Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Cost of Windows 7

I just wanted to highlight a good blog post I read today in Information Week about the way Microsoft prices Windows upgrades.

Under the clever headline "Microsoft's Non-Family Values" blogger Dave Methvin lays out the logic behind charging $120 to upgrade a single Windows XP or Windows Vista machine to Windows 7. After all, Apple only charges about $25 for an OS upgrade (and offers attractive "family" pricing for multiple licenses). Not surprisingly the answer to "Why does Microsoft charge so much?" boils down to "Because it wants to and it can." The reason Microsoft wants to is the alliance--some would say "unholy alliance"--between hardware makers and Microsoft.

Basically, if it costs $120 and a bunch of hassles to get your old notebook running Windows 7, and a new notebook can be had for $400 with Windows 7 installed, there's a good chance you will opt to buy the new notebook, which helps the hardware makers--keeps the production lines moving and the cash flow coming--and helps Microsoft justify the huge fees it charges the many different computer makers who need the rights to install Windows 7. Of course, that $400 notebook is usually an under-powered teaser model and the PC makers hope you will go for the $1,000 models once they get you in a buying mood.

A good example is my own Sony VAIO that I bought new with XP installed about 4 years ago. No way is Sony going to support Windows 7 on that machine. Sony wants me to buy a new machine. Period. (And if the refusal to support Windows 7 is not incentive enough, Sony apparently has a backup plan that consists of making the fan get so loud and annoying I am forced to retire the thing or lose my sanity.)

Unfortunately, unholy alliances being what they are, Microsoft can't offer a $20 per PC upgrade deal even if it wanted to. The hardware makers would scream foul. They would lose out on sales of new hardware AND face demands for drivers and support and all the related hassles that hardware makers hate to deal with (mainly because they are expensive).

How ironic that I have a reliable 4 year-old computer that delivers entirely adequate performance under Windows XP or 7 yet is a dissappointment to the company that made it. Reminds me of the car industry.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Beware the Impression of Speed in Windows 7

I am still exploring Microsoft Windows 7 on the Sony VAIO notebook I bought a few years ago and, like many people checking out Windows 7, I am still getting an impression of improved speed. But this could be dangerous. I suspect the need for speed is driving a lot of Vista and XP users towards Windows 7 but the question you need to ask is this: How long will it last?

Any experienced Windows user knows that fresh installs of past versions of Windows were pretty nippy compared to two-year old install. Sadly, a machine that has been running the same Windows 2000, XP or Vista install for two years is likely to be slowed down by a hugely bloated registry and all kinds of DLLs and taskbar apps and startup items and such, even if you've been using a registry cleaner and optimizer.

A new Windows machine is bound to seem faster, as is a new install. This is particularly tricky for XP users because you can't upgrade XP to 7, you have to do a fresh install of Windows 7. And when you do that you wipe the slate clean, so to speak, and things sure do seem faster. The big question is: How long will that last?

I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has answers to that. Is there anything in the design of Windows 7 that would lead us to hope it remains fast? Just click on COMMENTS below to share your thoughts.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Web Site Building Bits and Tips

Just a quick post to share some links you might find helpful if you are building a new web site. I've been helping several folks with their web site aspirations lately and came across these, in no particularly order:

First, how about a menu? It is pretty easy to create a nice top level menu using css and an unordered css. The tricky bit is a drop-down menu. That link will take you to a very simple but effective design which requires very little code.

If you are familiar with jquery you can use it to create a menu like the one on the left. The html/css/js code for doing this is available from this page, linked here. But what if you want to sketch out a complete web page design with menus and page elements?

For this there is a tool called Mocking Bird that you might want to check out (works best on a very broadband connection). Another new tool that might be worth looking into is: It's a web site that let's you build a web site that uses Flash (like Mocking Bird, Wix is an example of an application delivered as a service, in other words, Software as a Service or SaaS, just like Salesforce or the marketing product that I've been working on: Monetate).

