George Pulls the Pig’s Tail

George from Tulsa is back with another guest post:


In her July 31 review of the Netgear Nighthawk X8 Router, Denise mentioned a couple of problems to be solved, and I’m here to offer some suggestions and experience that might help.

Denise has a problem with “power bricks that block other outlets,” and I say Amen to that.

The solution that usually works for me is a pigtail. As an electronics “consumer” you’re more likely to see it advertised as a “Power Strip Liberator.”

I’ve been using the Coleman Cable’s 8-Inch Power Strip Liberator. They’re colorful, there’s a tiny light in one end that until it burns out tells at a glance if your device is plugged and powered, and they’re only ten bucks for three at the Amazon link in the Shownotes. There’s many similar products in real and virtual stores; I first saw the Colemans at Wallyworld.

Denise also mentioned “runaway bandwidth” that happens unpredictably, several times a year.

Been there, identified some.

Streaming video eats data, and that’s the most likely cause.

Check your ISP’s website. Cox Cable offers a handy tool to see how much bandwidth is used each day. By cross checking that against what Netflix reports, it was easy to identify how most of our bandwidth was being used.

Amazon Prime didn’t provide the same logging as Netflix. By persisting, I got a Supervisor in Amazon accounts management to tell me what was streamed, and when.

YouTube is very popular. If users are logged in while watching, it may be possible to access their history, but you’d need access to their Google account.

Best as I I can tell about video streaming: fast forward or chapter skip doesn’t necessarily skip forward, you’ll end up using the same amount of data as if you watched the entire boring and bloody Gorefest. It’s easy to zip through eight hours of illiterate television on Netflix, and the effect on bandwidth seems to be equal to spending eight hours in front of the boob tube.

I have zero personal experience with Facebook, but at the Library where I am half the volunteer IT department, Facebook is a huge blackhole of bandwidth as patrons watch Facebook videos, and play brain numbing online games.

Denise hints at another way her bandwidth is consumed. “We also need the ability to manage a lot of WiFi devices.”
Each of those devices can be streaming, from a kid’s bedroom, from the throne in the loo where Steve Jobs said is the only place people would ever use a tablet, or out on the front porch. You won’t know it’s happening.

Most every device and computer in your home gets updates. Have a lot of iOS devices? iOS updates are traditionally huge. They shouldn’t eat hundreds of gigabytes, unless you have scores of devices, but they could be part of a surge. Same for Macs. If you’re Syncing a new or refreshed install back to iCloud, well, like Ross Perot, you might actually hear that giant sucking sound as your bandwidth goes down the drain.

Microsoft recently pushed Windows 10 to a lot of folks who didn’t even want it. AppleTV now erases Apps from memory to leave lots of space for users to buy more; when an erased App is accessed through the Icon that persists, much or all the App is re-downloaded from Apple’s servers. Like iOS updates, big Android version upgrades are hundreds of megabytes.

Windows 10 had a default called WiFi Sense that was capturing even “stupidly complex” passwords and sharing them with users’ social media contacts. If you have kids, they may have shared your complex password with friends, and friends and friends of friends may be lurking on your network.

It is almost impossible to outsmart a smart kid. One story is told by a parent frustrated by a teen supposed to be taking a college class online, but distracted by the Internet. The parental “cure” was to set up MAC addressing at the router to identify what devices could connect, then limiting the kid to the college site during the “virtual school day.” The little dweeb set up a relay server on the college network, and went right back to the game.

Last, don’t forget bandwidth vampires, devices that are always on, sucking both electricity and bandwidth. Roku, AppleTV, Internet of Things, Door Bells, WebCams, connected DVD players, Internet Radios, Amazon’s Echo and those little Amazon WiFi push buttons that order detergent.

I’ve dealt with the Nosferatu in my house with a combination of Surge Protectors and small switches. If I’m not using a device, that sucker ain’t sucking.

You’ll find an Amazon link in the Shownotes to a $5 two prong switch that sits on top of a surge protector. The protector for my media center has four: Roku, Blu-Ray Player, AppleTV, and Computer. Belkin offers a slightly larger switch for for the rare electronic device that needs a three-prong grounded plug.

Allison and Denise plan to learn together how to use the advanced features of their X8 routers. Clicking through Allison’s Affiliate link for your Amazon purchases will help keep the Nosillacast on the air so they can share with us what they learn.

3 thoughts on “George Pulls the Pig’s Tail

  1. Denise - August 14, 2016

    Hi Neighbor (cause Tulsa is practically next door),
    Agree with all your points. In our particular case, we have no kids in the house and we are not big streamers. We are still subscribing to DirecTV and get most of our entertainment there. I cancelled Netflix, and we don’t use Prime Video either. We’ll occasionally watch some short youtube videos or Lynda.com, are not big online gamers, and we’re not home most of the time. If I’m guilty of anything, it’s an extraordinary love of audio podcasts.

    Occasionally when I talk to my ISP, I get someone there that treats me like I’m dumb, and then I have to explain I have a Master’s degree in Telecom. (The tech equivalent of screaming “Don’t you know who I am?”) The only benefit of that is they stop sending me goofy white papers on how usage is calculated.

    At one point I became so frustrated with these nasty grams from my ISP on our bandwidth usage after getting flagged WHILE WE WERE OUT OF TOWN and everything was off that I reached out to the execs. They sent a squadron of techs over here that just rolled their eyes and said everything was fine. (I suspect management thought we were running the equivalent of a 24×7 LAN party.)

    We kept a log of what we did online for a few months and everyone agreed that we were not excessively using bandwidth, but no one had any idea what to do other than swap out the modem. As you can imagine, the net effect of that was zero. At one point, one of the Sr. Techs came over and told me straight up that their bandwidth management software does not work, and we had a fascinating conversation. Smart guy.

    This has gone on for six years. And yes, I do see spikes when Apple releases a batch of new OSs, and also when I kicked off my initial BackBlaze backup (that nearly gave the ISP a heart attack spread over several months.)

    Anyway, it gets funnier. Apparently, they’ve given up. Allison and I were chatting earlier and she discovered that not only had they dropped the price of my 200/20/450 package $20 per month, but they also dropped the cap.

    I’m about to subscribe to Netflix and go to town. 🙂

  2. George - August 14, 2016

    Congrats, Denise, your husband is right. You won the lottery!

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