Verizon DSL has finally fixed its slowdown issue

Life is a series of choices. Choose smartly, don’t choose Verizon DSL.

We have working Internet. Finally. On Friday, someone from Verizon must have finally fixed the issue at the central office. When we got home from work Friday evening, I did a speed test, and it was in the high 6 Mbps range, an acceptable rate for a DSL connection. I streamed a movie on the living room TV, and there was no buffering. We watched programs on Hulu Plus for a good amount of time yesterday and the episodes loaded fast and once they began, there was no buffering.

Exactly like it should be.

I don’t understand why Verizon kept jerking us around. First they said our modem was bad. I went out and bought a Netgear Dual Band Wireless N600, and swapped it out with my old one. Same thing. They then said the problem was with their central office, where the copper phone line from our house connects to the Internet. They said they would have a tech go out last Monday to fix it.

Monday rolled around and instead of the tech going to the central office, they came to our house when we were not home and said everything checked out OK.

Everything was not OK. We got home Monday, and it was just as bad as it was before.

We contacted Verizon tech support again. The tech support person in India said the reason our Internet was so slow was because we were using a third-party modem, one not from Verizon. I explained I purchased the Netgear Dual Band Wireless N600 because they said our original modem was bad. I specifically asked if I could use a third-party modem. The person from Verizon said I could.

I offered to reconnect the original modem if the new modem was the problem. The guy in India told me that the original modem was probably bad, but the current slow down issue was caused by a modem that didn’t come from them.

It was kind of funny that the symptoms were exactly the same.

The Verizon agent said he was sending out a new modem free of charge, and he promised, guaranteed even, that it would fix our problem. Who does that? I do telephone tech support for a living, and I would never promise or guarantee something is going to solve an issue. There are just too many variables in place.

You never know something is going to fix a problem until you do it, and the problem is gone.

Sometimes one problem is masking another problem. You can fix one problem, only to discover two other problems that you could not detect because of the original problem.

The new modem arrived, and surprise, surprise, the problem was still there.

I connected the Netgear Dual Band Wireless N600 back up. Since I paid $100 for it, I wanted to actually use it. Instead of contacting Verizon tech support in India again, we made plans for going to Antietam Cable on Saturday to sign up for cable Internet. I didn’t want to, but I felt like we had no choice.

Then, on Friday, our Internet began working. Our trip to Antietam Cable had been averted, at least temporarily.

The reason I don’t want to go with Antietam Cable is because it would mean disconnecting Dish Network from the cable drop in the computer room and using it for the internet. I’d rather not do that. We have a TV mounted on the wall above the treadmill that we can watch while getting our steps in.

Not being able to watch TV while you exercise sounds like a living hell.

If I were starting from scratch, if I didn’t have the Internet and had to choose between Verizon DSL and something else, I would go with something else. The only thing worse than having to talk to someone in India when something you’re paying for isn’t working correctly is when the person in India doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Actually, there are worse things than having to deal with incompetent tech support in the land of spices and gods with many arms, having full-blown AIDS or being forced to go to a Jimmy Buffet concert readily come to mind, but why subject yourself to unpleasant things if you don’t have to?

Life is a series of choices. Choose smartly, don’t choose Verizon DSL.

Verizon DSL: Life in the slow lane

About a week ago, my wife Sheri and I noticed a problem streaming to the living room TV. For some reason, we couldn’t watch Amazon, Hulu, HBO Go, or even YouTube using our Roku device without constant buffering. We have the Roku connected to the Internet via a wireless connection to our router. To help rule out the wi-fi as the problem, I tried watching a movie on my computer on the living room TV with Plex. It didn’t buffer one single time. If it were the wi-fi connection, I would expect to see buffering.

I then connected a CAT-5 cable from the router to the Roku in the living room and tried watching something on Hulu. It continually buffered, just like it did with the wi-fi.

That made me think the problem was with the Internet connection. We have DSL through Verizon. It’s supposed to have download speeds of anywhere from 3.1 to 7 Mbps. At least that’s what we’re paying for. To be honest, I don’t know what it was when everything was working. I never had a reason to go test it. When I went to Ookl Speed Test, it showed I was getting less than 1.5 Mbps. In fact, the later in the day, the slower the connection. In the evening, it was showing less than 1 Mbps.

