Goodbye Hughesnet; hello Verizon MiFI

Goodbye Hughesnet; hello Verizon MiFI

While there are a lot of great things about living in the country like letting the dog run free and having 4×4 trails in the back yard, having access to high speed internet is not among them.

I am about a mile from the end of the Charter cable run and several miles from the nearest DSL capable phone line. For years the only option I had was Directway. Directway eventually evolved into Hughesnet.

The satellite internet seemed really cool at first. Connection speeds were much faster than dial up. And it was also more reliable. It was always on and I never had to worry about busy signals when trying to connect the modem. The savings of dropping AOL and the extra phone line pretty much paid for the Satellite service at first.

However over the years the price went up and the service went down. First they added download limits. And they did not tell anyone, they just secretly started limited speeds if you went over a certain amount. It took some folks in a broadband forum to figure it out and write a program so you could monitor your download sand not go over the limit and be penalized for going over.

In the past few months, the system has become virtually unusable as the connection speeds during peak use times are unbearably slow. The system works fine during the day and late at night; but from 4pm to 10 pm it is useless.

I reluctantly tested the Verizon 3g connection at our house. Cell phone coverage is pretty good there but not perfect. I suspected the data transfer would be spotty at best. However, I was surprised at the speed of two different devices I tested. They worked great and got better signal than my phone.

So, I finally cancelled the Hughesnet service and got the Verizon MiFi 3g. 4g had just come out but it was much more expensive for the device so I decided to just get the 3g.

The box arrived by FedEx and was very easy to set up. All I had to do was connect using the wireless card in my laptop computer. I have not run any actual speed tests but the feel is much faster. I can actually play Car Town on Facebook. That was next to impossible on the satellite.

The trouble came about when I tried to connect it to the desktop computer. The USB connection simply refused to install. I saw in some forums that others were having similar issues using XP like I was. I decided to just stop fighting it and use a wireless connection for the desk top as well.

The trouble was, I needed a wireless device for the desktop. See the next post for how I modified my Linksys router to connect to the MiFi.

Trail and Jeep Maintenance

Trail Maintenance and a broken U Joint

The last wind storm put a few trees down across the trails on my farm. The creek crossing spot has multiples angles that you can attack if from but they were all blocked by two large trees.

I finally got to use the new Chainsaw my dad gave me for Christmas. I took it out of the box for the first time. I was out of fuel so I stole a gallon from the ZJ that I have been working on. I hooked up my fuel pressure tester and jumpered the fuel pump relay and pumped a gallon into my small gas can.

I mixed in the little bottle of 2 stroke oil that came with the saw and filled the tank. Next I added chain oil to the reservoir. I also managed to spill oil all over the new saw and the floor. This oil is very sticky and hard to clean up, I might add.

It took me a moment to figure out how to switch on the ignition. The instructions say to flip the switch them pull the choke. Well before I broke the switch, I realized there was an interlock that causes the switch to flip as you pulled out the choke. I don’t see any other way to flip the switch on.

I pushed the primer bulb a few times and pulled the rope a few times. I was very happy that my new saw roared to life. I made a test cut and I was ready to go to work.

By that time it had started to rain lightly. Janice, Jennifer and I donned our rain gear and headed down the hill. I cut the trees into sections small enough for the girls to haul off the trail.

The first tree was easy, but the second one spanned the creek. Walking across the log was the only way to cross the creek with out getting wet. I walked across the log and found a way to cut the log loose from the stump and let it fall in the water so I could still walk on it.

I hiked back up the hill and got Jenny’s Jeep to help haul away the logs. I drove down in the creek and hooked a strap to the first long section. I drug it down the creek to a place out of the way. When I tried to back up, I got hung up in the mud and started to slide sideways against a tree the overhangs the creek.

I thought I could go forward and climb the bank further down. However the steady rain made the bank too slick to climb from that angle. I tried to drive on down the creek but I got wedged between a rock and the other bank in a narrow and deep section.

I finally was able to walk one front tire up the rock and do a rear dig to bring the back into the right angle to back up the creek. Then I was able to get the proper angle to climb up the creek bank.

One the drama of being stuck was over, I backed back into the creek and lined up to pull the remaining stump. The stump proved too heavy to drag down the creek. The Jeep just dug in and would not move forward. I did manage to get the stump clear of one of the paths across the creek and dislodged form the creek bank. I hoped that soon the creek would rise and move the stump out of the way.

The trail up the hill to the house was already getting very slick as we made our way back up. I had to use much more throttle than normal to climb it. Right at the top we heard a loud pop, but could not figure out what it was.

