Sunday, July 13, 2008

SSC #69 Into the Vortex

Hi folk, its been a little while since I've written anything.  Did'ja miss me?  I just needed to take a break and charge the creative batteries a little bit.  I shouldn't be missing any submissions from here on out because... I would like to triumphantly report that I am back on the net!  Woot!

After, what was it?  Three months?  Once again I am able to check my email from my living room.  Now that its over, I consider the whole experience to be quite invigorating.  While I have missed a few article submissions, (and I sincerely apologize to you for that) and I couldn't look things up in Wikipedia the moment I had a burning question, all in all it was a good chance to break some stagnant surfing habits and get some things done.  Rather than hitting the StumbleUpon button and randomly surfing for websites to alleviate boredom, I took the opportunity to really dig in and learn some cool new Linux tricks and skills that are really going to come in handy.

But all that aside, I'm really glad to be connected again.  And for that I have Vortex Wireless to thank.

Yep, thats right, I'm with a new Internet Service Provider.  And I just can't wait to tell you all about them.

Vortex Wireless is a locally-owned, locally operated wireless broadband ISP.  Its not a local annex of a corporate machine, Its just a few local guys who had a great idea and who have made it a reality.  Exactly my kind of operation.  I always root for the underdog.

I went down to talk to them yesterday about signing up and it was about as pain free a process as could ever be.  Tom Holt and David Godby, the owners were actually the people who took care of getting me registered and everything, and I asked them a few questions about how Vortex Wireless started out and how everything works.  What I got back were straightforward answers and a feeling that I wasn't just a number anymore.  After dealing with a decidedly corporate ISP for the last few years, it was like a breath of fresh air.  I also got to speak to the guys who would later be doing my installation and I found that these guys really know their stuff.  After we talked tech til we were blue in the face, I came away feeling like I hadn't just entered into an agreement for net-access, I had made some friends as well.  And because I was able to talk directly to the owners, I put in a good word on your behalf as well.  If you go in and sign up, just mention that you read about them here in my article and they'll give you a $25 discount on your installation.  Can't beat that, can you?  The only stipulation is that you have to be within range to receive the service.  In short, if for some reason it won't work from your house, he'll give your money back.

Having a site survey to see if your location is viable is completely free and very easy.  Just call them up, give them your address and they'll set up a time with you so that they can come out and take a reading to tell them the strength of the wireless signal from your house.  If the reading is good then it's all gravy.  If not, then no harm, no foul. 

Their rates are comparable to the competition, with multi-tiered services to let you get the speed your twitchy little mouse-finger craves, or give you a cheap always-on lifeline to the net, but without needing a phone-line or cable service in order to make it happen.  You can get the net, and JUST the net, in whatever speed fits your budget.  And with things getting as tight as they are lately, being able to ditch a phone bill is a big plus for my wallet.  Instead of answering a phone only to be guilt-tripped by bill-collectors, I'll save some cash that can go toward paying them off.

Whats really great about the fact that this is a local business is that they'll really work with you.  If your bills are tight and you need to go to a cheaper service, they'll downgrade you (down to as low as $16 a month for 2x dialup speed) until YOU are ready to bring the speed back up.  If things get really tight and you need to suspend service temporarily and turn it back on a little later, they understand how things are.  These are real local people.  They'll work with you.  And thats really all a man can ask for.

Vortex Wireless is located in the Nextel store, tucked away next to Papa Johns Pizza in Russell Springs.  They offer multiple services including broadband, email hosting, web hosting, and PC repair (and don't forget they also do Sprint and Nextel cellphone service and accessories).  From what they've told me, their customers enjoy remarkble uptime because their towers all run Linux (big smile here) and the only type of weather that can interrupt the service is heavy fog.  We get fog here, but we don't get really heavy fog.  This is, after all, Central Kentucky, not Cape Cod.

One little tech fact that I thought was interesting was that neighbors who are on the same wireless tower can enjoy speeds between them that are far in excess of the speed cap enforced by your service plan.  In layman's terms, you and your neighbors can play games with eachother across it with ultra-low latency, which means no lag at all.  And as they say, the less lag, the more frags.  They currently utilize two T-1 lines, at 1.5 Megabits per second, piped in from AT&T to provide a solid backbone to their customers, and due to increasing patronage, they'll be adding another T-1 line shortly to ensure that you get the speed that you pay for.

They told me that currently their plans for expansion are contingent on customer demand.  Essentially they can't afford to put up a new tower if they're only going to have one or two customers connecting to it.  In this instance, the way in which our county's homes are spread out stand in the way of technological progress.  With enough service requests in a given area, though, a waiting customer base would ensure that building a new tower would be financially feasible for the company.  In short, if you're interested in signing up with Vortex Wireless, but you know they aren't in your area, be sure and give them a call anyway so that they know you're there.  When enough of your neighbors also express interest, expansion becomes possible.

I've only been using the service for a couple days now, but already I've seen my speeds exceed what I'm paying for.  A little extra "oomph!" is always appreciated, plus its a better deal that I was getting before... and don't forget I'm supporting a locally owned and operated business.  The only problems I've found with the service are the fault of my own equipment.  I'm piping their service through a cheap router that needs to be replaced, and I will be replacing it shortly with a Linksys WRT54GL.  After that, I suspect nothing but smooth sailing.

Be sure and give Tom Holt and the other guys down at Vortex Wireless a call and see if you can join in the fun.  And don't forget to tell them I sent ya!  Vortex Wireless - (270) 866-4451  or on the web at

See you next week folks.  Take care.

If you live in Russell County or the surrounding areas and you need help fixing your computer, give me a call at (606) 219-4088 to set up an appointment.

If you have a question or comment, feel free to email me at

If you'd like to read my past articles, browse to

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