Blog Archive

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Pride of Sideview Tennessee

If you use 31E to avoid the traffic and construction on I-65 to get to Nashville, you have driven through the community of Sideview. If you have been to Sideview you have also virtually driven right by the home of one of the titans of our generation, Johnny H.Hayes. While it is safe to say that most folks in Glasgow have never heard of Johnny, the converse is not true. Johnny certainly knew and cared about Glasgow, and millions of others like us in hundreds of other communities.

Johnny Hayes succumbed to stomach cancer yesterday, and we all lost a great friend. I am not qualified to tell you all about his life, as I was only lucky enough to know him for about twenty years. A really good summary of his life is available in this obituary written by Ken Whitehouse. I can tell you that he was a behind-the-scenes political operative extraordinaire. He was appointed to the TVA Board by President Clinton. He befriended me, and Glasgow, when we really could do nothing for him -- even though he had the power to do a lot for us. Inequalities like that meant nothing to Johnny. He just wanted us all to progress and prosper, and, occasionally he wanted me to stop by and just chat with him . . . mainly about how my kids were doing and his.

He was not a technical whiz. In the mid-90's when I prevailed upon him to support our efforts to combine broadband with our electric power network, even though almost everyone else at TVA thought it a bad idea, he supported us with his influence and even some of TVA's money. He was not sure what broadband was or if it really was a great idea, but he believed in the people that live in Glasgow and that was enough.

It is likely that, perhaps, ten thousand people counted Johnny as a personal friend. He had that kind of gravity. Any of those folks would make the same observation of Johnny. He could walk into any crowd of people, be it a crowd of ten or a thousand, and each of the people in that crowd would feel that Johnny was there just to see them. He gave of his soul and love so readily, it is not surprising that he succumbed so early. His defenses were weak because he gave so much of himself away. Glasgow, and the world, lost a great friend and a boundless wellspring of good on Saturday, September 20.
Thursday, September 18, 2008

There but for the grace of God go I

According to Wikipedia, those words were first uttered by John Bradford while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. According to legend, he was watching a criminal going to his execution. For the last week, we have been uttering those words as we watch utility crews from Galveston to Owensboro to Louisville, and on to Cincinnati, battle to return power to hundreds of thousands of homes. Galveston seems far away and easy for us to ignore, but Owensboro and Louisville are within a hundred miles of us. We cannot ignore what is going on there. This article is from Friday's Courier Journal and it offers all of us plenty of warning about what could be happening right here in Glasgow.

The lessons are very clear for the EPB and we are scrambling trying to put those lessons into action (well, scrambling as much as is possible while we are on our knees giving thanks for the close calls as opposed to a direct hit). The lessons include a reaffirmation of the need for us to aggressively trim trees. This is one thing we were already doing, so we hope that the weight of this lesson will fall squarely on those who have been vociferously protesting our aggressive trimming practices. If anyone needs any more explanation than that found in the Courier Journal for our decision to trim trees so radically, then they are never going to be convinced of anything. We are also learning a lot from the words of LG&E customers in their responses to LG&E’s efforts on the Courier Journal web site. It seems that the biggest complaints folks have about their efforts relate to LG&E’s failure to adequately inform the community on where they are working and what progress they are making. Since we happen to own and operate a broadband network and have the capacity to control web sites and television media as well, we are hatching a new plan for how we could keep our customers better informed about our progress when a disaster like this hits Glasgow, and, mark my words, it will.

We will be redoubling our efforts to establish working relationships with other utilities so we can get help when we need it. We will be having new conversations with all of the other local utilities and DES folks to make sure we know how to communicate during a crisis. We will be working with them to review our priority loads and work out plans to make sure that we all agree on which facilities should get power first after a disaster. We will be working to establish relationships with local tree trimmers, fuel providers, motels, groceries, and restaurants to make sure the community can have the basics; like food and water, after a sweeping disaster like that which has struck Louisville. In short, we are watching them closely and trying to learn from their mistakes.

There are lessons for each of you as well. Have enough food, water, and fuel on hand to get you through a week without electricity. Have working flashlights, batteries, and a battery operated radio. No matter what plans we make for restoring power, an outage lasting this long is still very possible. You too should learn from the lessons being learned in Louisville. Then, together we can all plan for the disaster we hope will not come. For me, well, I have to get back down on my knees and keep offering thanks.
Monday, September 15, 2008

Localism

In the last few days it seems like the news is more ominous than ever before. Hurricane Ike came to Galveston Texas and continued up through Louisville and beyond. In Ike’s wake are over two million homes without electric power in Texas and Louisiana. Today’s Courier-Journal says that 275,000 homes and businesses are without power in the greater Louisville area. Our supply of oil, gasoline, and natural gas has been destabilized and crippled as well and it only took a few hours for the impact to be felt right here in Glasgow. At the same time, our currency is being threatened by the failure of massive investment banks like Lehman Brothers, and let’s not forget the dramatic effect that TVA’s electric rate increase (which takes effect October 1) will have when it takes another $4 million per year out of our local economy right here in Glasgow.