With these two web design apps you can create pages or edit templates using a web-based interface. As with many SaaS offerings the feature set is continually evolving so I suggest you check them out rather than rely on my giving you a snapshot of their capabilities.

When you are designing web pages, the grid approach can be very helpful. Here is an article on grid-based design that I found useful, full of links to related content (I am finding Smashing Magazine a good resource in general, for everything from WordPress themes and buttons, to coding tips).

The ability to draw a design on a grid and then have an application generate the required CSS is a huge boon to web site developers. Here's an article that has links to 15 ways of accomplishing this. (What a difference these would have made when I first started messing with CSS layouts.) Another solution, not on the list of 15, is 960 Grid System. As the name implies, 960GS simplifies designing around a width of 960 pixels, which is a common choice these days for page width.

Finally, for this post, I want to mention XAMPP, software that let's you test a lot of stuff on your Windows laptop or desktop before putting it on a Linux/UNIX web site. With XAMPP you get the ability to run Apache, MySQL, PHP and Perl (the AMPP). Of course, this then gives you the ability to install WordPress on your Windows box which is very handy when developing sites in WordPress. Fro Mac OS X users there is similar functionality in MAMP.

Happy page building!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Handy Tech Tip: Vista and Windows 7 Device Driver Uninstall

As you may have discovered by now, your PC may be able to run Windows 7 but the maker of your PC does not plan to support you in this endeavor (Sony is a "good" example of a PC maker that is telling loyal owners of "older" Viao machines you are out-of-luck and on-your-own when it comes to Windows 7 drivers).

Of course, with the aid of Google and the many good folks who like to share on the 'net, workarounds abound. However, one problem you can end up with, given the hit-or-miss nature of manufacturer support for Windows 7, is a bunch of installed drivers that you don't need. I found this page helpful in dealing with this:

Uninstall Drivers from Vista & Windows 7

Do bear in mind the author's advice to make copies of drivers before you remove them. The thing that surprises me about drivers for Windows 7 is that XP drivers often work okay. I will try to blog more about that when I get my Vaio VGN-S460P fully configured. (Hint: This is one of the machines that Sony has no intention of supporting under Windows 7, but you can do a clean install of Windows 7 and so far it is working well--thanks to a set of original XP drivers.)

FireFox + ScribeFire = A great way to blog

I just added ScribeFire to Firefox on my "new" Windows 7 laptop and I have to say, this is the way to blog, particularly if you are blogging web pages, i.e. posting links to pages of interest with some added commentary. This is a good page to start at ScribeFire:

Getting Started With ScribeFire - Scribefire: Fire up your blogging

I have barely scratched the surface of this app but already it is way ahead of things like the Blogger "Blog this" add-in. Hopefully this functionality will enable me to blog more of my experiences getting Windows 7 running on my "old" Sony Vaio, which is now my "new" laptop.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Coffee, French Toast, and Stagecoach WiFi

This is not really a technology post. It is more like a techie-related signpost, pointing first to great coffee and French toast at Stagecoach Coffee in Cooperstown (which has free WiFi). Check out the iPhone snapshot for mouth-watering details.

The second pointer is to a YouTube video that is somewhat techie, and which I uploaded from the very same Stagecoach. The video is about problems with DNS and HughesNet Satellite Internet service.

My Day Job Explained: Marketing Online Marketing Technology

From time to time people ask me what I'm doing these days in terms of day job. Well first of all, I'm not really a "day job" kind of guy. If I work on something, I usually work on it 7x24, or at least 24 times X, where X is most days of the week.