The next day, the overnight rains had completely flooded the bottom land and the creek bed looked like a lake. The stump was no where to be seen. It will be interesting to see where it ended up when the water recedes.

As I was hiking the trail, I noticed a U joint cap near the spot where we had heard the pop. I crawled under the Jeep and began checking all the U joints. I found the missing cap belonged on the driver’s side axle. Luckily we keep a spare around.

Twenty minutes later we had the spare shaft installed and she was ready to go again. Looks like the C clip twisted out then the cap worked loose. Another argument for welding the caps I suppose. I still have not tried welding the caps.

Trail Maintenance and Building a new Trail

Building a New Trail

This weekend I decided to do some trail maintenance and build a new trail. The recent had blocked one trail and a couple have been blocked since last spring.

My chainsaw has a bad ignition module so I borrowed my Dad’s chainsaw. His starts and runs much better than mine.

We began by cutting down a tree that was leaning across the trial we call Wedgie. This trail drops into a huge V notch and then makes a steep climb. We also opened up the top of the trail so that the off camber turn over a tree root is optional.

This trail has given Jenny’s Jeep a challenge in the past but now on her new 33” tires she made it across the V notch easily. On the return trip dropping into the notch from the steep side, she did tag her bumper into the opposite bank but she pulled through easily.

Next we reopened the loop off the campsite that goes to the far corner of the property. This trail has been blocked by two fallen pine trees for a while. We sliced a couple of cuts in the logs wide enough to get the Jeep through.

Next we worked on a new trail. This one includes the steepest hill climb we could find. We call this trail Slickery because in the wet leaves it was very slick. On the opposite side of the hill there is a large tree root at the base that makes the beginning of the climb interesting. We left a small log across the trail for an additional challenge.

On Jenny’s first run back up the hill, she spun in the leaves and dug in. She got sideways enough that she could not back down due to a tree. So we used Scuffy’s winch to get her to the top of the hill. On her next run, she carried a bit more speed at the bottom of the hill and made it up easily.

Now we have to work on naming all the trails so we know where we are talking about. Then we will have to put a GPS in a Jeep and make an accurate map.

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Opera 9.6

Choosing a new browser.

On my home computer, every time I ran Facebook, the computer would stop talking to the modem.  After much diagnosis of the Ethernet connection and the modem, I finally discovered that the trouble was with Internet Explorer.  More and more IE has been causing my computer to hang.  The only cure is a reboot and then it is always a race to get things done before it needs to reboot again.

Lots of people recommended Fire Fox.  I gave it a try but many web sites I use just don’t look right in Fire Fox.  And some just refuse to work at all.

On my home computer Google Chrome was not an option since I am running Windows 2000.  Normally W2k is much more stable than XP but not with whatever the latest update to IE was.

My Internet connection at home is via satellite.  During most times of the day it is pretty slow.  Better than dial up but not really the broadband they claim it is.  I still consider it a low bandwidth connection.  So I did a search for low bandwidth browsers.  That is when I discovered Opera.

Opera loads web pages at least twice as fast as IE on my Hughes net service.  It has taken me a day to get used to the differences but I am really liking Opera so far.

My old W2k version of IE did not offer tabbed browsing but Opera does.  And the tabs work like I expect them to – not like the IE tabs that still sometimes opens up another memory hole instead of a new tab.

I love the way the pages load also.  I can actually start reading an article before all the junk loads.  With IE, it would often display a blank page until all the ads loaded.  It was really annoying to wait several minutes for  page to load only to realize it was not of interest.

I tested Google Chrome on my computer at work.  It has XP.  I like Chrome much better than IE.  Chrome seems just a little zippier on some web pages.  Especially Googles’ pages that I use a lot like gmail and adsense.   I assume Google has optimized these pages for their own browser.

I found a couple of sites that don’t seem to load right with Chrome.  My godaddy email program is one.  I had to use IE to send mail.  I could read mail fine but not send.

I am now using Oprea 9.6 on both computers.  I really like the crisp feel and quick loading of pages.  I just finished setting up the spell checker.  I liked IE spell better but I am sure I will get used to this one.  I have also discovered that the Spell checker will not work inside this wordpress window so I have to use the wordpress spell checker that I don’t like at all.

So for now, the winner is Opera.  But I will keep looking for other options.

Installing WordPress 2.7

I am adding Word Press to my web site today.  My plan will be to convert the whole site into Word Press blog posts.  This may take a while.

I will start by adding new articles directly as Word Press blog posts.  I will also start to convert the old stuff as I add the categories.

I am adding adsense ads as well.