Category Archives: Life

Moving Stuff: Moving Away From DSL

I just cancelled my DSL service. Not sure how I feel about that, as I’ve had the service for almost 8 years. It was a “geek friendly” package, which meant I paid a premium for a couple of static IPs and the privilege of being left alone to run whatever services I wanted. But the service over the years became more and more “slow”, relatively speaking (ADSL, so 1.5/768), and with the advent of so-called “cloud computing” it didn’t seem like such a great deal anymore. So I started moved my hosting to Rackspace, and as I’ve just completed the transition, it was time.

For all but the last few years, it was a great service, and I’m going to miss the aspects of it that gave me the warm fuzzies of knowing everything was (literally!) in-house. The last few years, however, in addition to the growing feeling that I wasn’t getting my money’s worth any more, the service started to go downhill a bit. For the last few months I’d been having an intermittent issue with connectivity, affecting voice and network traffic (which, despite decent support, they never did solve, big negative), and that, and a couple of other minor issues, all came to a head when the move became real.

So in the end, I think I’ll be just fine using commodity residential internet (he says before he has to re-experience the wonders that are the cable companies…*shudder*) and cloud computing services, but I’m going to miss pointing at a rack in my house and being able to say “my website runs there”.

Moving Stuff: Fun With Phones Part 2

With the up-coming move, the question about what to do with our home phone was resolved by beginning an attempt to port our home Voice Over IP (VoIP) number, in a two-step process, to the Google Voice service. In Part 1 of this process, we successfully ported the number from our original Speakeasy VoIP provider to a pre-paid T-Mobile cell phone. This part was necessary because Google currently, by policy, will only port cell numbers.

Last night, after waiting a bit more than 24 hours after the T-Mobile port (and having experienced no overlapping service), we began part 2 of the process. As this number is going to become my wife’s Google Voice number, she logged into the Google Voice service, where she selected the number port. At this point a form came up which required information about the T-Mobile account. Because we had purchased a pre-paid cell phone, T-Mobile didn’t really have any information about us in the account (not even a name or address), and it wasn’t clear if the port would succeed, given that Google was asking for things like address details. To head off any potential problems or delays, we headed to T-Mobile’s site to set up the account and provide the details. I think I would have preferred not to have given T-Mobile this information, but wanting this to succeed the first time won.

We filled in the newly-provided T-Mobile information on the Google Voice form, and after clicking on about a half-dozen checkboxes warning us about different aspects and consequences of doing this port, things looked like they went through.

Next up was payment via the Google Checkout service: they charge $20 to port a cell number to Google Voice. It’s a little odd, as T-Mobile didn’t charge us to do the port from the VoIP service, but the end result makes it worth it in my opinion. We went through the details of the Checkout process and paid Google the $20.

At this point, what I had been reading had prepared me for the fact that the Google Voice port request form has no input box for the cell account PIN, and because of this, the initial attempt will fail. Fortunately, the email telling us this came right on the heals of the one confirming the submission of the port request. We went back to the form, added the PIN in the now-provided box (you would think Google would just add this to the original form?), and re-submitted. This time we got a confirmation email that it went through, and would take about 24 hours.

We should know later today if it succeeded, and I’ll post the update once we get that confirmation, but we’re optimistic that we’re about to be one of the group for whom this process worked.

Update (Thursday evening): Success! Michelle’s Google Voice number was updated to be our old home number, and she updated her profile so the calls will actually be routed somewhere. I couldn’t be happier that this worked, and if I would echo anything from what others have written about this process, it would be: make your you provide as much information as possible (and have it ready!), and then don’t push the process – let things happen, and give it time between steps.

Moving Stuff: Fun With Phones Part 1

We currently use Speakeasy’s voice-over-ip (VoIP) service for our house phone, and one of the goals we had in mind for this move was that we somehow retain our phone number. Area codes don’t really matter that much any more, and lots of people (some of whom we even want to keep in touch with!) know and use our current number. And then there’s the hassle of updating endless accounts (banks, credit card company, etc).

The solution that came immediately to mind was porting our number to Michelle’s as-yet unused Google Voice account. Some quick research showed that Google’s policy currently limits porting to cell phone numbers only. No landlines, and VoIP is considered a landline. Further investigation showed a work-around: some people have had success in first porting their landline/VoIP number to a pre-paid cell phone, and once the dust settles there, do a second port of what is now a cell number to Google Voice.

