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Preparing Computer and Cellular Networks For a Hurricane

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the disconnect-all-kites-from-your-network dept.

Networking 114

CWmike writes "As Hurricane Gustav approaches the US Gulf Coast, IT lessons learned from the devastating Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that smashed New Orleans and other areas in 2005 are on the minds of many worried IT managers. David Avgikos, president of Digimation Inc., a 3-D digital animation software company in St. Rose, Louisiana, said, 'We don't have to be told twice.' Meanwhile, the nation's major cellular network providers say that they too are prepared, having learned from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Still, they offer some helpful tips for dealing with what is expected to be a category-three hurricane when it hits: use text vs. calling on your cell phone, and if you use a cordless for your landline, ditch it for a corded model so that it will still work if there are power outages."

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114 comments

Hurricane? (-1, Redundant)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803365)

Blow me. ;-)

Talking... (5, Funny)

nickswitzer (1352967) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803407)

if (hurricane && phone =='busy'){ sendtext("GTFO GUSTAV IS COMING!"); }

Re:Talking... (2, Informative)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804141)

No joke...cell phones are already getting clogged a bit down here...and the storm is still 3 and a half days out....

It was a bitch during Katrina, you could not contact anyone in the 504 area code.

I'd never really ever used text messaging prior to that...but, I started receiving them, then discovered what T9 was....and have been a fan of it ever since..

For a month at least, or more...texting was the only way you could get through on a cell phone from NOLA. I wonder why they can do text, but, not voice?

Re:Talking... (4, Informative)

qw0ntum (831414) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804395)

Remember that sending an SMS means sending a small amount of asynchronous data, whereas keeping a persistent voice connection open is more resource intensive. I'd reckon that it took you longer to receive SMS messages after Katrina than usual, but nothing you would really notice since, as I said, SMS is a form of asynchronous communication.

Re:Talking... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24805653)

Remember that sending an SMS means sending a small amount of asynchronous data, whereas keeping a persistent voice connection open is more resource intensive.

Yes and no. Cell phones usually have a control channel, which sets up the call, and a data channel, where the audio is. The control channel is much higher priority than the audio. Most SMS is sent by the control channel, which has much less capacity than the data channel.

Re:Talking... (1)

davolfman (1245316) | more than 5 years ago | (#24806663)

That would be all well and good if pricing reflected that fact. Instead a single 160 character packet of information costs me about as much as a 5-minute voice conversation.

Re:Talking... (1)

moonbender (547943) | more than 5 years ago | (#24808721)

Unfortunately, operators seem to give SMS a very low priority on an already overloaded network. During a recent event which saw about a million additional people in my city, the mobile network was essentially down. But you could get people on their phones occasionally, and you could regularly get "half a connection" where your own phone would obviously be communicating with the network. But a text message still took hours to get delivered, making it useless for trying to meet up etc. I'd much rather the network operator just took down all of the voice traffic (except for emergency use, of course) and had the less resource intensive text messaging service working for everyone.

Re:Talking... (1)

darkonc (47285) | more than 5 years ago | (#24805509)

. I wonder why they can do text, but, not voice?

Even if they compress your voice down to 5kilobits/second, that's 500 characters per second. Even a reasonably long text message isn't going to be longer than 200 characters. -- more likely to be 20. ....

In other words, you can send about 10-20 average text messages full of useful information in the bandwidth it takes to say "Wazzup dood?".

(and, as qw0ntum noted, you don't even have to send the text message data in realtime... which makes transmission even easier on the provider)

Oh, and Text also filters out the sound of howling wind.

Re:Talking... (1)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 5 years ago | (#24807739)

For a month at least, or more...texting was the only way you could get through on a cell phone from NOLA. I wonder why they can do text, but, not voice?

A voice call is a continuous 20,000 bit-per-second stream of data. A text message is, at its longest, about 10,000 bits of data, usually much shorter. So you can send hundreds of text messages in the data stream of a single, short "I'm OK" phone call.

Also, since text messages aren't continuous, they can be "packed in" between calls without bugging anybody. If your text message is delayed 30 seconds or so, nobody notices.

Re:Talking... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24805213)

if (hurricane && phone =='busy'){ sendtext("GTFO GUSTAV IS COM*(#bn#@NO CARRIER

I use a more sophisticated strategy... (3, Interesting)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803415)

... I use an above-sea-level datacenter, conspicuously located at a comfortable distance from major tornado, earthquake, forst fire, and locust infestation corridors. That whole "above sea level" part is particularly helpful.

Re:I use a more sophisticated strategy... (2, Interesting)

appleguru (1030562) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803821)

That's Google's strategy.. seems to work pretty good for them ;)

From http://www.google.com/a/help/intl/en/admins/pdf/ds_gsa_apps_whitepaper_0207.pdf [google.com] :

"The geographic locations of the datacenters were chosen to give protection against catastrophic events"

Geographically disperse full redundancy is also a major key factor.

