Well, I’ve done it.  I cut the video cord last week.

My cable bill felt exorbitant – I had managed to keep getting the “new subscriber” type of deals every 12-13 months, but with Spectrum taking over, they’ve done away with that.  My last reset went to $155/mo. That’s not as bad as some, but that’s for HD Video, the sports package (for my Golf Channel fix), and the rest of the “base channel package”, including the base internet package.  I’d estimate I had about 125-150 watchable channels?  And outside of the live sports (college football, basketball, and golf), I wasn’t watching too much.  Sure, AMC and TBS/TNT replaying the same movies over and over as background noise, but I don’t have a lot of “regular” shows.  I didn’t even have the DVR functionality.

With the advent of skinny bundles, I thought it might not be a bad thing.  But when you start getting into it, it’s still that – a bundle.  Certain channels in certain packages.  And the fact that Golf Channel is a must, meant that in order to keep pricing low, my choices were limited.

With a lot of research at r/cordcutters and fomopop, I settled on Hulu w/Live TV (no commercials) plan.  I also wound up setting up an antenna for the local TV.  Sadly, the leaf-style antennas don’t work for me in my apartment (ground floor, facing trees, and in the wrong direction), I wound up building an antenna based on this page.  It actually works pretty well, all things considered.  I get about 22 channels crystal clear.  What’s really cool is that Silicon Dust makes a “network tuner” – plug the antenna into it, plug in your network, quick setup, and boom, you’re going.  Download the apps (FireTV, Windows, and iOS in my case), and good to go.  I also subscribed to their DVR service (more of a guide, I think) for $35/year.  I’m using my Ubuntu server as the local disk for the DVR.

The only issues I’m having so far is that it seems like Hulu has issues with losing video quality on the live streams – I didn’t seem to have that when I trialed it.  Maybe it’s just on the sports channels?  I did try YouTubeTV, and have to say that it’s a great service, but the Hulu Library is what sealed it for me.  I’ll keep an eye on it over the next couple months and if it doesn’t get better, perhaps switch to YTTV. (My one complaint with YTTV is no FireTV app, which is frustrating.)

I’m interested to see how my family will handle the change when they come to visit at Thanksgiving.  It’s certainly a change from the old way!

Here are the channels I receive via antenna – the ones with the red X’s are out of Roanoke – occasionally I get bounced signals that aren’t strong enough to display, but enough to program into the tuner.  The X’s keep them from showing up on the apps.

One thing that’s always bothered me in my daily work is “rules of thumb”, or more specifically, relying on them to make a life-altering decision.  We deal daily with people working to retire, and invariably, a potential new client approaches us with a “rule of thumb” of “80% of my income to retire.”

It always starts with needs.  What will you need in retirement?

Take the following example (totally hypothetical and made up):

  • $75,000 salary ($6,250 per month)
  • 10-years to retirement
  • 15-years left on mortgage (PITI of $1,100/mo)
  • Saving 6% to a 401k

Based on that, the “take-home” (after 401k and taxes) is around $46,000 per year (I’m using a flat tax rate of 35% total to cover federal, FICA, OASDI, state), or $3,800 per month.  (That equates to 61%.)  Take off another $800 for the mortgage (you still have to pay property taxes and insurance), you’re now down to $3,000 per month.

What does it take to pay the bills (TV, electricity, water, etc) and buy food?  $1,500 per month give or take?

So working backwards, let’s just say that you can meet the bare essentials for $2,600 per month the first few years of retirement ($1,500 bills/food and $1,100 mortgage).  That’s 42% of your salary.  (30% after the mortgage drops off)

That’s what you need.  Plan for that first, then it doesn’t seem so bad.

I’ve been shopping new hosting the past few days.  Not for me, but for a couple of websites that I maintain.  The current provider is a local guy, so it’s not “quite” the same as shared hosting you’d buy from any of the big names (all things being equal though, it’s still shared hosting).  I’ve come across some interesting options, spurred mainly by this post from WP Site Care (http://www.wpsitecare.com/performance-of-7-top-wordpress-hosting-companies-compared/).

But regardless of that, I’ve also been interested in the Managed WordPress space.  The “traditional” names like Page.ly, WPEngine, etc you already know, but GoDaddy entered the market earlier this year severely undercutting the big guys, and I haven’t seen much about their offering since they rolled it out.  Thankfully, they’re offering a sale on their Starter plan for $1/mo right now.

To compare stats, I imported/migrated a copy of a current site, the Guilford County GOP.  I let GoDaddy do their thing, as I know a couple of plugins weren’t allowed – the big one being WP SuperCache.  (As an aside, if you’re running an HTTPS setup, make sure you turn that off, or you’ll never be able to access after the migration.).  The “test” domain is a subdomain of http://test.guilfordgop.org.

Onto the benchmarks for the baseline (or current) host.  Pingdom is run from New York, Load Impact from Ashburn, VA, and WebPageTest from Dulles/Ashburn.  It should be noted that this server is local to Greensboro.

Website speed test no2





WebPagetest Test Result   Dulles   www.guilfordgop.org   09 11 14 11 19 20

I’ve always had “questionable” TTFB on all the sites hosted with this company.  It ranges anywhere between 1-3s on average.  Personally, I think that a lot of it has to do with his network, which is pretty robust.  His routers tend to block international IP’s more often than not, so that might be a part of it.

