Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Path to Independence

When last you left your intrepid hero, I had fully implemented my telecommunications master plan. Upham Manor had freed itself from the grip of Comcast and was on its way to significant cost savings on telephone and cable bills. In keeping with my theme of full disclosure, I wanted to briefly describe a bump we ran into and to provide some other follow up as to how this grand adventure has unfolded.

In short, I love this thing. It works great. You could stop reading right there and run off to buy your own and you'd more than likely experience the same success that I am currently having right now. However, it's worth noting that if you do experience a problem, their tech support is quite possibly as bad as it could get without ceasing to exist altogether.

My initial installation was smooth, easy, and fast. I put the device into a USB port and, after answering some very easy configuration questions on their website, I found myself making phone calls. For most readers, I would expect the story should end there, happily. However, over the next 36 hours, I ran into problems. For no reason I could ascertain, calls would occasionally be made in which neither party could hear the other. The connection was in place, but there was no sound. I troubleshot my sound settings. I reinstalled the device. I tried a wide array of things on my end that I thought could be the problem. Soon, I had to contact MJ's tech support.

Their tech support is only accessible via a live chat that is launched through their website. Moreover, it is well camouflaged, there are other options that run interference for it, and when you do finally succeed in reaching them, you're as likely as not to get disconnected. In short, I "spoke" to no less than 10 reps and found none of them to have even the smallest clue about what they were doing. It was very apparent that they were doing little more than opening a canned list of responses at random, copying a paragraph, and pasting it into the window for me to read. I got pretty angry several times.

But I solved the problem. (No thanks to them.)

Being a techie type, my network at home is a bit more complex than what the average person might have. Unlike many people, I have a hardware firewall that I use for network security positioned between my cable modem and my internal router. In spite of the necessary ports being open on both TCP and UDP, this firewall was somehow hindering the MajicJack intermittently. My solution has been to install the MajicJack on a computer outside the firewall in the DMZ and to guard it with Microsoft's software firewall. It was a little extra work, but I rather enjoyed tinkering with it.

If none of this means anything to you, then go back up to the first paragraph of this section and stop after you read, "In short, I love this thing. It works great." That's all you really need to know. I will leave you with the final thought that it's a good thing that MajicJack works so well out of the box, because if you do have a problem, you're on your own.

Awesome. Awesome, awesome, awesome. For $8 a month, I've found that I can watch a movie on Sunday night, put it in the mail on Monday, and have a new one at my door on Wednesday. For the life of me I don't know they do it. I don't watch very much TV, so being able to count on watching a movie of my choosing every three days is more than I can keep up with. And that doesn't even address the instant access they provide to movies online. When I sat down to make a list of movies that I'd like to have in my delivery queue, I found that most of the movies and other shows I wanted to see, I could watch on demand instantly over the Internet. That means that Ben gets to watch Caillou and Bob the Builder whenever he wants, and I can enjoy more choices than I can keep up with.

It's my opinion that only the most die-hard, zealous, TV addicts need to pay for cable now. For everyone else, there are better solutions.

I'm saving money on TV and phone. Unfortunately, my joy is tempered by the fact that everything else seems to be going up and up in its prices. I just spoke with my oil man today. Oil has gone up 20 cents in the last three days. It's early October. No one has even turned their heat on yet. But some jackass in government or somewhere thought it would be a good idea to make gas and oil a "commodity" item and now it's being bought and sold on the market like T-bills or pork bellies. Why not put milk and eggs up there? That way, every time some clod-pole in Nebraska farts in the field and some Wall Street trader hears about it, they can raise prices on those basic necessities too.

Independence. That's what it all comes down to, is independence. Disentangling yourself from the absurdity of "markets" and "industries" and the asshats that run them. I don't want to be a part of these systems anymore! I'll sink my own well, I'll construct a wind turbine, I'll burn my own garbage, and I'll find away to disconnect myself from my town, the utilities, and the all the rest of the companies that dictate our lives. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty darn tired of being treated like a cow in a stall. Every time they want more money, they just walk over and hook up to us and suck us dry. Well, I'm breaking out of my stall. I don't know how yet, but I'm an American, I'm a Yankee, and I'll find a way.

Stay tuned.



Anonymous said...

I want you to know I read this, but I just don't have an opinion on it. Well, okay, I didn't read it all the way, cause I'm not interested in it. But I am coming back to your blog day after day... just so ya know. :)

Glenn said...

When are you going to solar or putting up a wind turbine? You're still on the grid. You also need a well and put in a leeching field.

Gleno said...


You should have just skipped to the very end. That's when it started getting good -- and I started ranting. lol

Gleno said...


The wind turbine will go up just as soon as I can learn to generate and conduct the electricity and to batteries I learn to build.

Screw the leeching field, I'm simply going to drill a hole to the center of the earth.


Genie of the Shell said...

Nice work! It's amazing what we find we don't actually need to pay for, despite all those commercials... which can't brainwash us if we don't watch the stupid cable TV. :D

The MagicJack sounds cool. I would consider it if we needed something to supplement our cell phones (which we use for super cheap by getting in on a family plan with my parents and brother... and not texting).

Energy and resource independence is very cool. We are currently stockpiling and chopping wood to burn for the winter in our stove insert. We are also thinking about a wind turbine, one of those horizontal ones you can install on the roof. And a solar hot water heater.

Did you know child protective services can take your kids away if you get certain of your utilities shut off? Ridiculous. That sort of thing makes me so mad. But if you have your own source of water/energy/heat/whatever, you're safe. Kind of like, if you enroll your child in a public school, some districts can fine the parents if the child is absent too many days--even if it's for serious illness or another very good reason. To heck with that. We're preparing for our new baby by learning how to provide our own education and some of our own food and energy as well.

Jon said...

congrats on breaking free from comcast. If you would like another solution to the whole movie on a non-computer thing check out apple tv, you can even strem netflix to it. I just got one and it is just awesome. Drop me a line with your new contact info, Jon R