None of that, of course, helps protect infrastructure in hurricane prone areas. To do that you need to bury power and data lines deep underground, shield them from vibration and moisture, and protect them from faults from failing hardware above ground. Keeping the mobile phone infrastructure up and running may require severely ruggedizing towers... but even then, antennas on top of buildings, etc, are still vulnerable... If a hurricane rips up the building your cell antennas are on.. there's not much you can do (Other then roll in your disaster recovery unit (Like AT&Ts http://www.corp.att.com/ndr/ [att.com] )

Re:I use a more sophisticated strategy... (2, Funny)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804243)

"To do that you need to bury power and data lines deep underground, shield them from vibration and moisture, and protect them from faults from failing hardware above ground."

Not really an option for New Orleans...hell, we can't even bury our DEAD below ground...water table is too high.

Re:I use a more sophisticated strategy... (4, Funny)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804897)

And you don't see the core problem with the location of New Orleans?

Re:I use a more sophisticated strategy... (4, Informative)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#24805117)

"And you don't see the core problem with the location of New Orleans?"

Not really, I mean, the city is older that the United States of America...not like anyone in recent history chose where to put it.

And...not any more a problem than Amsterdam is...

Not to mention, it is here for a reason...MAJOR port for the US, for all the goods being shipped out of the middle of the US down the MS river..access to the Gulf for all that oil being drilled for, and imported in...gotta have all the fishermen supplying the US with a large part of its fresh seafood...etc.

Nah, while NOLA is a bit dangerouse (wouldn't be as bad if the wetlands could get restored), it is where it is for many important reasons.

Most everywhere in the US is in danger from all kinds of natural disasters. Heck, even NYC has a nighmare hurricane scenario...and they're WAY overdue.

Re:I use a more sophisticated strategy... (1)

afabbro (33948) | more than 5 years ago | (#24806659)

And...not any more a problem than Amsterdam is...

...not like the hurricane threat is even remotely similar...

Re:I use a more sophisticated strategy... (1)

wfstanle (1188751) | more than 5 years ago | (#24809903)

There is a slight difference. In the Netherlands people and government take the threat of floods seriously and do things to be ready if and when one happens.

Re:I use a more sophisticated strategy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24808713)

The utility company there (when I worked there 10 years ago) had a datacenter across the river from New Orleans (above sea level).

Additionally, the servers were on the third floor, of an all brick building, and they were (pretty advanced for the time) replicating key data via satellite.

Re:I use a more sophisticated strategy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24806323)

Just do what Seattle did [wikipedia.org] and raise your ground level up a floor or two.

Steven Spielberg had a great answer for Redundancy (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24803913)

The article was about when he filmed ET, that the area the filming took place was prone to a tropical storm. The documentary is here [handycamz.co.uk] , but be aware that there is more in the index. [handycamz.co.uk]

Regards,

Re:Steven Spielberg had a great answer for Redunda (0)

darkpixel2k (623900) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804497)

That f*cking disgusting.

(Video is of some chick giving a guy in an ET mask a BJ.)

Re:I use a more sophisticated strategy... (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804673)

Well, land reclamation would be the simple obvious answer for New Orleans to preclude the recurrence of such devastating flooding, but it looks like we just don't have the money [nationalpriorities.org] for such niceties.

Re:I use a more sophisticated strategy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24804773)

Well, land reclamation would be the simple obvious answer for New Orleans to preclude the recurrence of such devastating flooding, but it looks like we just don't have the money for such niceties.

On the other hand, you have to wonder about people who move into a city located in a hurricane prone area, below sea level, and then expect others to foot the bill when they're flooded out.

Re:I use a more sophisticated strategy... (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804945)

Reclaiming the land and enforcing a suitable building code would take care of that problem now, wouldn't it? The city exists in that location because it serves well as a very convenient shipping port. That kind of economics tends to draw a lot people.

Re:I use a more sophisticated strategy... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24805957)

Reclaiming the land and enforcing a suitable building code would take care of that problem now, wouldn't it? The city exists in that location because it serves well as a very convenient shipping port. That kind of economics tends to draw a lot people.

If the location is that valuable, let the city pay to reclaim the land.

If the city can't afford to reclaim the land, then it can't be that valuable. Why should the rest of us pay for it?

Re:I use a more sophisticated strategy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24805159)

going higher up from sea level puts you in an environment with higher neutron flux, meaning that you have a higher rate of bit-flips due to cosmic rays. not that this is a huge concern (but for large data-centers it can be)... just random info for your amusement.

Re:I use a more sophisticated strategy... (1)

darkonc (47285) | more than 5 years ago | (#24805593)

A friend of mine's dad was a civil engineer and, one day, my friend asked him how he chose the family home.

"Well", he said "the greater Vancouver region is in an earthquake fault zone, so the house is high enough on the mountain that it won't be hit by a Tsunami. It's built on solid rock, so it's nice and sturdy and it's on a knoll so that any landslides higher on the mountain are likely to go around the house."

Needless to say, he was a very good engineer. If I was going to build a data center, I would have been happy to have him pick the site.

IT disaster preparedness lesson #1 (2, Informative)

LM741N (258038) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803425)

1. 3-M Blackwatch tape Fed Ex'd to some safe place north.

