Thursday, April 30, 2015

65th Anniversary of 1950 Pioneer Zephyr Train Crash in Longmont

A nice reader in New Jersey sent me a picture from the Longmont 1950 Pioneer Zephyr train collision, and reminded me that it is the 65th anniversary of the event.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Unoffficial FAQ for Longmont NextLight Fiber Service

I just became a "charter" NextLight gigabit internet service customer this week and am very pleased with it so far.  There is an official NextLight FAQ but some things I didn't find covered, so I'll keep this updated for a while.

First, some things you may not know:

  • NextLight billing is done separately from your existing city power bill.  You must supply a credit card when you initially order the service.  You can opt to have your credit card automatically charged every month, or they can  email you a monthly reminder for you to do it manually. 
  • There is no TV service with NextLight.  I commonly hear the misconception from existing subscription TV customers (cable or satellite) around town that they'll be able to dump their pay-TV provider and get their favorite channels over NextLight.   Not true.  Unlike Google Fiber in other cities, no TV option is available with NextLight. 

    I should mention that there are some IPTV-technology providers and devices that can deliver a subset of the usual "cable" channels to you over NextLight.   Check out Google Chromecast, Roku, Sling, Amazon Fire TV to name a few.
  • There is an optional phone service, though.  I don't have it so I don't know many details but I do know that (a) a battery backup is supplied if the power is off (think E-911 service) and that you can transfer your existing phone number. 
  • Today (April 2015), you must supply your own router, which these days almost always includes a firewall and a wireless access point.  There is no option to lease or buy one from NextLight but they're indicating that they may supply a combined ONT (see below)+ router+wireless access point device in the future.  Hidden away on the NextLight web site is a list of routers that are known to work on gigabit fiber services like NextLight.   You can take this list to Best Buy and shop around.  In a case I just heard about, the Longmont Best Buy didn't have one of the lower end models available on the floor but they were happy to order it.  Strictly speaking, you could plug your computer directly into the NextLight ONT box and not use a router but you'd be operating wide open on the internet with no firewall protection from the evil forces out there.  Highly discouraged.
  • NextLight installation responsibility ends at the installation of the ONT box (their equipment) inside your house.  From there, it is your responsibility to interface your own equipment.  NextLight installation does not include wiring/cable inside your house (e.g. running cable to your home office in another room),  configuration of your router and wireless, etc.

 On to the FAQ:

  1. I currently have Comcast for Internet and already have a router.  Will it work with NextLight?

    Probably.   For best performance, you'll want to make sure that your router ethernet ports, including the Internet port (sometimes called the WAN port) are gigabit ethernet (1000 Mbps) speed-capabale.  Older routers (2 years or older) may only have 100 Mbps ports.

    Amazingly, I just moved my existing router from my cable modem to the NextLight ONT device and everything just worked, including wireless.  No re-configuration was required.  Your mileage may vary on this one.
  2. What do I do with my existing cable modem that I use with Comcast?

    Check your bill to see if you are leasing it.  If yes, you need to return it to Comcast to avoid a hefty bill after you terminate your service from them.  If no, you could probably sell it for a few bucks if you think it's worth the trouble. 
  3. I'm on Centurylink DSL.  Will my existing combination DSL access point/router/wireless box work with NextLight?

    Almost certainly not.  These devices are tied to DSL (broadband over copper twisted pair) technology, none of which is used with NextLight.  You actually may need to return your box to CenturyLink if it is their property.
  4. What's this "ONT" box you keep mentioning?

    It stands for "Optical Network Terminal" and is the interface between the fiber optic cable and your router.  It is installed inside your house on a wall and is powered by plugging it in to a wall socket. Yes, that means no internet service if your power is off. Although it has multiple ethernet ports, only one (LAN 1) is activated and this almost always connects to your router. 

    The ONT is typically installed close to where the fiber optic cable is trenched to your house at the outside TAP box (see below).

    The ONT is the property of NextLight.  You don't pay extra for it via leasing charges.  Before installation is complete, you'll sign your name agreeing that you won't remove it, to sell it on eBay for example or pack it accidentally when you get transferred to Minneapolis.