Now, to the managed offering from GoDaddy.  All the test locations remain the same as the first run to the “real” site.

Website speed test



There seems to be a “known” issue that GoDaddy has doing these tests – once you hit 25-30 concurrent users, their systems seem to see it as a DDoS attack and begin slowing the network. I think part of this is also on their “starter” plan.  If you upgrade to the next level, I’d be interested to see if the network gets a boost beyond 25-30 concurrent users. Even still, a slight slowdown in load times observed here I wouldn’t be too worried about.  (This is based on the section for GoDaddy discussed on the WPSiteCare article listed earlier.  They tested August 2013 and the only offering at the time was GoDaddy’s “standard” shared hosting).

WebPagetest Test Result   Dulles   test.guilfordgop.org   09 11 14 11 16 13

All things considered, I’d say that GoDaddy’s a player in the space.  Consistent 1s load times (and this is cross-country, remember) under 30 concurrent users (throw out the “spin up” blip?) is pretty darn good, in my opinion.

I’m going to spend the weekend rebuilding one of my smaller VPS servers (and maybe even the main one?), and will be interested to see how the numbers compare there.

(As an aside, I probably should go back and re-optimize the site a little bit…)

Two projects that I’ve done work with have been online for several months.  I feel this is enough time to get the “newness” factor out of the way (not to mention all the speed and optimization testing to “fall off”).

The data below is taken from the Google Analytics Dashboard, same time frame (Feb 21st to May 21st, or 3 months).  I actually delayed installing analytics on Guilford GOP’s site until March 5th (don’t remember why), but here’s the data:

Phoenix Academy Mobile Visits

Phoenix Academy Mobile Visits

Guilford County GOP Mobile Visits

Guilford County GOP Mobile Visits

42% to Phoenix Academy and 26% to Guilford County GOP came from “mobile” devices (phones and tablets).  Both of these sites have an overall “bounce rate” below 40% (the mobile only bounce rate is at 50%, tablets is in-line with overall).  The general consensus is that a bounce rate of 50% or lower is to be desired.

I’d be interested to see the stats from before I took over the sites, but I don’t have access to those.  Needless to say, it’s encouraging to know that I’m doing something right with these two sites.  I’ve done my best to ensure that there’s a “uniform” experience across devices and that the sites load quickly (all things being considered).  I’m sure that there’s room for improvement.

This is an important mid-term election, politically, not just for the country, but also for the Piedmont Triad region of NC.  Here in the 6th district, the venerable and honorable Howard Coble is retiring after 15 terms in the House, and state-wide, Senator Kay Hagan is up for re-election.

The field is crowded (to say the least) for both seats on the Republican side.  There’s one thing in common with most of the candidates though, and that is all of them have made repeal of Obamacare their #1 priority and messaging.  Understandably so, as generally speaking, it’s unpopular with many Americans.  Yes, there are a few “success” stories out there, and I’m not going to discount them, but for every success, it seems there are 3 more who have a negative experience.  And not just because of the website, but sticker shock.

I myself am one of the “negatives”.  While my insurance is provided by my employer, it is essentially an individual plan that he pays for.  I don’t need much, I’m a single male in my 30’s, good health, and as such, my premium was only $135/mo.  My plan wasn’t “ACA-compliant”, and so I would have been moved to a new plan that would have increased my deductible (from $2,000 to $4,000), increased my co-pay from $25 to $35, and increased the co-insurance from 20%-30%.  All of this for… wait for it… $259/mo.  (I was since allowed to keep my current plan, at a new rate of $165/mo, but for how long is anyone’s guess).  Oh, and I get maternity coverage and birth control (aka pills and abortions), which I so obviously need.

Let it be noted that while I believe in a woman’s right to chose, I don’t like the idea of abortion as a method of birth control and wish there were less of it.  But I’m not going to say “change the right to choose. ”  That’s a topic for another (and more inebriated/enlightened day).

Back to the original point though.  Every candidate’s central plank is “repeal Obamacare”.  Second is “protect the 2nd amendment.” How do you choose your “front-runner” if all of them run on the same thing?!

You have to look at everything else about them – what their plans are beyond repeal.  Because let’s face it, if you want to be re-elected after this term, you have to prove to me that you can do the job beyond one major task.  Otherwise, you wind up in the same boat Kay Hagan is right now – her one “accomplishment” is unpopular amongst the populace and she really can’t run on the rest of her record.

If we repeal Obamacare, what’s your solution for a fix?  How do you propose addressing a $17trillion debt (and continued budgetary deficits)?  How do you uphold the spirit of the 2nd amendment while still making sure that I or my friends or family can protect ourselves against a home invader?  Are you really going to win my vote based on calling the other candidate a liar and a cheat and whatever else you can think of under the sun?

40% of the voters already have made up their mind whether they will support you or hate you based on that little letter after your name.  I’m in the 60% – you have to convince me you can do your job beyond the latest popular topic in the news.

I’m reminded of a line from The West Wing (I’ve reduced it down to the barest form)- 

Ten-word answers can kill you in political campaigns. They’re the tip of the sword. Here’s my question: What are the next ten words of your answer? Your taxes are too high? So are mine. Give me the next ten words. How are we going to do it?

You’re on the clock, and you’ve got until May 6th to convince me.