That said, there's usually one job that has most of my time and attention during the day. Right now that job is marketing a new technology. One term for this technology is "post-click marketing." So in effect I am marketing a marketing product. And that means I am, in a very real sense, heavy into marketing. As to what this marketing technology does, I wrote a short article that hopefully explains it:

How Post-Click Marketing Can Make You Money Shared via AddThis

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Actual Speeds on HughesNet Satellite Internet Service

This is just a short post for anyone who is curious about how well HughesNet Satellite Internet service works. I pay $80 a month for HughesNet ProPlus service which is described on the company's web site as follows:HughesNet Actual Speeds
"With the ProPlus plan, connect to the Internet with maximum download speeds of up to 1.6 Mbps, with typical speeds about 800 Kbps to 1000 Kbps during peak times. Upload speeds, which are capable of reaching 250 Kbps, are typically 130 Kbps to 150 Kbps during peak hours."
As you can see from the chart on the left, I do not get anything like that. The highest burst of speed was 679 Kbps up and 68 Kbps down. But that speed is for a fraction of a second, transferring only part of a file. The best average speed over the course of a single file transfer in these tests is 275/67 which is a far cry from the low end of the 800/130 cited by HughesNet. BTW, that chart is a screen shot from a widely tested and trusted speed test program on my iPhone. I have checked it against other tests in other locations. The chart is all the results from my random tests in the last month or so. I have not edited out anything. As you can see, I have never clocked the promised low end of 800/130 let alone the fabled 1600/250. As for the average, what I typically get from this 1600/250 service is 174/52.

These results match those my wife has recorded using Hughes own speed test application. In other words, according to Hughes themselves, we get way worse service than we pay for. One of these days I will make yet another attempt to get Hughes to address this problem. My wife has made numerous calls to them in the past but things have not improved. They have a very cavalier attitude to problem tickets and consistently close them out without actually resolving the problem.

Like many other HughesNet users we hesitate to get too angry with them because they are currently our only option for "high speed" Internet (given that, in our case, fate has us living on a hill in upstate New York, one of the millions of places in this country that phone and cable companies refuse to service adequately). So it's not like we can switch to anything else.

There are many other problems with satellite Internet service, like lack of support for VPN and VoIP, latency times that are worse than dialup, and a daily bandwidth cap of 435 megabytes. We have learned to live with these, but we have not received anything in return. We are not even getting one sixth of the speed we pay for. Hopefully, this information will be helpful for anyone who is thinking about chosing to live beyond the reach of cable or DSL. My advice? Don't do it, not unless your goal is to disconnect from the Internet. Believe me when I say, if the housing market were not so depressed, we'd be looking to move to a place that has cable or DSL and ditch this over-priced dish.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

iPhone 3.0 and Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée French Toast

I need to post this quick before July is gone and I fail the one post-per-month minimum for this blog. So here goes:

I like the iPhone. With my 3G now upgraded to 3.0 and the ability to cut, paste, and search globally, the device can now serve as a portable computer as well as a phone, camera, music player, GPS, and recording device. I can write decent notes, take decent photos, surf most web sites acceptably, and take care of email. While I don't seem to have much time to play with apps, there are several on my iPhone just in case I get stuck somewhere without a WiFi, 3G, or Edge connection. I will write more about apps in a later post--although you can see some of my choices in the screen shot (and the ease of doing screen shots is no small bonus feature).

While AT&T 3G coverage is still weak in my opinion, I can get an Edge signal most places. That means I can stay in touch with folks in my head office with Yammer while traveling. I can handle both work and personal Twitter accounts while on the move (observing all applicable bylaws officer, honest). At the end of the day I can plug in my Sennheiser PXC 250 Active Noise Canceling Headphones and be lulled to sleep by any number of albums or my favorite Pandora station (currently Tangerine Dream Radio). I can even put the iPhone on the nightstand and play soothing sounds over the built-in speakers.

Speaking of sounds, I have now used the Voice Memo feature to record several interviews. The quality is surprisingly good if you are in a controlled environment, like an office with a door on it. The recordings are easy on the ears when transcribing and acceptable for podcasting. I don't like the fact that voice recordings are stored as m4a files (although these are easily converted to MP3 by iTunes). And it would be nice if I could copy voice files off the phone some other way than syncing within iTunes (mailing memos longer than one minute in length doesn't seem to work and you can't yet see your iPhone as a drag-n-drop NAS device or BlueTooth drive).