Other than that, unless your facility is 100ft underground, resistant to groundwater, and with lots of fuel for the generator, I don't think you can do much in the midst of a really big hurricane. Doesn't sound like this one is going to be the biggest of types though.

Disaster preparedness lessons (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24806273)

Katrina showed a basic problem with emergency generators in New Orleans. If the gen set and fuel tank were installed underground, they got flooded out. The emergency operations center had theirs mounted on the roof--where it was knocked out by flying debris. There's no truly safe place in a below-sea-level city when a hurricane hits.

TFA mentions their radios couldn't interoperate because of being on different frequencies. The version I heard (from a FEMA rep) is that New Orleans was one of the first to adopt the "fully interoperable" trunked radio systems, courtesy of post-9/11 grants to "fix" the inter-agency communications problems. When their EOC went down for lack of power, the system wouldn't work at all--nobody could talk to anybody on the trunked radios without the control centers working, and there isn't a quick, viable work-around as there was with the old analog radios (the sherriff's car could serve as a temporary command center, using a standard mobile radio set).

I hope they already have their disaster response on site and the evacuations under way. Katrina's biggest lesson is that when the storm hits and the water rises, it's too late to do any good. Like the Boy Scouts, the motto is "Be Prepared"--before disaster strikes!

Ditch cordless? How about power backup? (1)

CityZen (464761) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803427)

In an emergency, it's often good to have mobility. So rather than ditching the cordless phone, it's probably a good idea to make sure it can continue to work if the AC goes out.

But I agree that it's good to have a corded backup for when your batteries fail.

Re:Ditch cordless? How about power backup? (2, Insightful)

Cecil (37810) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803645)

Do you have an example of a cordless phone that works when the power is out? I've never seen one. Keep in mind it's all well and good to have a battery in the phone, but the base station needs power to be able to transmit too.

Re:Ditch cordless? How about power backup? (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803881)

shhh you might disrupt his impeccable logic.

Re:Ditch cordless? How about power backup? (1)

Yaztromo (655250) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804025)

shhh you might disrupt his impeccable logic.

What, you've never heard of a UPS?

Yaz.

Re:Ditch cordless? How about power backup? (2)

gparent (1242548) | more than 5 years ago | (#24805495)

I'd rather use a UPS for something useful like light and warmth rather than doing a fucking phone call cordlessly when I could just use a corded phone.

Re:Ditch cordless? How about power backup? (1)

Yaztromo (655250) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803899)

I think you missed the point -- the backup power should be for the base station itself.

I'm a home VOIP user, and have a UPS solely for powering my cable modem, cordless phone, and routing equipment. Should things be worse than a simple blackout, I also have two portable power packs with DC->AC inverters. If I could (and especially if I lived in an area that is hurricane prone), I'd have a gas powered generator in the mix as well.

My existing setup has been very good so far for moderate power outages (lasting an hour or so). I've been fortunate in that during such episodes, my cable ISP has remained online, allowing us to use both the phone and the internet (as all my systems but one NAS box are laptops these days). Should a big quake eventually hit, I have no illusions that this setup is bulletproof, however I can provide enough power through various storage and generation devices to get by should lack of electricity be my primary concern.

Yaz.

Re:Ditch cordless? How about power backup? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24804085)

Have you tested your setup? A typical PC UPS is not designed for small loads and doesn't last much longer than under the load for which it was engineered. It might be a good idea to find out how your VoIP box can be powered directly by batteries.

Re:Ditch cordless? How about power backup? (1)

louden obscure (766926) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803949)

i've got one, the base unit accepts the same battery pack the handsets use. panasonic kx-tg2632

Re:Ditch cordless? How about power backup? (1)

fred fleenblat (463628) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803965)

A lot of Vtech's cordless phones have a backup battery in the base station. I think it only lasts a few hours, but I have 8 handsets so I can swap in a fresh one a couple times a day and still have phone service for probably as long as the phone company's backup power would last. I have to remember to remove the batteries from all the handsets before the handsets use them up though.

With a little wiring I could probably rig it up to use some alkalines or RC car batteries. And if the power brick is 6V or 12V you can get a commodity lead acid battery that will probably last for a month.

Re:Ditch cordless? How about power backup? (3, Informative)

turkeydance (1266624) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804041)

after 2 hurricanes and one big ice storm: 1. ALWAYS have a landline phone. it's bomb-proof. even dialup for email is better than 8 days without. 2. Cell towers/service go down second. 3. Cable goes out first. there's other stuff to consider, but this is a tech site.

Re:Ditch cordless? How about power backup? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24804201)

In the same spirit: Test your laptop's POTS modem connection. Drivers installed? Account data available and working? Where is the cable?

Re:Ditch cordless? How about power backup? (2, Informative)

darkonc (47285) | more than 5 years ago | (#24805703)

The phone system is built to be pretty much bomb-proof. I've spent time inside of a phone Central Office, and those things are built like an over-sized bunker.

