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Internet down

AT&T may be the most irritating company ever. They think our account is past due because we’re not paying the setup fee we were told didn’t exist…and guys kept showing up at the door even though we had said we would self-install & they wouldn’t be allowed to touch our devices/network anyway…they’ve apologized & said they’d fix it three times so far. And now they’ve cut off service.

This happened once before, in New Orleans. I’d tell you the story, but I think I’ll work it into fiction…we’ll see how it goes this time. Meanwhile, their office appears to be closed.

Can’t transcribe this morning’s fiction unless I carry my laptop elsewhere (my app lets me use WiFi but depends on JavaScript files that reside in the intertoobz).

So, not much done yet. Will keep working over here, and will hope to have better news tomorrow.


(The above was posted from my phone. This part wasn’t.)

See, here’s the thing. It was annoying that I couldn’t access the internet via my laptop–and, due to a recent “update” to iOS, I couldn’t tether the laptop to my phone either. Unless I jailbroke the phone, in which case the Uber app would complain…

I poked around. I noticed that DNS, the system that resolves hostnames like “” to IP addresses like, was still working just fine via my “suspended” DSL line–it was part of the way AT&T chose to forward all web traffic to their page that tells me I need to call a number they don’t answer on holidays. Most traffic was blocked, but DNS worked fine. Hmm.

Well, okay. DNS traffic uses port 53. What does that mean? Not a lot, really. It’s just a convention. Like, a web server listens on ports 80 (normal http) and 443 (https). If you connect to a web server from your computer, your computer generates a random-looking port number for each request, so it can tell (when the server answers) which data is part of which image or bit of text or whatever. Sound arbitrary and easily messed with? Yep. You’re right.

So I keep a couple of servers out there in cloudland. I told one of them (via my phone) to listen on port 53, just as if it were a DNS server, which it ain’t. Then I told my laptop to listen on a custom port (I chose 9080 for no particular reason) and forward all traffic from there to port 53 on my server out on the internet. Then I told my web browser to use localhost:9080 as what’s called a socks proxy.

Voilà. I’m online! From my laptop. Though I appear, to websites I visit, to be browsing from within someone else’s data center. No skin off my nose, except that it can be tracked back to me. (So I also use Tor, but that’s a separate post…except that it’s actually in a book I wrote.)

Yes, I can do more with this…but I don’t necessarily want all my household’s video streaming to go out via this tunnel–I actually pay for traffic to and from the server I’m using. Upshot: AT&T is annoying, but handled for now. I told them I’d bill by the hour to deal with ’em, too, just for fun. We’ll see how it goes.

Back on track, sort of. Down most of a writing day, though.

Have fun out there!

Published inJerksTechnobabble


  1. Good luck billing AT&T! I’ve always wanted to bill for my time when ‘they’ waste it – I charge $1,200.00 an hour. Yup.

    Nobody’s ever bought an hour of my time, you understand, it’s just that, as a person with CFS, if they want an hour of me, coherent, and ready to do whatever it is they need me to do, that’s what I’d charge them (it covers the rest before and after, getting up, getting dressed suitable to other humans, eating just the right combination to keep me coherent for an hour, the cost of losing my writing time for the day (an hour doing someone else’s stuff will lose me a writing day), …

    I sympathise.

    • David

      Oh, what the heck. I was going to save this for a story, but I can always use it again later. Once, in New Orleans, AT&T sent me a bill for DSL with this ridiculous $900 installation fee on it. I’d told them I would handle the installation myself, but they insisted on sending a guy. Condensed version: I ended up billing them by the hour, and told them (via email) that if they were free to decide I owed them arbitrary amounts of money without any agreement on my part, I would do the same in return–eventually my bill (at a totally reasonable $350/hour, 1-hour minimum charge) was much higher than theirs. It got escalated on their side, and I was having fun by then, so I added a “notice” that any further replies to the email thread or additional reference to the issue would constitute acceptance of my fees to date plus (naturally!) an additional $350 minimum fee. I gave them 30 days to pay in the same message.

      I never heard from them again. We had DSL from AT&T for six months, and they never again billed us for any of it. My theory is that I made somebody or other giggle. I mean, I did spend time composing messages that I thought were pretty funny….

  2. It worked – I’ll remember the tactics.

    Companies think it’s okay to do this kind of nonsense. I wonder how many people paid their ridiculous installation fee.

    The problem is that fighting back can take time and energy. If you’re sure you’re going to win, it’s worth it. If not, you end up being out even more time and money.

    I just spent time on the phone with the IRS lady who was lucky enough to get me. I’m trying to pay my dad’s last tax bill, if any – and it is harder than you’d think, but she gave me (accidentally on purpose) some information that will help.

    Since he probably owes them nothing, it’s just paperwork, but it’s annoying paperwork.

    • David

      You know, I’d be happy to live without internet access at home. Also without a phone. But plenty of other people live here (that foster parent thing, plus more-immediate family), and they want movies/TV…or at least Netflix and similar. And of course there are daily crises that seem to require a phone. I don’t remember a single one that couldn’t have waited a week or more for a resolution, and a daily email check strikes me as more than enough connectivity in practice, but I guess there might be a real problem someday. And the phone might even help in a significant way. In theory, I mean.

      As for having multiple cell phones in the house, plus internet, plus a bunch of beepingdevices all over the place? Yuck. Doesn’t make me happy. But I’m outvoted, and the margin is not small.

      You’re right about the time/effort thing, and the annoyance factor. Worse yet, I think, is when silly stuff interrupts projects. I figure the companies involved are very happy to be as deliberately annoying as possible and try to collect on that basis alone…if they can, why not? I guess. I mean, this time, AT&T didn’t even try to claim we actually owed the installation fee–they said they’d remove it right away, in the first phone call. But that’s not what happened….

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