The iPhone has taken many mobile device features beyond the gimmick phase to downright useful. I actually turned to the iPhone GPS to get out of a sticky situation in Boston where I was on a deadline and needed to walk the city's crooked streets from my hotel to one of several Staples. Worked like a charm.

Of course, some people are going to read this and say: "See, we told you the iPhone was awesome." To which I reply, "And you were wrong." It is awesome now, it wasn't awesome a year ago. Back then it had a lot of potential, but until 3.0 it was missing vital functions. Even now, I would limit the plaudit of "awesome" to the 3GS, which adds video recording, digital compass, and voice control to the 3G, together with a performance boost.

So, my 3G is cool and I'm really enjoying it. I haven't had time to dig into the complex math of how much money it would take for me to become a 3GS user. And I haven't had time to berate AT&T for the failure to support tethering (I have a hack for that which takes the edge off, so to speak). Now I'm off to enjoy the world's best decaff latté at StageCoach Coffee. I may have to order a piece of the amazing Vanilla Bean Crème Brûlée French Toast, just so I can use my iPhone to post a 2 megapixel, non-auto-focus picture of it on Twitpics.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

iPhone Camera Impresses

As I wait to upgrade my iPhone to the newly released 3.0 version of the operating system (over 200 megabytes worth of download) I continue to be impressed with the camera on my iPhone 3G. The other morning I snapped this shot of Layla on our daily walk. Sometimes the effect of using a lower resolution digital camera, such as you get on a mobile phone, is almost 'painterly' in the way resolves complex images into pixels. If you click this image you will get an expanded view, which [IMHO] is still pleasing despite the lack of resolution.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Inside Word on the Next Apple iPhone?

According to an Apple Insider story that came out on Friday--and was apparently overlooked by the mainstream press--Apple executives said they believe "the iPhone remains in its infancy" and revealed to one analyst "a series of strategic measures they may employ in the near term to help grow the handset's share of the booming smartphone market."

Apparently, "the comments came during a meeting between senior company officials and analysts for Oppenheimer... analyst Yair Reiner said Apple sidestepped his questions on new products but remained upbeat about the potential for "considerable" growth." Reiner also wrote that Apple thinks "the iPhone is still in its early days and could gain share by: providing more functionality; lowering prices; growing geographically; or segmenting the market with different models."

So what would those models look like? Well, you could be looking at one of them right here. The image, marked as EMBARGOED appears to show an iPhone with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard.

Apple was stung earlier this year by the press attention given to Palm's announcement of the "Pre" model. It uses a large, gestured-enabled display which looks a lot like the iPhone. But the Pre also has a slide out QWERTY keyboard. Many smartphone users have expressed a preference for the tactile feedback of a "real" keyboard as opposed to the onscreen keyboard on current iPhones (which some users find unreliable and which undeniably takes up valuable screen real estate when in use).

So, does it make sense for Apple to strike back with a slide out tactile keyboard of its own? Maybe. The soon-to-be-released 3.0 iPhone software upgrade will add the long missing/awaited ability to select text and copy from one app to another (a stock feature of all Palm smartphones going back many years). Blackberry users seem loathe to give up their QWERTYs. This is one analyst that wouldn't be surprised to see Apple cave in to QWERTY pressure as well.

[Note: This blog post should not be used as a basis for investment decisions and readers are reminded that it is a blog post. We first saw this particular image at the very beginning of April.]

Friday, May 15, 2009

Blogging From the iPhone

Checking out a new blogging channel. Quite a nice little app. Called BlogPress. Next up will be a test of photos. Wait there's a camera icon. Cool.