Beyond that, I'd say always have a simple brainless corded phone in the house. Wireless is nice, and battery backup is good if the power's only out for a couple of days -- but if things are bad for a while, or your phone battery just HAPPENS to be almost fully discharged the day the disaster hits (because of a 4 hour support call), it's nice to know that you have something that's guaranteed to work for as long as the telephone system is intact.

I've had days that I've been on the phone so much that I've gone through both the main and the backup battery for my cordless phone. Until then my 'always have a corded phone' rule was considered a 'just in case' rule. It wasn't even a disaster, but I'm glad that I had the rule.

I mean, it's not like a dumb phone is gonna cost you more than a couple of lattes at the local coffee shop.

There's 500 series rotary dial phone... (1)

the_rajah (749499) | more than 5 years ago | (#24805857)

on the desk behind me and another in the basement connected via buried POTS to the CO and a backup dialup account I can access with the laptop. It served us well when we were without power for a week after a direct hit on our neighborhood by a pair of F2 tornados two years ago. The cell phone was spotty at best because the nearest cell tower didn't survive. POTS just works.

We've got UPS for the backup server and router. No sense having it for the cable modem since cable was out for longer than the power. We've got a 5KW gas generator and enough stored gas for a full 24 hours continuous running or several days if we nurse it.

I've also made good use of the generator during two ice storms within the past two years. It's nice insurance and is enough to run the essentials in our house. Essentials meaning furnace blower, sump pump, freezer and refrigerator plus a few lights. I use Stabil in the gas and exchange it for fresh every few months. The generator gets run every two months.

I'm surprised that I've not seem mention of Ham Radio in this discussion. When all else fails, there's HF radio and several digital modes now, including WinLink that can handle emails.

Re:Ditch cordless? How about power backup? (1)

cl0s (1322587) | more than 5 years ago | (#24805941)

Pot lines definitely will be last to go. But how many of us actually have dial-up modems with the drivers installed. I mean we all know most people use gnu/linux :) and rarely are any of the modems that come with your computer supported unless you went out and bought a specific compatible one. Do Macs even come with dial-up modems (serious question, my brother is all about them but I never bothered to look)?

Re:Ditch cordless? How about power backup? (1)

lazybeam (162300) | more than 5 years ago | (#24806757)

You buy a Mac USB dialup modem separately from the Apple store. They aren't cheap though: US$49 or AU$79. The Linux users need to test their modems before disaster strikes. The modem in my laptop (3yo LG) works with Ubuntu so that's all that matters to me. :)

Talking about "ditching" cordless: why not have both a cordless and a corded phone in parallel on your line? That way you can use the cordless phone in general, but you'll have the corded one when the power is out. We do that also to extend the ringer as the cordless phone's ringer was too high pitched to recognise it as a ringing phone.

Sink them in the pool (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803429)

I was speaking to someone in Florida who said they just chuck everything from the garden into the pool when it gets a bit windy.

Seems like a reasonable solution for your tech stuff as well.

A category-three + hurricane is likey to take the (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803491)

A category-three + hurricane is likey to take the phone lines, data lines, towers with the power so get out of there.

But did Ray Nagin learn anything? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24803539)

Or is he just going to run around in circles like his hair is on fire again?

Landlines vs. VOIP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24803559)

if you use a cordless for your landline, ditch it for a corded model so that it will still work if there are power outages.

Landlines have the benefit of battery and generator backups at telephone company central offices that can power your corded phone indefinitely even if your power is out.

How well do VOIP phones work over cable or DSL in storm conditions?

I'm curious about people's experiences. The in-home cable system VOIP boxes I've seen have a battery good for a few hours. Do cable head-ends have backups that stay up for more than that? How about DSL or telephone company remote terminals?

Re:Landlines vs. VOIP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24803605)

Landlines have the benefit of battery and generator backups at telephone company central offices that can power your corded phone indefinitely even if your power is out.

Indefinitely, so long as the phone lines aren't taken out with the power lines.

Re:Landlines vs. VOIP (1)

Constantine XVI (880691) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804461)

The VoIP modem from the cableco has a battery backup that's supposed to run for at least 2 hours.

Re:Landlines vs. VOIP (1)

darkonc (47285) | more than 5 years ago | (#24805757)

2 hours? That's about how long it's gonna take you to get home after the hurricane hits. We're talking about the possibility of 2-12 days of power outage if you're unlucky -- and that also depends on the cable company having the kind of power backup built into their systems that the phone companies do.

Until recently, cable companies were considered entertainment infrastructure, so I'm not at all sure that they're going to be built to provide service in the aftermath of a disaster the way that phone systems were built. Anybody who work{s,ed} with cable company infrastructure who can comment on that?

Re:Landlines vs. VOIP (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 5 years ago | (#24805051)

for POTS, you've got power effectively indefinitely. I worked for a term at the local telco (Sasktel) and the backup power set up is fairly impressive. The batteries alone will run the entire phone infrastructure for 24 hours at maximum load (that is, practically everyone in the city using the phones, to the limit of exchange equipment.), and to shore that up, a diesel generator the size of my car with roughly 2 weeks worth of fuel (if you can't get more fuel by then, things are REALLY fucked up and residential phone service is likely not a matter of high importance.)

power not really the whole problem (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24803579)

For Katrina, I was comfortably away in Houston... with a 504 area code cell phone, that was, for the most part, useless.

