Friday, May 27, 2011

Is Sprint coverage getting worse?

In the past month I've noticed that I lose 3G data service in lots of places, and more importantly in places where I used to have plenty of coverage.  I decided to google "is sprint coverage getting worse" and learned that I am not alone.  In the past couple of months there have been lots of similar discussion threads, e.g.

The really significant one seems to be this detailed post on the Sprint Community forum,

My initial suspicion had been that Sprint was preparing to announce their "new 4G service" here in San Diego, and that they were re-purposing existing 3G towers for the effort.  Now I'm not so sure.  Even in areas with existing 4G service, the coverage map has dramatically shrunk recently.  The discussion on Sprint Community is too long for me to read right now but the gist seems to be that Sprint never really had full 3G coverage -- instead they were paying for 'seamless' roaming on other networks (cough*Verizon*cough) and now they're not.

I was already thinking of switching to T-Mobile for their better selection of Android phones and existing '4G' coverage.  This is now yet another reason to do so.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Considering NAS and DLNA servers

My current network consists of a 24/7 Ubuntu workstation (with a dual 1 TB RAID) and Win7 HTPC (also with dual 1 TB).  I am also seeding a bunch of torrents (mostly Ubuntu distros) and hosting the Squeezebox server for the Logitech Radio in our kitchen.

I am considering scrapping the Ubuntu workstation and reinstalling it with Win7 and an SSD.  I would like to save on our electricity bill and improve the file-sharing and backup.  So I am investigating Network Attached Storage (NAS) options.  So far the Netgear ReadyNAS seems like the best option as it's a Linux-based OS with add-ons for all the major services.  Right off the bat it has Tivo and DLNA support, and there are also plug-ins for the Transmission bittorrent app as well as for the Squeezebox server.  The ReadyNAS Ultra 2 has a single-core Intel Atom while the Ultra 2 Plus has dual-core.

The one thing the ReadyNAS wouldn't be able to do is host my new weather station (really just a Oregon Scientific RMS300A three-source temperature and humidity monitor).

I am also debating the usefulness of DLNA.  One of my friends has a new Samsung plasma HDTV with DLNA support and such a thing should -- in theory -- negate the need for an HTPC (and XBMC).  The problem seems to be the limited codec and encoding support in DLNA.  I assume this was on purpose, to prevent people from downloading ripped content and directly playing it on DLNA players.

Fortunately there's a workaround -- a DLNA server with transcoding!  Windows 7 includes Windows Media Center which already includes a DLNA server, but unless the original files are already in DLNA-compatible formats you won't be able to play them on something like the Samsung TV.  I also already own the Nero 9 Suite which includes the Nero Home DLNA server, but again I don't think that includes transcoding.

Instead, I have found the following two options for DLNA transcoding:

Mezzmo, $30

iSedora, $17 (single-device) / $48 (multi-device)

At this point the whole investigation is moot since I'm not about to scrap my primary workstation!  Since it's running Ubuntu 10.10, though, it'll eventually lose support/updates and that will certainly force my hand.