I needed to contact Verison. I was dreading it. I’ve talked to them before, and I remember spending hours and hours on the phone talking to a guy in India named “Bob” who was obviously working from a script. It was not only frustrating, I never got the issue resolved.

When I went to the Verizon website to get their phone number, I noticed they now have the option of speaking to support through chat. I jumped on that, thinking it would be better than actually talking to someone.

I was right, it was better than talking to someone. At the end of the chat, after answering questions and the person from Verizon running tests, I was told my router was bad. They said it was old and had “lived out its usefulness.” I was still using the freebie Westell 7500 that I was given when I first signed up for Verizon DSL over three years ago, so this sounded more or less legit. The person told me they could sell me a new router for $29.99. I asked if I could get my own and use it with Verizon. They said I could, but they would not be able to provide expert support on 3rd party routers.

I had a good laugh over that.

I checked out Best Buy’s website and saw that they had DSL routers in stock at the Hagerstown store. I focused on a Netgear Dual Band Wireless N600 DSL Router for $99.99. I looked at Amazon for the same model, and it was $15 more than Best Buy. I would have paid the higher price for the pleasure of not having to deal with Best Buy, but I didn’t want to wait two days to get it.

Netgear Dual Band Wireless N600I paid for it online and got an email telling me it was ready to be picked up. We went to Best Buy, got it, and took it home. Then, when I began opening it, I noticed it wasn’t the router I needed. It was the same router, but this one was for cable, not DSL. I looked at my paperwork thinking I ordered the wrong one. No, I ordered the right one, they just gave me the wrong model.

We had to go back to Best Buy to exchange it. When we went to the return desk and explained we were given the wrong one, the Best Buy employee began looking on his computer to try to find the one I paid for. Sheri went to the back of the store where the routers are kept and grabbed the right one. The employee was trying to tell me that they didn’t have the actual model I paid for while Sheri was standing there holding the right model in her hand. I guess the Best Buy inventory computer showed they were out of stock because it thought I had already bought their last one.

We exchanged the routers and left Best Buy. It wasn’t until we were in the parking lot that I realized that the employee never apologized for the mix-up. Worse, I even said, “Thank you” at the end of our exchange and he never even reciprocated. I think he mumbled “OK” or something.

Why did I thank him? He didn’t thank me. He didn’t express even the slightest bit of sympathy for having to come back in and get what I paid for. I wish I could resind my thank you.

We got home from our second trip to Best Buy, and I installed the new router. Same thing. Our Internet connection was still slow. I had just spent $100 on a new fancy router and the download speed was hovering at around 1.3 Mbps.

What’s worse than having to go to Best Buy twice in the same day? Contacting Verizon support twice in the same day. This time, Sheri contacted them on chat. The person she got was a lot more knowledgeable then the person I had. The Verizon support rep she got even went into her computer remotely to look at the router settings. The person I chatted with didn’t even offer to do that.

The Verizon support rep decided the problem was at the Verizon central office. They opened a ticket with their tier-two support, and we are supposed to have a resolution by tomorrow night.

I checked our Internet speed this morning, and it shows we are downloading at 5.6 Mbps. That’s around where it was at yesterday at this time, with the old router. If the problem continues in its normal pattern, the download speed will drop as the day goes on.

The problem with leaving honest Amazon reviews

A few months ago, I bought a special tool on Amazon that was supposed to help with taping drywall. It’s called TapeBuddy Drywall Taping Tool. The makers claimed it allowed you to easily apply an even amount of joint compound directly to the joint tape. In fact, they stated on their website that it was “a great DIY tool giving professional results on a DIY budget.

I’ve taped drywall before, but I’m no professional. I definitely fall squarely into the DIY side of things when it comes to home repair, especially drywall.

There were some cracked joints on our ceiling that needed to be repaired. The old tape needed to be removed and new tape applied. Doing drywall work really sucks. Doing drywall work on the ceiling especially really sucks. I thought having this tool would make re-taping the ceiling easier.