If all the 504 traffic HAS to go thru New Orleans, and most everything is down there, why can't they somehow re-route 504 calls to be handled by a different location?

If Atlanta was hit by a hurricane, and you were in Nebraska at the time, wouldn't you want your 404 area code cell phone to still work?

Trust me, unless they've made substantial changes in the way the network routes calls, it won't!

Re:power not really the whole problem (4, Funny)

Slithe (894946) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803773)

If Atlanta was hit by a hurricane, and you were in Nebraska at the time, wouldn't you want your 404 area code cell phone to still work?

Yeah, but it would probably not be found.

Re:power not really the whole problem (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24805553)

Having been through over 20 hurricanes, having been hit TWICE by the same hurricane after traveling up north and being in the telecom field i can tell u the most important things. A BATTERY OPERATED FAN! An LED flashlight with batteries. A Florescent lantern with a charger for the car. An inverter for the car so u can charge things including ur laptop. And lots of movies. It helps to freeze a bunch of 2 liter bottles and leave them in the freezer or move them to a cooler. They keep things cool and when they melt u get ice water. Romin noddles are ok for survival. HAve about 200-300 ft of extension cord (a neighbor always has a generator) if you are good get ur own SMALL honda generator. It is big enough to power a microwave and even alternate between items and the frig to keep it cool. The great thing is when not under load it will burn less then 1/2 gal an hour. Why is this important? Ask my neighbor with the huge 5.5gal/hr generator. He rant out after running it for 4 hrs a day, 2 days in a row.

Water, gas, batteries, fan, laptop power... noodles and oh yea chocolate is nice...

Text vs. Voice (5, Interesting)

randall77 (1069956) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803603)

> One tip: Use text instead of voice
Wait a minute, did I just hear the cellular providers admit that text uses less resources than voice? When is that insight going to make it to the pricing on my calling plan?

Re:Text vs. Voice (2, Funny)

flydude18 (839328) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803671)

Sorry, that particular insight is marked "for emergency use only."

Re:Text vs. Voice (2, Insightful)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803883)

I think the point is that text can queue and be delivered when it's ready (the most obvious example being you can text someone when their phone is switched off with no issues). Voice doesn't, so is unsuitable for a network with questionable reliability.

Re:Text vs. Voice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24804621)

His point still stands. Text uses far less bandwidth than ANY digital representation of sound. That and as you said yourself, voice has to be done in real-time.

Really, we are getting ass-raped for texting fees.

Re:Text vs. Voice (1)

ZERO1ZERO (948669) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804787)

Is n't it common in the states to get 'free' texts with your monthly plans? Over here in the UK just about every contract (not pay as you go) phone has some allocation of 'free' minutes and texts to use for the monthly fee be it 30, 40 75 GBP whatever.

Re:Text vs. Voice (1)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 5 years ago | (#24805613)

We used to.. At least most providers used to give free incoming texts. Now they charge you. They charge you for outgoing too. Several years ago, my texts were 5cents each, with free incoming. Now their 25cents each way..

Answer: not for a long time (5, Insightful)

hellfire (86129) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804435)

You see, people incorrectly assume that prices are tied to costs, and that when costs go down, prices go down. That's a lie that businesses have been foisting on the populace for decades because they aren't telling you the whole truth. Economics shows us different.

Prices are tied to supply and demand. When demand goes up, prices go up. When demand goes down, prices go down. Supply is the opposite. Supply is up, prices down, supply down prices up.

The supply for text messages is basically near infinity, and is not changing. Therefore only changes in demand will change prices. Now, have you noticed that prices are going up lately, plans are getting higher, and they are looking at 15c a message rates now? Demand is going up, of course. The cell phone market is saturated, but text messaging is still a growth sub-industry as more teens get phones and more people try texting.

We are willing to pay these rates because the market will bear it. What's worse is that they still easily allow overages. I put a block on my son's cell phone for texting, because the monthly unlimited rate to text on verizon is outrageous and he can't control his texting. We got him a new phone to replace his old one, and we found out he had texting back and had started texting again. He ran up a $64 bill on texting alone! We called Verizon and they found out the block was "accidentally lifted" with the new phone and they refunded us the money. Of course they refunded the money, because they conveniently dropped it "by mistake" and they got caught being sleazy. How many people would just pay the bill? And how many people are willing to pay $20 a month just so they don't have to pay $64 a month? All the major telecoms take advantage of this on purpose, and it goes to their bottom line.

To fix this problem, you need to choke off demand. The market will have to saturate the with texting so that there are no more new customers. Instead of competing to get more new customers, they are competing to get customers away from other companies. That's typically when prices start coming down. Right now Verizon and Sprint offer $100 talk and text all you like plans, and there is a company that just came into the area called MetroPCS which offers the same plan for $40. The cell phone market is saturated, so now you are going to see some price competition. Because texting piggy backs on phone plans, you'll see that begin to drop.

