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Network downtime – June 3rd 11:24 to 12:31

Amplex experienced a network wide problem today at 11:25am.   While we are still analyzing the logs we have a good idea of what caused the issue.    The network experienced a broadcast storm and loop due to the failure of the mechanisms designed to prevent network loops.

We have seen this same issue twice in the past, approximately one month ago.  In those cases the problem occurred late at night and was not noticed by most customers.  Following the earlier occurrences we made several changes to the network to remove the lower bandwidth backup paths which caused a significant amount of instability.  I can go into much more detail but it’s probably not worth discussing since the important part is…

What are we going to do about keeping it from happening again?

There are several steps we are taking to prevent the issue from occurring in the future:

  • Installation of routers at tower sites.  We are outgrowing the existing network layout (which has worked well for many years) and will be installing routers at the individual tower sites.  This will significantly reduce the broadcast load on the network.  We have avoided placing routers at tower sites in the past for reliability reasons.   The advantages of individual tower routers now outweighs the risks.   Installing routers is low risk and can be done with minimal impact on the network and customers.   The first one will be installed at Luckey today.
  • Splitting the network into 2 logical parts.  The network consists of 2 rings that share a common path between Perrysburg and Lemoyne.  The north ring primarily serves sites in Ottawa county, the south ring serves Wood county.  We are adding an additional link between Perrysburg and Lemoyne and will use that to isolate the north and south rings.  This will reduce the effective size of the network while also helping to isolate issues.
  • Evaluating Performant Networks Software Defined Networking gear.  Performant has designed a network appliance that promises to improve the stability and recovery time for Ethernet networks by incorporating ITU’s G.8032 “Ethernet Ring Protection Switching”.   This standard and equipment allows for sub 50mSec failover in the event of breaks in an Ethernet ring.  The Performant equipment adds an additional feature by continuously measuring the actual performance of the links so that it can make intelligent decisions based on the capacity of the individual links.  Evaluating and installing this equipment is a long term project as the equipment is new and relatively untested.  While it shows great promise we want to run it in a test environment for several weeks before attempting to deploy it.

We understand that a reliable network connection is very important to you and sincerely apologize for the issues today.  If you have further questions please do not hesitate to contact us.

Mark Radabaugh, VP Amplex

Why can we not watch ESPN3 online?

A few customers have asked about the availability of ESPN3.   ESPN3 is the sports network’s online video streaming service.  To watch ESPN3 your service provider (in this case Amplex) has to pay ESPN for access.   Why don’t we do that?

The simple answer is that we feel it is poor business model when applied to the Internet, and an incredibly slippery slope that will end badly for everyone.

ESPN’s plan is to recreate the Cable TV business model on the Internet.  The Cable TV model is this:

  • The networks (HBO, ESPN, ABC, etc.) negotiate deals with the cable company to carry the networks channels.   The deal requires the cable company to pay X dollars per customer per month for the cable company to carry the networks programming.
  • The contract  specifies that all of the network’s channels must be carried, not just the popular ones.   Why there are 50 junk channels?   Because the contract says if you want to have Oprah you also have to pay for and carry our 12 other channels.  Combine the junk channels from a dozen networks and you have Cable TV.   150 channels that you pay for, 3 that you actually watch.

Why does cable TV costs so much?  It’s not because the cable companies are greedy.  Ok, they probably are, but the bigger reason is that they are forced to pay ever increasing fees to the networks for content.

The ‘provider pays’ model is the way cable TV works.   There are a lot of reasons that it should not be applied to the Internet:

  • It raises our costs (and the cost of your Internet service) to pay for something the majority of customers do not watch.
  • There are a huge number of sources of content on the Internet.   The service provider negotiating with every content provider on the Internet is unworkable.
  • Fees will escalate over time.