Post From My iPhone

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Google reshoots Japan views after privacy complaints

So what's with these island nations and Google Street View? First English villagers attack Google camera car. Now the Japanese are upset. See my previous posts on this here, and also here.

Google reshoots Japan views after privacy complaints - News - "TOKYO, May 13 (Reuters) - Internet search engine Google said it would reshoot all Japanese pictures for its online photo map service, Street View, using lower camera angles after complaints about invasion of privacy."

BTW and FYI, did you know that England, if considered as a separate country, has a higher population density than Japan. Does that make a difference to people's perceptions of privacy? You bet!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Google Street View Privacy Survey: Win an Earth Day Prize!

I recently wrote about privacy attitudes to Google Street View and I thought it would be interesting to carry out a quick survey. Since viewing places on Google Street View is arguably more earth-friendly than going to see them in person, I decided to offers some cool Earth Day prizes!

Five people who complete the survey, between now and April 25, will be randomly selected to receive cool re-usable shopping bags, the kind that save using paper and plastic. These bags are burnt orange in color but very green. And the really cool thing is they fit in your pocket, no kidding! So please take a moment to fill out the form and include your email address if you want to be in the prize drawing. Good luck!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Wisdom of Villagers? Google Street View stirs protest in the UK

When villagers in Broughton, England, stepped into the road and linked arms last week to block the progress of a Google Street View camera car, were they also blocking progress? Or were they demonstrating that the wisdom of ordinary folk can sometimes exceed that of the brightest, or richest, techno-geek?

Why wouldn't the villagers of England welcome a technology that is proving very popular in its land of origin, America, the ability to enjoy a 360 degree view of city streets, from street level? Well, when a journalist asks for comment I always say: There are three main points to consider.

1. Geography. Streets and sidewalks in English cities are typically narrower than they are in America. That puts the Google camera car very close to your front door. Take a look at this first image, from a street in Leeds.

Drive down the left hand side of this street with a camera mounted on the roof of your car and you are just a few yards from the front doors you are snapping.

(I used to live a few streets over from this one when I was a student at the University of Leeds, and we had no front garden at all, just a door that opened onto the sidewalk or "pavement".)

The upshot of this domestic geography is shots like the second one, of a young lady pushing her baby through the front doorway of a house in Coventry. As you can see this Google Street View also contains a clear view of the neighbor's living room. (I don't think that's a flat screen TV that I see over the fireplace--but maybe a few doors down you might get lucky.) I think a lot of people on both sides of the Atlantic would consider that image intrusive.

2. Crime. The"mob" in Broughton cited a recent spate of burglaries as one of their reasons for objecting to Google Street View and Americans should note that a home in England is twice as likely to be broken into as an American home. Furthermore, 53% of English burglaries occur when someone is at home (versus 13% in America).

As someone who has experienced being woken up in the middle of the night and seeing a burglar in an English home, I can tell you it gets the pulse racing and leaves a lasting impression. While English criminals are less likely to carry guns than their American counter-parts, the aggressive use of knives is widespread in the UK and rates of violent crime [other than murder] are higher in the UK than in the US. (I don't like to just assert a number like that wihtout a primary source, but here is a secondary source--aspiring criminologists take note, there is fame to be gained by publishing a thorough comparison of US/UK crime stats.)

In the UK burglary "case" with which I am personally familiar, the burglar had acquired knowledge of how to defeat a particular type of lock and was going from house-to-house in the middle of the night looking for, and entering, those that were fitted with such locks. How much safer and efficient, to do your research online, from the comfort of your sofa, using Street View?

3. Rights. In the comments of some Broughton residents I got a whiff of unease that has been brewing for some time, a sense that we, the people, are tired of corporations profiting from our existence. A bunch of companies, from credit reporting agencies to data aggregators, make their money off the fact that we exist. They sell information about me. And now one of the richest companies in the world is enhancing its profits with a snapshot of my house while big companies, Sears for example, charge you for using photographs of their "house." I sense the common man, and woman, is getting a little tired of this state of affairs. It doesn't feel quite right, even though it is hard to say exactly what is wrong with it.