The process would accelerate if we had more competition, and if they would stop allowing phones to be tied to a specific carrier and forced companies to allow us to chose the phone and the plan. The justice department and the SEC need to put some pressure on and stop allowing cell phone company mergers.

Katrina + Gustav (3, Funny)

vistahator (1330955) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803663)

Sometimes you have to flush a toilet twice to clear the bowl.

Nah (2, Interesting)

thermian (1267986) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803751)

The most important thing you can do in preparation for a hurricane is pick the paint out of the screws holding your doors on.

Been there, cursed while the screwdriver spun uselessly, and never painted over a screw since.

Re:Nah (1)

xaxa (988988) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804511)

Why is this important?

(It might be something obvious, but I've never lived anywhere where hurricanes are a danger so I don't know what it is.)

Incidentally, one technique with a painted screw is to try and tighten the screw first, then if you damage the screw as the paint comes off you can still undo it.

Re:Nah (1)

thermian (1267986) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804559)

Its important because you don't always get advance warning that a hurricane is heading your way, and taking doors off serves the duel purpose of making it less likely your house will be destroyed and providing you with a makeshift shelter in a hurry.

I had less than an hour during the hurricane event in question, and it wasn't easy dealing with the multiple layers of ancient paint on the screws I had to undo.

Re:Nah (1)

Skillet5151 (972916) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804639)

I had less than an hour during the hurricane event in question

Wow, you were in Galveston? I can only imagine how ancient those screws are now.

Re:Nah (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24804933)

So having an unsecured 6'x3' bit of wood getting blown around the house is safe?

Re:Nah (1)

LeafOnTheWind (1066228) | more than 5 years ago | (#24805753)

Idk if your doors are the same, but for most of the doors in my house you can actually just pull the pins out of the hinges with a flathead screwdriver and a pair of pliers - takes half the time compared to unscrewing the hinges.

What about cable triple play ... (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803753)

... where even the corded phones won't work after a few hours when the power goes out?

Voice vs Text? (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803807)

Who cares? Where I live, after a 24 hour power outage (not uncommon in PSE territory), the cellular network goes dead.

Use text? (2, Funny)

IronChef (164482) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803827)

With messages costing as much as they do? Maybe if there is a hurricane discount, but AFAIK that only applies for category 4 and higher.

Wait, surely they aren't saying that the cost to the network of providing SMS services is lower than voice? Because the way they price it, it's cheaper to get data from the Hubble Space Telescope.

text vs. calling (3, Insightful)

superdave80 (1226592) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803831)

Strange that texting is a more efficient way to use the capacity of a cellular system, yet they charge more for texting. hmmmm....

Re:text vs. calling (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803903)

Pricing is a function of demand, not a function of how much it costs to provide. The underlying costs only serve as a price floor below which they won't offer the service. Texting is very popular, so they can get away with charging the high prices. What they should do is charge nothing for texting from the time the hurricane hits to a week after it leaves. But of course they won't endanger their profit margins.

Re:text vs. calling (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803909)

Texting is free on most plans these days... Costs the earth on pay and go of course, but so does calling.

Re:text vs. calling (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804107)

...but so does calling

Not if you don't use a lot of minutes. My PAYG runs $17/month, total. Any regular plan is at least twice that.

Re:text vs. calling (1)

DarkTempes (822722) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804181)

While I haven't changed plans in a while, in the US I don't remember texting being "free" or included on most plans. Oh, we also tend to pay to receive texts too.

Re:text vs. calling (1)

mprindle (198799) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804491)

I haven't seen a major provider with text included in the plan in the US. The only one I can think of off the top of my head was the older iPhone plan that included 200 texts, but with the new plan they increased the price and removed the 200 texts.

Avoid the mistake a hospital or two made in Katrin (5, Informative)

budword (680846) | more than 5 years ago | (#24803889)

Do not put the generator in the damn basement.

I know a better one (4, Interesting)

thermian (1267986) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804053)

In the 1970's the Council of Oxford, England built a nuclear bomb shelter beneath one of the buildings they owned.

During a briefing to the towns various community leaders they explained that they would have no problems with water supply because the shelter had a water tank, situated on the roof of the building which housed the shelter.

I know this because my uncle was one of those community leaders. He tried to question this somewhat bizarre design decision, but apparently the representative making the presentation failed to understand the problem.

Dead Center (3, Interesting)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804103)

The thing about cordless vs. wired telephones really won't matter much if you really get hit by a hurricane. Simply put there is no one to call at all. Police, fire and rescue serves are all unavailable for quite some time both during and after a hurricane. Until crews get the roads cleared and that is after the roads are no longer rivers, then and only then can emergency responders get through to aid you. As far as cell phones go the cell towers go out of whack as soon as the storm starts. The same is true of cable systems.
        The best way to ride out storms is elsewhere.Evacuate and go to Vegas and gamble or something. And as far as IT functions it would be great to have a second central hub that could take over for any site under the wrath of a hurricane.

