I just upgraded my Internet in Grass Valley from 1 Mbit/s to 12 Mbps. And it is so good. I no longer think about scheduling Internet access, about starting a download when I go to sleep or having the iPad download the newspaper while the coffee is brewing so it doesn’t interrupt my email. And I no longer worry about software upgrades killing my network.

1 Mbps is just not fast enough for modern Internet. That’s 450 MBytes/hour, or about 30 minutes to update a typical medium-size program. It’s just about fast enough to stream a 360p video from Youtube, but you better not be doing anything else. It takes a little over a minute to download a crappy modern web page. I’d never click on video links and those cute animated cat GIFs everyone likes were just pain. And while slow is annoying but predictable; the worst thing is trying to do two things at once online. Once a week I’d be wandering around the house unplugging devices because some autoupdate decided to run and ruined whatever I was trying to do on my desktop computer.

Right now I think there’s a usability inflection point at 6 Mbps. That’s fast enough to watch a 1080p video stream while leaving some headroom to do something else; casual web browsing or the like. Faster is better of course; I have 100 Mbps in San Francisco and it is amazingly good. The FCC recently defined broadband at 25 Mbps, seems like a good goal.

Why was my Internet so slow? My house is in a rural area. Only a mile out of town, but all hills and trees and only a few houses. The Comcast/AT&T duopoly refuses to provide service to houses like mine and the toothless FCC won’t compel them. Wired service does not exist. Our local wireless ISP SmarterBroadband is pretty good but we were limited to 900MHz radio links because we didn’t have a clear view to one of the other sites in their peer to peer network. I finally paid someone to climb 70’ up a tree to get a good view and install a 5GHz antenna. Works great, at least until we have to repair it.

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect SmarterBroadband is only able to provide my service thanks to federal subsidies. They upgraded a lot of their internal network in the last year with a federal grant. They were also nicely proactive in getting us to upgrade, which I suspect is tied to some sort of bounty or benchmark for customer bandwidth.

  2015-08-31 16:36 Z

There’s two kinds of cucumber pickle in the world: fermented and vinegar. Vinegar pickles are what you generally see in the grocery store, the Claussens and Vlasics. They’re not bad but they are awfully salty and the industrial vinegar is not a very good flavor. Fermented pickles are made without vinegar. Instead the vegetable is salted and then fermented to encourage lactic acid bacteria, which makes the pickles sour.

Sonoma Brinery makes an exceptionally good fermented pickle. They’re available in grocery stores in the US west, sold refrigerated. And while they’re not cheap at about $1 a large pickle they are delicious. Great flavor and good snap. They call them “half-sour”. They have a pleasant sour taste but it’s subdued, also the salt level is quite low. The result is a mild, fresh tasting pickle, something I much prefer to Bubbie’s intensely sour and salty fermented pickles. Sonoma Brinery’s fresh sauerkraut is also delicious.

Fermented foods are newly trendy thanks to the probiotic food fad (move over, gluten free). I could care less about the fake food science but I am glad that fermented flavors are more widely available in grocery stores. I’m not a fan of kombucha, too expensive and too sweet. But sauerkraut, kimchi, etc are delicious. I’ve started trying to ferment my own things now with Sandor Katz’s excellent book.

  2015-08-19 17:38 Z