If ESPN’s model succeeds there is nothing to stop Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, or even Google from demanding the same type of business model.   The day that happens the cost of Internet service is going to skyrocket.   I can easily see content costs adding hundreds of dollars a month to the cost of Internet service.  Cable TV is a naturally limited model in that the network can only carry a few dozen networks and a few hundred channels.  The Internet is unlimited in the amount of content it can carry.

Do we really want to recreate a service where your content choices depend on the networks your service provider subscribes to?

ESPN refuses to sell a subscription directly to an end user.

If you would like ESPN to change this feel free to tell them about it:  http://broadband.espn.go.com/espn360/watchespn/feedback

 

New Radios, Radio Swaps, Upgrades, etc…

Amplex has used a couple of different radio frequencies to bring Internet service to our customers.  The microwave frequencies around 5.7Ghz are used by the majority of customers who have line-of-sight to our towers.   The 5.7Ghz equipment provides the highest speeds and capacity service.  For customers that do not have line-of-sight we have used 900Mhz or 2.4Ghz to provide service.   The 900Mhz equipment has not been as reliable, or as fast as we would like and we are working to replace as much of it as we can.

As Amplex has grown we have added additional tower locations.  We are currently revisiting existing customers that we feel we can now serve from new tower locations and replacing 900Mhz radios with either 2.4 or 5.7Ghz equipment.

In addition to replacing 900Mhz radios we are also upgrading some existing 5.7Ghz customers.  The new 5.7Ghz Access Points (AP’s) have far higher capacity than the existing equipment.  We are currently retrofitting existing towers with new AP’s.  Unfortunately using these new AP’s requires replacing the  radios at the customers houses.

Towers with the new high capacity AP’s include Luckey, Oak Harbor (west side), and Perrysburg (south side).   All of the Perrysburg customers have been changed and the majority of the customers on the east side of Oak Harbor have the new radios.

We will be installing the high capacity AP’s at Graytown in May and visiting customers in the area to swap radios.  The radio swap does not require access to the inside of the house and the appearance of the equipment is unchanged.

Migrating Address Books from Horde to Roundcube

Since we are about ready to take the new webmail service live, I thought it best I detail out the procedure for copying your address book from the old webmail service, over to the new one. Unfortunately, since horde will only export to CSV (comma separated values) format, and roundcube will only import from vCard format, an intermediate step is needed. Follow these steps and you should have no trouble:

1) Get the data out of horde.

You will need to login to the old webmail service first, which has been moved to: oldwebmail.amplex.net

Sign in as you normally would, and go to the address book. Click on “Import/Export” at the top, and the very bottom of this page is a button that simply says, “export.” Click it, you will be prompted to download a file, this is your contacts list. Save it someplace where you can find it, because you will be opening it in a bit.

And you are done with old-webmail, you can sign out at anytime.

2) Convert the data to vCard format.

This file contains your address book in CSV format, but we need it to be in vCard format for the new webmail software. First you need to open this file, I recomend using notepad to open it, but any text editor will do.

Open the conversion tool in a new window by clicking here.

You want to copy the entre contents of the file and paste it into step 1 of the conversion tool. If you are using notepad you can click on edit, then select all, to highlight all the data in the file at once. Once you have copied all the text, paste it into the conversion tool, step 1.

Click on Step 2, you probably won’t have to change anything here, I didn’t.

Click on step 3, the text you see should be your address book, converted to vCard format. Highlight all of it, and copy it. Open a new text editor window, and paste all of the data inside. Save this file as something you can find easily, because next you will upload the list into the new webmail system.

3) Important to Roundcube

Now you should have the data in a format that the new webmail software can understand. First you will need to login to the new webmail software by clicking here.

Click on Address Book at the top, then select the import contacts icon, which should be the forth one from the left at the top of the address book page. Browse for the new file you have created, and click import. With a little luck, you have just moved your address book over to the new webmail!

4) Issues?

Having trouble? Please feel free to send a support request to support@amplex.net, asking us to try to migrate your address book for you. Please understand, we expect to get a lot of these, so it may be several days before we can complete your request, please be patient.