It turned out, I was wrong. This tool didn’t make it easier. It also didn’t give me professional results. In fact, it was the complete opposite. It made it harder to mud the tape and the end result looked pretty shoddy. It also made a mess. I ended up mudding the tape the old-fashioned way and got much better results. I ended up throwing the TapeBuddy Drywall Taping Tool away. I thought about trying to sell on Craigslist or Facebook, but I didn’t want to push such a crappy tool on someone else.

Last month, I went on Amazon and began writing short reviews for some of the stuff I’ve purchased lately, including the TapeBuddy Drywall Taping Tool. I gave it one star, only because that’s the lowest Amazon’s review system goes. In reality, the TapeBuddy Drywall Taping Tool deserves no stars.

This is the review I left on Amazon:

Complete waste of money. I don’t know why I fall for these tools that don’t do what they’re supposed to do. I threw it away a couple of weeks ago.

I didn’t think much about it after that. Then, a few weeks ago, I got an email notification from Amazon informing me there was a comment about my review. This is the comment, left by someone named Ron:

Rick, these tools work as described so what seemed to be the problem? The mud coating of the tape? The set up? Did you read the instructions and have the compound thinned correctly? Did you remove the insert from the end of the tool and insert it properly? This controls the amount of compound applied to the tape. This tool is so simple to use but the correct thinned compound is much of the secret to proper use. I’d like to hear from you to know why you didn’t think the tool worked for you. You can leave your comment on this site or on our website comment page at TapeBuddy.net

It was obvious Ron worked for Buddy Tools, the maker of TapeBuddy Drywall Taping Tool. I didn’t respond to the comment because I really didn’t see the point. My review was left because I wanted to let people like me, DIYers who buy stuff on Amazon, know that it didn’t work as described. If other DIYers decided to ignore my advice and buy it anyway, then that’s on them.

If I were to reply to Ron, I’d say that yes, I did read the instructions. I also watched every instructional YouTube video available for the TapeBuddy Drywall Taping Tool. I thought I was well informed before using it. It just didn’t work like it was supposed to. My guess is that to get professional results from the TapeBuddy Drywall Taping Tool, you either need to be a professional, or practice with it a lot. 

Then, on July 11, I got the following email from Ron, the person who left a comment on Amazon:

Rick,
You recently posted some comments on Amazon.com about the TapeBuddy drywall taping tool we manufacture. I placed a note on there as well but not sure you were aware of this. Because the note is very brief it is hard to know what or why this tool didn’t work for you or what problems you had with it. I’d like to chat some time to talk about this.

I did notice on your blog you live in Hagerstown MD. Our printing is done in Greencastle PA so I have been in the area many times. Beautiful area you live in. My office number is listed below and rings into my cell when I’m traveling. Right now we are in upstate NY for the next few weeks. Also noticed you severed in the US Air Force. My dad did as well and was stationed in Del Rio TX where I was born. Thanks for serving our country and for the call.

Serving you,
Ron Morton
President Buddy Tools LLC

I thought the email was kind of pushy and bordering on the cusp of being… creepy. I’m not really sure why President Ron felt the need to come to my blog and read my About Me page. It’s not like I’m the first person to leave a one-star review.

Something tells me I won’t be the last.

Not only does Ron work for Buddy Tools, he’s the president of the company. I’m not sure what responsibilities being the president of Buddy Tools entails,  but I don’t think it includes going to the personal blog of people who’ve left one-star reviews on Amazon to find out where they live and what branch of the military they served in.

President Ron wasn’t done. On July 25, he posted another comment on Amazon:

Rick, I still haven’t heard from you on your comment and would like to help resolve the problems you had with it. It’s too bad you tossed this tool before figuring out how it works. Give me a call some time.

My problem is that the TapeBuddy Drywall Taping Tool just didn’t work for me. I read the instructions. I watched all the videos. Instead of getting professional results, I got the complete opposite. I paid $30 for this useless tool and when I left an honest and accurate review on Amazon, I then got pestered by the president of the company.