Redundancy (1)

banished (911141) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804123)

...and if you use a cordless for your landline, ditch it for a corded model so that it will still work if there are power outages.

When we migrated to VoIP, we lost the redundancy we had with landline POTS since POTS has its own power system. If power goes out, so is VoIP. Cellular service is required to recapture that redundancy, in my view, for anyone with VoIP service.

Re:Redundancy (1)

SLOviper (763177) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804343)

...and if you use a cordless for your landline, ditch it for a corded model so that it will still work if there are power outages.

When we migrated to VoIP, we lost the redundancy we had with landline POTS since POTS has its own power system. If power goes out, so is VoIP. Cellular service is required to recapture that redundancy, in my view, for anyone with VoIP service.

If you set up the VOIP phones with PoE and have enough capacity (UPS *and* generator) in your infrastructure backup, you still have redundancy. For all of the power-backed computers and laptops out there, you get the added benefit of data redundancy as well.

I guess it all doesn't matter if your facility is 5 meters under water though...

Don't trust your power (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24804307)

Ditch wireless? I used to make sure I could abandon the PBX if our building went dark.

    I had spare 4-wires jacks and POTS telephones ready in the Computer Room and each of the senior managers offices. I also had a dozen loop and ground start CO lines down ready on our buildings POP. The phones were directly wired to the local CO dialtone.

    We only used the system twice. The first time was when a 14.4KV transformer down the road exploded and killed our power. The second time was when we intentionally shut down power to install a redundant feed into our building.

    You lose your building if you lose communication. It's better to stay in your office and work with a flashlight than have to run around looking for a working pay phone.

Important Safety Tip--Thanks Egon (0)

darkpixel2k (623900) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804411)

Still, they offer some helpful tips for dealing with what is expected to be a category-three hurricane

Tip 1: Time to bolt the racks down

Cell operators spent money after Katrina?!? (1)

Carlosos (1342945) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804419)

It's great that Sprint-Nextel spent $27 million after Katrina for its emergency response team but wasn't that a little late? I was reading a few years ago about an article after the 4 hurricanes hit Florida within 5-6 weeks (before Katrina) that Nextel was the worst cellular operator with its emergency response team. I believe T-Mobile had the best emergency response team but they were not even mentioned in the article.
I'm guessing being prepared before the disaster isn't as amazing as saying that you spent a lot of money after the disaster...

ALLO SLASHDOT, Klause Meine here and I will rock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24804437)

ALLO SLASHDOT, Klause Meine here and I will rock you like a hurricane

It's early morning
The sun comes out
Last night was shaking
And pretty loud
My cat is purring
And scratches my skin
So what is wrong
With another sin

The bitch is hungry
She needs to tell
So give her inches
And feed her well
More days to come
New places to go
I've got to leave
It's time for a show

Here I am, rock you like a hurricane
Here I am, rock you like a hurricane

My body is burning
It starts to shout
Desire is coming
It breaks out loud
Lust is in cages
Till storm breaks loose
Just have to make it
With someone I choose

The night is calling
I have to go
The wolf is hungry
He runs the show
He's licking his lips
He's ready to win
On the hunt tonight
For love at first sting

Here I am, rock you like a hurricane
Here I am, rock you like a hurricane
Here I am, rock you like a hurricane
Here I am, rock you like a hurricane
Rock you like a hurricane

It's early morning
The sun comes out
Last night was shaking
And pretty loud
My cat is purring
And scratches my skin
So what is wrong
With another sin

The night is calling
I have to go
The wolf is hungry
He runs the show
He's licking his lips
He's ready to win
On the hunt tonight
For love at first sting

Here I am, rock you like a hurricane
Here I am, rock you like a hurricane
Here I am, rock you like a hurricane
Here I am, rock you like a hurricane
Here I am

What went right in Katrina: ham radio (3, Interesting)

leighklotz (192300) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804545)

Technocrat reports [technocrat.net] :

The Bush Administration's Katrina report has an appendix called what went right [whitehouse.gov] , with praise for Amateur Radio:

Other organizations worked tirelessly to assist emergency responders that, due to the storm, did not have the equipment and means to effectively carry out their duties. Amateur Radio Operators from both the Amateur Radio Emergency Service and the American Radio Relay League, monitored distress calls and rerouted emergency requests for assistance throughout the U.S. until messages were received by emergency response personnel.

Ham Radio works because each it's a heterogeneous mesh network of intelligent agents using agile frequency hopping to provide connectionless redundant relay of messages. Yes, we do that [wedothat-radio.org] !

Leigh/WA5ZNU

Re:What went right in Katrina: ham radio (1)

autocracy (192714) | more than 5 years ago | (#24806581)

Indeed. I have a portable radio for hiking with APRS available (I can put my position on a map accessible via the Internet, or call an emergency that will be registered world-wide). People ask me about the 2 meter band rig in my car sometimes, and I always feel at a loss to really explain it. It's my "when all hell breaks loose radio." Gets me directions, info on weather, etc. More than anything, it has plenty of range, plenty of power, and works where cell phones never have service.