    My ONT.  Two cables come out of it:  one for power, the other is an ethernet cable to my router.  You supply the ethernet cable, not NextLight.  Keep in mind that ONT device technology is always changing and that it may look different by the time NextLight arrives in your neighborhood.
  5. Installed ONT
    The outside view.  This is the Terminal Access Point (TAP) box.  My  ONT is straight through the wall.
  6. On installation day, does the install technician need to use my computer/laptop/tablet?

    Nope, they don't touch your computer at all.  You don't even need to have it around.  They verify proper NextLight service operation with their tablet connected straight to the ONT.
  7.  I run [Windows, Linux, MacOSX, Solaris, FreeBSD] on my computer system(s) at home.  Do I have to install any additional software to work with NextLight?

    If your system is from the last twenty years, you should be good, out-of-the-box with no software/driver installs required at all.
  8. Any way to obtain a static IP address from NextLight?

    No option for this, as I understand.  If this question doesn't make sense, don't worry.
  9. How much power does this ONT box use?I've measured it as a constant 6 watts. If my math is correct, this comes out to (6 watts * 24 hour) / 1000 = 0.144 kilowatt-hour for a day's usage.  Going by published LPC rates @ 7.55 cents/kwH, this comes out to a daily cost of about $0.01/day.
  10. I've been seeing NextLight crews/trucks in my neighborhood.  How will I be notified when service is available to me?

    I received a "doorhanger" with the good news.  There was a one-month scheduling wait once I made the phone call to subscribe vs. when the installation technicans showed up.
 Got more questions?  Let me know and I'll add them to the list.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Butterball Plant Update #2

Longmont's Butterball plant under demolition made some news this week as the final portion along Main Street is about to go down.  A quote from Mayor Dennis Coombs via an April 2 Times-Call article by Karen Antonacci:
"This is a change of an era," he said. "This is our history, and now it's being demolished, and something wonderful is going to be built here. ... I think once this project is done, it could transform the whole south end of downtown Longmont."
It's been two months since my last update so it's time to see what's changed.

February vs. April difference from 1st and Main:

February 8, 2015

April 5 (Easter), 2015

Along Main, you can see the factory wall propped up:

The view from Second Avenue, on the north side of the plant:

And from Second and Main where things still look somewhat normal:

The train station has thankfully lost the wall behind it.   February vs. April:

February 8, 2015

April 5, 2015 (Easter)

Just east of the factory in one of the outlying Butterball buildings, I believe this is where a new brewery (Wibby) is going at 209 Emery:

Friday, March 13, 2015

New Tunnel under the Diagonal

First time I've been through the new pedestrian/bike tunnel underneath the Diagonal, which connects Airport Road with the LoBo trail.

Heading toward Longmont on the Diagonal near Airport Road, you'll see the tunnel sign to your right.  There is a bus stop there too, with a bike rack:

The tunnel itself is not very long and only goes under one direction of the Diagonal.

The tunnel goes under the eastbound (bottom yellow line) direction of the Diagonal.  To cross the westbound section, you use crosswalks on Airport and then over the Diagonal.  My route is in red.

Next up for construction is another pedestrian tunnel just up the road where the Diagonal intersects with Hover Road.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Kanemoto Park Playground

Farewell to the longstanding playground at Kanemoto Park.  It's fenced off now as it becomes the new site of the pool that was clobbered by the flood of 2013:

Timing for the completion of the new pool has it finishing in late August, right around when it normally closes for the year.  I hope they can keep it open a few weeks longer for 2015.

The playground will be relocated, closer to the existing volleyball court area.  

A few more looks.  I'll post pictures of progress throughout the summer.   

December 2014

December 2014

Friday, February 27, 2015

Union Station(s) in Denver

More from my ramblings around Denver last week.

If you've taken the RTD bus from Longmont to Denver in the last thirty years, you were probably familiar with Market Street Station, the termination point in Denver.  In mid-2014, the new RTD Union Station Bus Concourse was opened a few blocks away.  Market Street Station was closed and is now temporarily an underground parking garage.  Future plans have the site turning into a mixed-use development.

Closed RTD Market Street Station

And now to reveal some confusion I had about Denver's Union Station(s).  This is what I consider Union Station:  the elegant train station on Wynkoop that has recently been renovated and now includes a hotel and some restaurants inside.  It is where people go to catch an Amtrak train.