That’s not how the review system on Amazon should work.

I don't like Meteorologists

One of the things that I hate about meteorologists is that when they do share information that it actually relevant and not just made up, it makes no sense.

It rained last night in the Hagerstown area. Looking out the window, there appears to be ice everywhere. Needing more information, I checked out the WHAG weather Twitter feed. WHAG is the local NBC affiliate here in Hagerstown. What I saw was the above image showing a large area of pink and violet, with a bit of creamy tan thrown in.

What do all these colors mean?

Hagerstown is in the pink area. What does this mean in relationship to the weather? All I want to know if the current weather conditions are going to impose problems on my morning drive to work through the streets of Hagerstown. Instead, what I get is a map that shows Hagerstown is in a large area of pink.

isolated-breast-cancer-ribbonDoes this mean we’re more dedicated to the fight against breast cancer than the people living in Chambersburg or Bedford?

If you’re going to color-code a map, you really should show what the colors mean. Have a little chart to the side that shows what colors mean what. They should teach this in meteorologist school, instead of spending so much time training how to make crack pipes out of everyday household items, or how to lie about the weather and remain employed.

Meteorologists stink and I don’t like them.

Turns out eBay is kind of a rip-off

I don’t sell a lot of stuff on eBay, but when I do, I’m fairly ignorant when it comes to how much I pay eBay and PayPal to facilitate the transaction. Normally I sell low to medium value stuff. They take their fees out of my PayPal balance and I’ve never really paid much attention to it.

Early last month, I sold 44 comic book issues of the The Walking Dead in a single lot. The auction ended at $554.65. That was by far the the most expensive thing I’ve sold in 16 years on eBay. Yesterday I received an email from eBay informing me that my August statement was available.

I owe eBay $57.18.

Of that, $55.47 represents a Final Value Fee for the actual item. That looks like a flat ten percent, rounded up. Then there’s $1.72 added on as another Final Value Fee for the shipping of $17.18. This too looks to be ten percent, rounded up.

I don’t understand why I have to pay a fee on the shipping when I created the auction so the seller pays the actual amount of the shipping. I had already boxed the comics up and weighed the box so that I could list it with the initial auction. The weight along with my zip code, would allow anyone bidding on it to know exactly what they were paying for shipping.

At least in theory.

For some reason, when I listed the auction, I must have selected UPS instead of the regular US Postal Service. I didn’t even know that eBay offered UPS shipping. The buyer was charged $17.18 for UPS shipping, but when I went to PayPal to pay for the shipping through UPS, I was charged a total of $37.11 for shipping the package from Maryland to California. It would seem that eBay’s shipping calculator is a little off when it comes to UPS. I, not eBay had to eat the difference.

Speaking of PayPal, they charged me $16.88 on the transaction of $571.83, the action’s final winning bid and the incorrect shipping price. That worked out to be 2.95 percent. Not bad, but it’s not great, especially when you figure that eBay owns PayPal and is basically forcing you to use their payment gateway.

So what did it cost me in total to sell my 44 The Walking Dead comics to a stranger in California? Here’s a breakdown and a total:

eBay: -$57.18
Shipping: -$19.93
PayPal: -$16.88
TOTAL: -93.99

That left me with $460.66 in profit. I see why people sell stuff on Craigslist or Facebook yard sale groups. Going that route, you have to actually meet up with the person to make the exchange. There’s a whole lot of reasons that is less than ideal.

I feel like eBay is charging too much money, mostly because they are.

I’m not really complaining. I had these comics in a box in the garage. I was never going to read them again. If I took them to the Hagerstown 2nd & Charles, some hipster covered with ironic tats and wearing a knitted beanie, would have probably only offered me $43 in store credit. Instead of dealing with that, I was able to take the money and spend it on a new iPad Air at Target. They had them on sale for $50 off shortly after the auction was complete. I already had an iPad, but it was the first generation model. I got it the first day they were available. It was slow and I couldn’t install any of the newer, current apps.

I’m glad I sold my comics, but I’ll think twice before selling something expensive again on eBay.