Impressions of Verizon’s FIOS Internet and TV

I’ve had Verizon FIOS providing me with internet and TV for about a month now. The good: The UI is great. The bad: The internet tends to feel slow. The ugly: The set top box for HD content has some weird issues.

The Good: The bundles are stronger than comcast, so you get more channels for less money. The set top box UI is great but the menus sometimes require you to hit “left” and sometimes “OK”. Hitting “options” doesn’t always bring up what you’re expecting, but hitting OK on a program lets you select options. This is all covered in the manual, and the video help, so while it can be goofy it’s at least well documented goofy. The signal quality is fantastic. Even my TV upstairs (SD set) looks good. The menus are snappy and responsive, which is more than I can say comcast ever gave me. The 802b/g/n router is OK, but more on this in a bit. The point here is that they give you a free router, which is a darn sight better than comcast which wants to lease you their router and refuses to support anything else. The widgets channel is just damned cool and you can post what you’re watching to facebook, play sodoku, get news, traffic, weather, anything really. Watching youtube videos is pretty easy. The remote control app for android expands this further and lets you share pictures and other phone media right on your TV. If I had the DVR option, I could also control it through the website or the phone. (With on-Demand, I don’t feel like I need the DVR).

The Bad: Their router has really, really high latency for a connection. I’m not sure why. I think it’s related to DNS but I’ve been wrong before. Also the bandwidth throttling is done at the router which makes for occasionally interesting problems when there’s bandwidth contention. (Tip – need more speed? Go into the ON DEMAND menu of your set top box and leave it there). Finally the router is just sinful with how bad the setup is. They want you to use their disk on each computer to set it up, but the reality is if you want more than WPA encryption over your wifi you need to set it up manually. In addition to an inconsistent UI, it displays the WPA2 password once you set that up on the options screen. This isn’t as bad as those unusable walmart cisco waste of money appliances, but it’s pretty bad.

The Ugly: Their website is just about unusable. There’s a friggin commercial video in the left hand pane when you’re trying to log in. Even when you log in, you’re just logged into the presentation side and the content doesn’t really change. Also single sign on is weirdly absent and their site requires you to log in again to see billing. Their routers implementation of WPA2 is weird, and devices which are too strict (my wifes laptop) or wonky themselves (the wii) won’t sign in the first time. The set top box (not the DVR) for HD has some weird issue where sending an HDMI reset request results in losing the audio. Physically unplugging it from the TV or cycling the power fixes it. This is a known issue with verizon and they’re “working on it”. The workaround is to use RCA cables for audio but that’s a whole separate mess because your TV doesn’t know which HDMI is supposed to get the line-in.

Now for all I’ve complained, it actually doesn’t suck. I really like the service. I like the signal quality. The internet leaves a bit to be desired with the connection latency but it’s nothing you’re going to notice for 90% of your surfing. Also once you actually make the connection it’s plenty fast. The only real pain is the HDMI audio problem and they’re fixing it, but if you’ve spent any money on speakers anyway (and you probably have given the terrible audio quality of flat screens today) you’ll have line out/in anyway. Even with these small complaints, it’s still a step up from comcast. And heck, you can even bundle DirectTV in there if you don’t want Verizon’s lineup.

The Fabulous Beekman Boys

The first and possibly most offensive thing you will notice about this show is that it preys on every gay stereotype there is. Both of them are obsessed with personal appearances. The effeminate one is the mother figure, the provider, who slaves over a desk (or an oven). The masculine one (cleanshaven) orders the other one around almost to the point of being abusive and apparently is friends in addition to working with Martha Stewart. Both of them make it a point to let you know they’re gay. Both of them are obsessed with fashion and appearances. Both of them weirdly quote Sex in the City. I don’t watch Sex in the City and it’s heavy handed enough even I recognise the quotations. Which is to say they don’t seem like genuine, normal people – they seem interested in talking with a lisp and making convoluted gestures and trying to say we’re women in mens bodies. Therefor the show seems more about a gay couple than about a farm – albeit a gay couple who seems to be forcing a relationship. It feels awkward, frankly, much in the same vein as Tom Cruise and Kate Holmes. Seeing how I ran across this on Planet Green and not Logo, it surprised me when they also offered up “Farmer Joe”, who’s a Mike Rowe-ish manly man who tends the farm. Therefor we’re left with a program which isn’t about being green per se but more about being gay on a farm. Seeing as how nothing of value about farming is presented in the few episodes I watched, I’m wondering why this is on Planet Green at all. Talk about building raised gardens, or the goats and llamas, or the politics of pig farms which are innumerable and topical in the “animal rights” age. Now we’ve got a Gay Green Acres complete with meeting Martha Stewart in New York City.

One of the recurring topics on the show is “running a business”. This is where Farmer Joe fits in, he apparently does the actual farming while these two fuck off building raised flower beds. I can’t help but feel like these are two examples of missed opportunity. You could have a show which really ministers to the Future Farmers of America group or even people like myself who think owning a farm might be neat. You could have a show about building raised garden beds and the time over money investment. Instead we’re presented with the idea of one of these guys going into a local cheese shop to deliver cheese. Where did the cheese come from? What’s involved in “running the business”? Is it cheaper to take the train to NY or rent a truck for this cheese? What’s the cheese sold for versus the overhead of owning a goat, a farm, and the time it takes to make it versus what the goat is eating this week? We’ll never know, the show focuses more on their relationship than the specifics of the farm. This isn’t a plea to make it Dirty Jobs, it’s just that I was sold a show about two men owning a farm and the business aspects of it and that’s not what the show is about. It’s puzzling considering the fact that they have a website selling farm goods but there’s no mention of the production on the show. Cheese doesn’t make itself, and when they go on to describe the process and selling it to a cheese boutique, it would have been really neat to see them actually making the cheese and working out a deal with the cheese shop.

Now it’s not to say the show isn’t fun. There’s a guilty pleasure in seeing two people completely unprepared for the mud and blood of farming get eaten alive by it. This gets spoiled by the feeling that the farm is merely a set piece but seeing someone bounce an axe head off a log trying to split wood is fun. Seeing people getting knocked over by pigs into the mud is fun. Watching goats narrowly avoid having sex on camera is fun as is watching the llama fight the goats over food. It’s also cute. It looks like Pottery Barn threw up on the show but it manages to have enough trials to keep it fresh against the backdrop. It does have it’s moments of introspection, and this is nice because they do feel genuine. Talking about autumn and living close to the elements and the earth is a welcome change from the flash bang TV we’re used to. It’s something you don’t get out of the outstanding Dirty Jobs or Deadliest Catch which are entertaining but seem to lack a spiritual connection to the work.