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Redirector Browser Extension Takes You Where You Want to Go

2 May

AT&T just installed fiber to my house. It’s fast. I get a steady 949 Mbps up and down. I had no complaints about the 160 Mbps/14 Mbps I was getting from Cox, but my inner geek couldn’t say no to faster-for-the-same-price.

attdnshijackThe install was pretty smooth, but during the bumps, I would type nonsense URLs in to see if things were working. Most of the domains actually existed, but when I hit something that wasn’t live, I got the AT&T-branded page telling me the page I’m looking for isn’t available. Well, it said that somewhere within the mess of ads. Call it what you will, it’s DNS hijacking. Amazingly, AT&T allows users to opt-out of “this service”. But some ISPs don’t.

End ISP DNS Hijacking

Before I noticed that opt-out, I took a minute to update my Redirector settings appropriately. No more AT&T DNS hijacking. (I’d previously used it to prevent Cox from hijacking my DNS).

It works in FireFox, Chrome, and Opera, and Redirector is good for more than stopping DNS hijacking. It’s a versatile browser usability enhancer.

Use Redirector to Help Your Favorite Charity

I don’t have a car, and I loathe shopping, so I regularly shop with Amazon for things I can’t get by foot or on my bike. I made a valiant effort to remember to use Amazon’s Smile program special URLs to help my favorite charity (Death With Dignity National Centers,) but I’d usually forget. The AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organization of your choice.

I didn’t want to leave those easy donations on the table, so I searched for something that could remember for me. Enter Redirector. Now, every time I click an amazon link, or type amazon.com into my browser, I’m taken to the smile.amazon.com version of that page, instead.

I’ve uploaded an image of my Redirector settings at the bottom of this post in case you too want to more frequently, passively donate to your fave cause, or if you want to stop your ISP from hijacking your DNS. It’s easy. For the latter, you can use the same DNS hijacking forwarding URL I use, or copy the PHP snippet from that page.

<?php
if(isset($_SERVER['HTTP_REFERER'])) {
 echo $_SERVER['HTTP_REFERER'];
} 
?>

…Not that you need the php on the page you load instead of your ISP’s branded page, but it helps to be able to see a printout of the potentially improperly typed URL. e.g. below.

icurdDNSerror

Above: This is the plain-Jane message I get when I type in a bad URL, e.g. doesthisdomainexist.com

 

Redirector settings below. Click for larger image.

 

redirector

Let me know if you have problems. I’ll add more detail to this post as needed.

 

Dan Dreifort consults on UX and SEO.  I also make music, and enjoy biking and walking around San Diego, when I’m not broken.

 

Bing.com won’t load on Verizon Wireless

29 Nov

(Updated 3/25/2010 below) If your Verizon Wireless connection does not load bing correctly. Please leave a comment here. If you’re not having a hard time viewing bing.com in both firefox and internet explorer over a Verizon Wireless air card EVDO connection, then you’re going to be really bored here. Go visit uncool instead.  Verizon Wireless support won’t open a ticket for me to fix this bing problem unless I can find another customer having the same problem. When I load the bing page from my Verizon Wireless connection, all I get is a white screen with one line of orange text – Tell us what you think – and some white on white text visible if I use the mouse pointer to select and highlight. But when I take my computer to any other connection, things are fine. It is only the Verizon Wireless card that won’t load bing.

Verizon Wireless Bing Problem

Back when Alltel still had a hand in my connection, I contacted support about a Verizon Facebook problem.  After I found other people having the same problem on Verizon Wireless, Verizon fixed the problem. But they blew me off until then. Same thing here with Bing Verizon Wireless. It’s not working. Verizon Wireless support is blowing me off. They won’t even open a ticket for me. Verizon told me to contact Bing… but naturally couldn’t tell me how I should go about doing that. How rude.

I wouldn’t hesitate to leave Verizon Wireless for another company, but I’m stuck with them. There’s no DSL or cable at my location. No other EVDO options. Satellite’s latency is too high for the sftp and other stuff I do. ISDN is a sketchy pain. Dialup… ugh. So I just need Bing to load, but Verizon Wireless as usual is not taking any responsibility. How I long for the days of Alltel’s comparatively incredible mediocrity. Please contact me in the comments or by emailing verizonsucks at uncoolcentral dot com

My earlier post declaring Webposition a giant pit of suck still holds true, in that I was complaining about the terrible “support” they provide. So this is not a mea culpa apology. But I should note: I’m MUCH angrier with Verizon Wireless’ terrible “support” than I am/was with webpo’s. As far as I’m concerned, until both companies reimburse me for my wasted time, they can suck it.

Verizon bing.com problem solution

I’ve spent the past several months communicating with others experiencing the same problems. There’s power in numbers. Eventually Verizon started replacing modems. After hearing from others that upgrading  to the um175 fixed most problems, I purchased a used Verizon Pantech um175 online to replace my Alltel um150. I took the 175 into the Verizon store a couple of days ago and asked if changing to a new modem would change my plan. Nope. I’m still grandfathered in on the unlimited plan for the time being. I can now access Bing.com. (no thanks to Verizon. Boo!)