Armed with this possibility, we stopped by a local T-Mobile store (recommended by the author of the post I was following because it worked for him) last night and purchased a pre-paid cell phone. The cheapest phone was a $25 Nokia, and we paid an extra $10 for 10 minutes of time: we should be using this as our home phone for all of a day if everything works. Once back home, I called T-Mobile’s support line – for some reason, they couldn’t do this part in the store – and initiated the port of our home phone from Speakeasy/Level3 (the parent company) to our pre-paid cell.

Unless they need any more information from us, this first part of the process should take anywhere from one to six days, with potentially a day of overlapping service. Once everything is settled (the original post I read said that most problems arise when people jump the gun on part 2), we’ll create a new Google Voice account for Michelle, and attempt the second port.

The upshot of all of this is you can’t really lose: the port will happen or it won’t. If it does, we move on to step 2. If it doesn’t, our current service doesn’t change, and we’ll resign ourselves to changing our number.

Update (Thursday late afternoon): Got a call back from T-Mobile saying there was a hiccup in the transfer request. As we had a pre-paid cell phone with them, they didn’t have our address on file, and Speakeasy/Level3 was requiring that information as part of the transfer. Got that updated with the rep, and they re-sent the request, which was accepted. The new schedule has a day to “go through”, and then another business day for processing and turn-around, which puts us at Monday at the earliest. The tech mentioned we’d know when it went through as we’d get a text message to the cell phone.

Update (Tuesday afternoon): Success! We weren’t notified, but as of Tuesday afternoon calls to our home number were ringing the T-Mobile cell phone! And there doesn’t seem to be any service overlap. I’m going to officially cancel the Speakeasy VoIP service today, and we’re going to give it until tonight before going ahead with part 2. Stay tuned for the details (in a follow-up post, which you can now read here)!

Rackspace Rocks

Of the many challenges that we have in the upcoming move, there was one major one that was my own fault. But you get complacent, you know? I have been using the Speakeasy DSL service, as they had a “geek friendly” package where you pay an exorbitant amount of money to them, but you can do whatever you want (on whatever port you want), and they leave you alone. 2 static IPs, a dozen websites, and services ranging from mail to dns (and beyond) later, and I’m pretty entrenched. Some of the stuff I had been hosting for another group I have started to move to a more traditional web hosting service, but for my stuff, I wanted a little bit more. I had been investigating things, but now that the move has begun to gain momentum, I needed to spin something up.

My choice was Rackspace, and oh, boy, am I ever happy so far (ok, ok, it’s only been 6 days, but still!). I have my own cloud server where I have full control over a complete Linux install. The first day, I had a web server, a database server, and a nameserver running, and had started to move things over. 6 days later, I’ve moved almost all of my stuff (including this blog).

Of course, to a sysadmin/web guy, a machine is a machine, it doesn’t really matter where it’s physically located, or, these days, if it has any physicality at all. So what’s the deal with Rackspace? It was easy to get the server going, the metered billing (based on bandwidth) is fantastically cheap for what I need, and little details like the iPhone app I can use to control aspects of my server all make it painless. And painless is so good…


Well, it happened. After a little over 13 years at the Computer Science department of Princeton University, I’m moving on. As of March 12th, I will become a “Senior Systems and Software Engineer” for the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, about 5 hours west of here. This is going to mean big changes over the next month or two as Michelle and I move our lives over there and adjust.

My intention is to document a lot of that here, and I plan to cover everything from moving to a new city, selling our house, changing jobs, and all of the little (or not so little) details that come with it. It’s going to be something of an adventure, and having some sort of written record should make for interesting reading 13 or so years from now.

Some things have already started, so I’m (typically) already behind. Any of the 2 of you who knew this blog even existed are already thinking “yeah, right – he says he’s going to blog, but I heard that before!”, and you’re probably right: I’m already insanely busy with the details of everything that needs to be done in the next 2 weeks, let alone the next month or two. But I hope that by keeping things short and treating it more as my own documentation, it will mean that stuff will be posted here, and it will still make for interesting reading. You know, for both of you.