hebert move, I am going to go back to the second, disjointed train of thought in my reply... Now, you need to consider that we all have Jim Hebert genes. I've seriously considered using cardboard in the bottom of a favorite pair of shoes, Jimmy bought hair (okay, Dad had a toupee, but bought hair is bought hair) and Diane considered standing on the roof of her car to change a light bulb when said vehicle was parked in the garage. I have said, "Do what I tell you to do when I tell you to do it" and believed my children would listen to me.

I think your tower is definitely a step above a typical Dad thing, but if I see you shimmying up there to put either black electrical or duct tape on it to get better reception, then you're in a heap a trouble, bro.

Gosh, I miss the old guy.

Jill Phenix Avila said...

Since I frequent the country abode on almost a weekly basis, I can assure everyone that this is not something you see right off. Honestly, you are more likely to see it at night when it looks as though aliens have landed on the roof over the garage. It has blinking lights and if you don't know what it is you might hit the white powder road and leave. Okay maybe it is not as scary as the Sasquatch that I saw before the house was built!

Jill Phenix Avila said...

I forgot to add.. the papers you see in the windows have a major purpose!! In the winter the Sun shines right in those windows, which is where Annie and Jeff's computer desks are. I sat up there New Year's eve trying to find out how to cook black eyed peas (hey Annie and I are too busy feeding dogs and riding horses to know these things). Well after searching Martha's "It's a Good Thing" site I realized the sun was trying to blind me or trying to tell me that not one recipe exists on the net about black eyed peas... until I found out that my Unca George found it after 5 minutes on the World Wide Web... but that's another story... another comment... at another time... =)