Verizon / Alltel Facebook Errors

20 Oct

Using Verizon or Alltel to connect via EVDO/3G and having problems with Facebook? You’re not alone. Call Verizon Now (1-800-922-0204) Some have suggested “fixes” to this problem ranging from deactivating and reactivating your Facebook account to editing about:config in FireFox. (No internet explorer specific “fixes”) but alas these efforts are either temporary at best or in vain completely. When I started getting the content encoding error after logging into Facebook I Googled and noticed this thread over at Mozilla. There I first suggested that this could be a problem with Alltel / Verizon. (The former was recently eaten up by the latter.) Turns out I was right. Everybody experiencing the Facebook error is also using Alltel / Verizon.

But how did I know? I used to use Wild Blue satellite to connect to the net. I couldn’t get to a specific site to load. Most people could. Then I talked to somebody else using Wild Blue and he too was unable to load the page. Turns out it was some sort of caching problem within their network. Additionally, after I later switched to Alltel / Verizon EVDO I noticed that they were doing some things that caused certain pages to parse weirdly. (e.g. arstechnica.com articles’ text was illegibly too similar to the background color.) I did some troubleshooting with ars and found that Alltel / Verizon was parsing all of the external js and css files inline amongst other allegedly bandwidth saving tactics. Alas, their attempts to save money and time often cause problems.

We’re running into the same sort of thing with Facebook now. I called Verizon (1-800-922-0204) and tried telling them about the problem and the solution. Unfortunately, while their tone is friendly, they don’t really know what they’re doing. They kept trying to tell me it was a firefox problem. So I read them the IE error too. They tried to tell me it was a problem on my end. I told them that my laptop works fine with Facebook from non-Verizon connections. They tried to tell me the issue was local to my service area so I tried in vain to inform them of their many other subscribers having the problem nationwide. No dice.

So I insisted on opening a ticket. But alas, they failed to note some pertinent info. Somebody’s supposed to be calling me back within 72 hours. Lame. So, if you’re having the same problem, call Verizon now and tell them about it. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. I hate that I’m stuck with Verizon. They messed up Alltel so bad.

Determine Line of Sight

4 May
Determine line of sight between two points

Determine line of sight between two points

EDIT: This post is old. the link to the software doesn’t work anymore, but Google has some ideas. Download at your own risk.

I use EVDO to connect to the intertubes. My indoor 7dbi omni antenna topped out at 1mbps down / 100kbps up on a very good day, usually lingering at about 500kbps down and 60kbps up. I bought a three watt amplifier package (came with a 5dbi omni) and gave it a shot. It increased my signal a little, but it also increased the noise. My speeds actually dropped a little.

I called Alltel to find out where my tower is located. It’s almost exactly 3 miles away… through hilly terrain. I’m located in what’s known as a “holler” in these parts. A hollow is essentially a valley in a valley, a nightmare of sorts in the RF arena.

I wanted to get a yagi antenna to point directly at the tower, but I wanted to find out if I had line of sight (LOS). It would be a waste of time and money to use a yagi or grid antenna without LOS.

I found a great, free program called RadioWORKS from Desert Hail. Enter the lat/lon of both points and it displays a graph to help you determine if you have line of sight between two points. It allows you to easily enter antenna elevation at both locations, so you can play around with the figures to determine how high you need to mount to obtain line of sight.

So, from the LOS survey I posted above, I determined that though I have LOS, part of the Fresnel zone is occluded. Rather than jump right to a yagi/grin directional antenna, I’ve decided to take my omni antenna to the roof to see if that helps. It might give me enough. I hope so… Though I found online sources to calculate bearing between two points, aiming a directional antenna is a task I’d like to avoid.

EVDO Antenna Line of Sight Update

I took the works to the roof and achieved a much faster connection. However, dealing with the inevitable lightning strikes is a daunting task. The antenna sits on a solid steel slab and is otherwise very inviting to lightning. Properly grounding the antenna involves an additional connection which loses precious dbi. And the mounting logistics are annoying too. On a whim, I moved the antenna to a second story window with decent LOS to the tower. Problem solved. It’s not quite as fast as it was on the roof, but it’s better and good enough. Lesson learned: If you’re able to place your antenna higher in your house, give it a try. I moved my Cradlepoint MBR1000 upstairs and ran some cat5 to a little switch that sits where the Cradlepoint mobile broadband aggregator used to be. As an added benefit, my wifi signal is also better when broadcasting from this height.

Line of sight update two

Checked today and the link to the line of sight software is dead. In case it doesn’t come back up or dies again in the future, please Google for radioworks line of sight to find other download sources for this great free software. (Update 3 – vendor link is working again. I had to remove the www. from the url. I’ve informed them of their webserver misconfig. Awful canonical SEO problem. They helped me with LOS, I’ll help them with SEO!)

Dan Dreifort consults on SEO and usability. He helped start an ISP in 1996. That ISP is still up and running, somehow. When he first started looking into determining line of sight he couldn’t believe the lack of available tools and information. Then he realized he was spelling it wrong. Line of site. Yeah, that doesn’t work as well.
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