So there you have the three points. And, as I would say to the interviewer, let me conclude by observing: The error often lies not in the act but in the reaction. Google's reaction was to say, in effect, "What's the big deal? It's easy for people to remove images." Oh yes, like the lady with the baby is going to be checking the status of her online identity every few weeks to see who's snapping her. I am reminded of the response companies used to give in the early days of spam, before spam became both imprudent and illegal: "What's the fuss? There's an easy way for consumers to get off the mailing list." The wisdom of folk suggests that Google has some serious work ahead if it is to avoid the emergence of a "Do not photo" list. Otherwise, Broughton may become a rallying cry for a whole lot more trouble to come.

I leave you with a question. What the heck is that plant growing in the living room of number 185?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Fun With Smells? Or smells Funny?

On the lighter side, I've been having a lot of fun telling people about Smellr, the very latest in Web 2.0 social networks. I particularly like the tag line: "It's like Flickr, but for your nose." This is a project we put together at Monetate just in time for this special day. I think you'll agree the graphics are stunning (Luke) and the ad copy is just about right (me).

You will also find that some of the page content reflects your location when you visit this page, thanks to some Monetate special sauce. And although the site has been getting thousands of hits per hour, it is performing very well (Tom and Jeff).

Take a deep breath and enjoy!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Ready for RuMBA? Broadband Bill of Rights

RuMBA Launches American Broadband Bill of Rights - Yahoo! Finance: "The Rural Mobile Broadband Alliance (RuMBA USA) was launched to assist rural community residents, carriers and equipment makers in raising awareness of the benefits of rural mobile broadband, and to encourage the most responsible use of stimulus package funds, thus maximizing the positive impact of broadband on the lives of ordinary Americans. RuMBA USA will disseminate statistics on the impact on employment, social, economic, educational, health care and business opportunities arising from proposed stimulus package spending on rural mobile broadband. Visit for more information and to join the Alliance."

America's Broadband Access Gap: A rural and sub/urban divide

A recent US Department of Agriculture study confirms the disparity in Broadband access between rural America and urban and suburban areas, with rural communities less likely to have access to high speed Internet.

Read the report (.pdf format) here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

April deadlines loom for Windows XP support

April deadlines loom for Windows XP, Office 2003 product support:

"Microsoft is ending mainstream (free) support for Windows XP Home and Professional, as well as for its Office 2003 suite, on April 14, 2009. It also is “retiring” Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP1), meaning it will no longer provide support for that four-year-old release.

Microsoft is offering paid, extended support for XP Professional users (who also have Software Assurance licensing contracts) until April 8, 2014. It also will provide paid, extended support for Office 2003 through August 4, 2012."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Broadband Stimulus Details (So Far)

Risk factor could affect broadband stimulus payouts - CNET News:

"The departments of Commerce and Agriculture have a combined $7.2 billion from the stimulus package to dole out for broadband deployment and expect to receive more than 10,000 applications for funding."

And here's a link to the actual legislation. It's 407 pages, but see Title VI specifically.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lobbyists, public interest groups square off over broadband stimulus rules

Lobbyists, public interest groups square off over broadband stimulus rules - FierceTelecom:

"Policy wonks and telecom lobbyists are squaring off in a battle royal over which strings will be attached to broadband stimulus money. The fights aren't seen as a one-time battle, as the precedents set for USDA and NTIA funds are expected to be embraced for larger broadband spending of tens to hundreds of billions of dollars by Congress in the future."