Inside revamped Union (train) Station:

Amtrak schedule:

The new $480 million RTD bus station is called Union Station Bus Concourse and it is supposedly connected to the Union Train station above but I couldn't find the way to go between the two last week other than a 10-minute walk on the city sidewalks above.  So I was confused, because these two Union Stations are different structures but have the same name.  I'm sure it will become more clear in future visits.

The new bus station.  It's also below ground like Market Street Station was.  

In seeing this sparkling new station for the first time, I couldn't help but to think of a variation of the name of a Scottish band We Were Promised Jetpacks.  In 2004 when Longmont voters approved an RTD tax increase, We Were Promised a Train and all the benefits that Denver area residents are now enjoying with this station, the new westward light rail route, and the upcoming train line to the airport.  We helped pay for this infrastructure but few Longmonters benefit from any of it. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Tour of Denver Bell-System Properties

An hour to kill before a meeting on a very mild Thursday evening in Denver gave me the chance to walk around some of my old workplace buildings when I was an employee for the telephone company U S WEST in the mid to late 1990s.  I was based out of Boulder but was frequently a vagabond Denver employee for days or weeks at a time, in various locations downtown.

First on the Denver tour, the gothic revival style Telephone Building at 931 14th Street.   Built in 1929, this was the original headquarters of the old Mountain States Telephone & Telegraph Company:

This was my favorite building in Denver to work in, perhaps because I liked its history.  It was referred to internally as the 931 Building.

A telephone construction mural is outside the front lobby of 931 and there is also a telephone booth on display so that we'll never forget where Superman transitioned from Clark Kent:

There is more mural artwork inside the building lobby, and on one of the top floors, where I would guess that the executive dining area used to be.  It was just a lunch/break area with vending machines when I worked there. 

Two particular 1995 dates that I'll never forget while I was working on the 9th floor of 931:  the shock of the Oklahoma City Murrah building bombing on April 19 and the extreme buzz around the Netscape IPO on August 9.

Directly attached to the 931 building is 930 15th Street, built in 1980, and was known as the 930 building.   Meeting locations in the two buildings were often confused but you could easily walk between the two, since they were connected via certain floors.  For whatever reasons, perhaps the lack of windows, I never liked this building as much, and tried to avoid it.

Next up is the second tallest building in Denver, what used to be called the Mountain Bell building internally.  Built in 1983 at the time of the AT&T breakup, it served as the US WEST headquarters for all 14 states. As part of a real-estate divestiture effort, they sold it in 1991 and leased most of it back.  I never worked much here other than a few week-long stints and an occasional meeting, and it naturally seemed to have the most corporate feel of all out of all the properties.  

Two blocks from 1801 California was 1999 Broadway, commonly called the Holy Ghost building because it was built directly over the Holy Ghost Catholic Church.  To supplement its core monopoly phone business, U S WEST at the time was moving into some internet growth businesses, including becoming an internet service provider and offering web-hosting/web design services.  These were called unregulated businesses and monopoly law required that they be maintained separately on the accounting books. Anyway, a few leased floors of the Holy Ghost building seemed to contain a lot of U S WEST's unregulated enterprises.  I worked there frequently and remember seeing a lot of high-priced lawyers and sports agents (accompanied occasionally by one of their athletes) in the elevators.  Overall, a pleasant and energizing place to work, and a notably different work environment from the other telephone buildings.

Finally, at 1005 17th Street was the U S WEST Denver Service Center (DSC) building.  This was built in 1976 by Mountain Bell to house their various call centers, and included an auditorium we used to attend for large all-hands meetings.  In the U S WEST strike of 1998, I worked two uneasy weeks here, filling in for striking customer service representatives.  The building was sold and vacated in 2006 by then-owner Qwest but it's nice to see the Bell symbol has been preserved.  

Missing from my pictures was another leased space at 1475 Lawrence near Larimer Square which I also remember as a beehive of activity and a likeable place to spend time.  

One more view of 1801 California at dusk from near Coors Field.  In the early 2000's, Qwest had an extremely bright Vegas-style neon sign on top of this building whose blue light would pierce through curtains in surrounding neighborhood homes.  Qwest toned down the light a few years later after all of the complaints