Most of the time people respond to the "when all communication breaks down" thing as if it would never happen. Living in Maine, I don't get it. We have plenty of wilderness, and I still remember that last really good ice storm [wikipedia.org] .

Jeff/KB1PNB

but wait (1)

mistahkurtz (1047838) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804667)

use text vs. calling on your cell phone

my cell phone company makes me pay more for text, even though i hear my phone uses the same radio technology to send/receive text as voice, and that these days, voice is really just any old data when transmitted.

are we to surmise what we may already suspect (or know)? that text messaging is really easier for cell phone companies to deal with than voice?

shouldn't that make it less expensive?

Cat 3 ?! (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804763)

what is expected to be a category-three hurricane when it hits

Category 3 ? Where the hell did they get that idea from.

Look at the storm path, it couldn't possibly get more time over warm open water than what the current path projects. Katrina was a cat 5 and started above the islands, Gustav is starting below the islands.

Re:Cat 3 ?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24805099)

Because, unlike what many of the Global Warming camp would like you to believe, high SSTs are not the only significant factor in the strength of a hurricane.

Jeff Masters has a great blog entry [wunderground.com] with details on what they think Gustav will do, and that they expect wind shear to limit its strength despite traveling over the warmest waters in the Atlantic.

here is how to fix it. (1)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 5 years ago | (#24804869)

I believe all cell phones should be equipped with emergency failover frequencies to function in the event of an emergency or natural disaster The US government should be maintaining cell equipment to handle overflow calls should the main cell providers be overwhelmed in the event of a natural disaster. The government should have discretion on activating this failover network. Cell providers should be required to pay for the operation of this failover network if it needs to be used. They should not be able to pass costs over to customers. This would function as a deterrent for these providers so they don't oversell their network capacity by a certain amount.

as for computer networks, fiber doesn't go out when it's buried.

Re:here is how to fix it. (4, Insightful)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 5 years ago | (#24806491)

I believe all cell phones should be equipped with emergency failover frequencies to function in the event of an emergency or natural disaster The US government should be maintaining cell equipment to handle overflow calls should the main cell providers be overwhelmed in the event of a natural disaster. The government should have discretion on activating this failover network. Cell providers should be required to pay for the operation of this failover network if it needs to be used. They should not be able to pass costs over to customers. This would function as a deterrent for these providers so they don't oversell their network capacity by a certain amount.

Except such an emergency communications network already exists, with their own frequencies and emergency communications capability. Activation is automatic, so the government doesn't have to do anything, and testing is done on a regular basis during non-emergencies. And the participants pay for the equipment, testing, etc. themselves.

It's called "amateur radio".

Primary purpose is providing emergency communications. During off times, the equipment is tested by regular communications, contests, and field days (the latter basically practicing "roughing it" - generators, portable antennas, etc).

For local communications, there's the VHF/UHF and other bands, and the HF bands to help pass communications long distances easily. (Only problem with the HF bands is BPL, which disables the receiver from being able to receive and pass on messages...)

Costs the government nothing, and emergency messages passed from surviving families to relatives outside the area are often passed on cost free (absorbed by the message-passer).

And then... (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 5 years ago | (#24805827)

Step 4: Arizona!

Company is prepared (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24806009)

I work for a service company on the gulf coast. This last year we moved into a newly constructed data center that was designed with hurricanes in mind. The building cinder block is steel reinforced and concrete filled. The actual server room is a gigantic rebar laced concrete cube. We have a large dual fuel generator that can power the entire building as well as a bus sized UPS to protect the servers during switchover. We have in ground optical data lines from 2 different providers as well as a satellite connection on standby. We don't believe we will have much problem with even a large storm.

Datacenter Blog from Hurican Katrina (4, Informative)

JosTodd (182497) | more than 5 years ago | (#24806213)

The blogger Interdictor, Michael Barnett, has a detailed blog of what they had to do and deal with to keep their datacenter operational despite being located in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. His blog was a very good read during the hurricane and its aftermath as it happened in August/September 2005.

Blog: http://interdictor.livejournal.com/?skip=300 [livejournal.com] Start reading from this link and go forward through the posts.
Pictures: http://sigmund.biz/kat/ [sigmund.biz]

Yeah baby! Nobody can prepare for ME! (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#24806965)

You can try... put some more "support" under your balcony, clear the lower area...
But in the end, I'm going to transform you into a disheveled, completely wet... ehem... hill country...

-- Gustav

DJDevon3 (2, Informative)

djdevon3 (947872) | more than 5 years ago | (#24808245)

In Florida we use cordless phones regularly but when a hurricane is here we switch to an old line powered phone. When I say line powered I don't mean "non-cordless". I mean the telephone line provides all the power the phone needs to operate. These are commonly referred to as Princess Telephones (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_telephone) and can be purchased from your local radio shack for a couple bucks.

Talk to the hand (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24809253)

Like who cares anyway. It only America and they represent such a small portion of the world. What happened to things that matter ?

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