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Broadband Stimulus Papers

The federal economic stimulus bill includes $7.2 billion in grants, loans and loan guarantees to extend broadband Internet to underserved rural areas. There is a good article on the rural aspect here:

Rural areas hope stimulus package includes funds for broadband - JSOnline

Providing true broadband (i.e. fiber optic, cable, DSL, or WiMax but NOT satellite) to rural America would be the single greenest, most productive thing the government could do with the stimulus money. The increased potential for telecommuting alone could save huge amounts of fossil fuel consumption. Not to mention the community benefits of social network, local news coverage, online forums, etc. And the education benefits. Many children in rural America can't use the Internet at home like kids in urban and suburban aras, thus putting them at a big disadvantage.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Why the FCC is Wrong About Broadband

According to this article, the Federal Communications Commission:

1. Assumes that if one house in a ZIP code has broadband access from a certain provider, then everyone in that area has the same access.

2. Defines high-speed Internet as anything that's slightly faster than a basic dial-up connection, including satellite service.

Well, as to item 2, the FCC is obviously has not read my previous post which explains why this is wrong, in so many ways.

I will soon explain why the FCC is wrong-headed on item 1 as well (although it should be obvious to anyone who has spent an hour or "out in the country").

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Why Satellite Internet Is Not Really Broadband

I recently posted a review of HughesNet satellite Internet service over at DSLReports. You may need to sign up to read it--which is totally worth the effort, DSLReports is a great source of info and news for bandwidth hungry net surfers--but I am also posting it here for ease of access:

Pros "Downloading is quite fast (but capped)"
Cons "Poor latency, 13Gb monthly cap, costly, flaky DNS, not true broadband"

Despite the fact that there is Verizon fiber optic at the end of my drive and Road Runner cable about 3 miles away, I cannot persuade anyone to run a broadband line to our home/office near Cooperstown in upstate New York (unless I pay $1,000 per month for a T1).

So, we pay HughesNet $80 per month even though it does not fit my definition of broadband (e.g. does not support VoIP, VPN or watching Netflix on demand movies).

Although traffic is fast enough when it gets going (from 1 to 1.5Mbs down) the latency is terrible (around 500ms, way slower than dialup) and if we exceed 435 megabytes downloaded in a day we are stuffed for 24 hours (Hughes actually slows your connection down to dialup speed--a death sentence if your boss wants you to take a quick look at his big deck of Powerpoint slides).

I should point out that the latency is not the "fault" of HughesNet but rather an unsolvable limitation when sending signals into space and back. This creates a huge overhead for things like logging into your bank account (what takes 20 seconds on true broadband takes 70 seconds on satellite). Doing online bill payment becomes a very tedious chore.

Hughes warns you not to try VoIP or VPN because of the latency, but does not make this clear in their TV ads. They also fail to give sufficient warning about the practical effect of bandwidth limits. For example, recent automatic operating system upgrades from Apple and Microsoft have both blown out our daily limit. Needless to say you have to turn off automatic OS upgrades, which potentially puts your system at risk.

HughesNet does offer a form of unlimited download, limited to between 3AM and 6AM. But we have found the speed and connection to be flaky when using this "feature." For example, you set up your download manager to get that big 600Mb file from your boss at 3AM but the connection flakes out and when you get up at 8AM you find most of the file arrived between 6 and 7 thus blowing out your allowance for the day.

There is also a problem with DNS flakiness (as reported by others in this forum). Random sites report DNS lookup errors but they are online. This was particularly weird when I found I could not get to my own web site over the HughesNet DNS servers for well over a week. If I used alternative DNS over Hughes, like running Anonymizer, I was able to see my site, as were friends on other ISP connections. I have a video of that issue here.

As a geek I am still amazed that I have a satellite uplink hanging off my porch that actually sends and receives, but that does not make up for the painful price/performance ratio and vicious bandwidth caps.

After a year on HughesNet I am devoting every spare moment to exploring my options (like getting that T1 and blasting WiMax out to all my neighbors--who have the same problems I do with satellite).

Bottom Line: "Should not be sold as broadband (no VPN, VoIP, OS upgrades, or movies)"