No matter how you look at it, no matter what your political leaning, one thing is certain; we can no longer count on our state or federal governments to protect us and care for us. Over the last several years, the government institutions that we counted upon to regulate, and protect us from raging greed, have become best friends with those they were supposed to tame. It is happening in Washington and it is happening in Frankfort. As a result, no one is really looking out for us anymore. It seems that the forces of greed overwhelmed our government's ability to look after us. So, let’s do it ourselves! If we want safety, security, and the comfort that comes from a stable local economy and low crime rates, it is becoming more clear every day that we are going to have to take care of ourselves. There is a philosophy that we need to embrace and pursue and that philosophy has a name . . . localism.

While not simple to define, my definition of localism is the desire to make the place where we live better by reinforcing our local economy. We can do that a lot of different ways, including: identifying, and bending over backwards to patronize, locally owned businesses, encouraging local entrepreneurs and the jobs they can create, identifying holes where money leaks out of our local economy through the purchase of goods and services from non-locally owned businesses, focusing tax dollars on the provision of infrastructure that is needed to support local businesses and a durable local economy, and so forth. All of these ideas, and many more, are at the very center of the EPB’s mission and you will be hearing a lot more in the future about our efforts to support and encourage localism, but here are a few initial ideas.

There is an ocean of information on the web about the concept of localism and why we are actually paying ourselves when we purchase goods from a locally owned business. One such web site, local harvest, has an outstanding narrative about the virtues of buying locally:

Most produce in the US is picked 4 to 7 days before being placed on supermarket shelves, and is shipped for an average of 1500 miles before being sold. And this is when taking into account only US grown products! Those distances are substantially longer when we take into consideration produce imported from Mexico, Asia, Canada, South America, and other places.

We can only afford to do this now because of the artificially low energy prices that we currently enjoy, and by externalizing the environmental costs of such a wasteful food system. We do this also to the detriment of small farmers by subsidizing large scale, agribusiness-oriented agriculture with government handouts and artificially cheap energy.

Cheap oil will not last forever though. World oil production has already peaked, according to some estimates, and while demand for energy continues to grow, supply will soon start dwindling, sending the price of energy through the roof. We'll be forced then to reevaluate our food systems and place more emphasis on energy efficient agricultural methods, like smaller-scale organic agriculture, and on local production wherever possible.

Cheap energy and agricultural subsidies facilitate a type of agriculture that is destroying and polluting our soils and water, weakening our communities, and concentrating wealth and power into a few hands. It is also threatening the security of our food systems, as demonstrated by the continued e-Coli, GMO-contamination, and other health scares that are often seen nowadays on the news.

These large-scale, agribusiness-oriented food systems are bound to fail on the long term, sunk by their own unsustainability. But why wait until we're forced by circumstance to abandon our destructive patterns of consumption? We can start now by buying locally grown food whenever possible. By doing so you'll be helping preserve the environment, and you'll be strengthening your community by investing your food dollar close to home. Only 18 cents of every dollar, when buying at a large supermarket, go to the grower. 82 cents go to various unnecessary middlemen. Cut them out of the picture and buy your food directly from your local farmer.

Even though the newspapers and television bring us tidal waves of bad news about our economy and our future, Glasgow is not helpless and totally dependent on the global economy for our daily bread and our ongoing happiness, but we still have a lot of work to do. Our forefathers built us a great foundation for sustainability when they established a locally owned water and sewer system, electric power and broadband network, as well as wonderful parks, roads, sidewalks, and even recent additions like The Plaza Theater and the EPB’s Jama M. Young Technology Center. But even those systems are not perfect. While the EPB is locally owned, the electric power we sell is not produced locally and thus we are subject to rampant cost increases. In addition to our technological assets, we are blessed with fertile land and folks who know how to use it. They have established cattle farms, dairy farms, and abundant crops of all sorts. We have a lot of assets going for us so we don’t have to start from scratch to focus on localism. But we do have to start looking at things differently. We are surrounded by rich farm land that produces large amounts of food, dairy, and beef, but practically none of it is sold and consumed here. We have a lot of work to do to make it possible for our local food economy to flourish and become sustainable.

The localism movement can flourish if we look at today’s headlines, not with fear, but with the resolve to create solutions that will allow Glasgow to thrive in the new world we have created. As we see news reports of the devastation of Galveston (and even Louisville) we should see ourselves as similarly vulnerable. We should assume that fuel supply will be interrupted more often and that it will become ever more expensive. In such a world we need to develop more ways to fuel and feed ourselves from our local resources and farms instead of just taking what TVA has at whatever the cost and waiting at the tailgate of a truck just coming in from afar with our food. We should learn how to use our local talent and infrastructure to entertain ourselves locally without having to drive to Bowling Green, Louisville or Nashville to take in a show. We can also assume that many national banking and investment houses will fail, but we can invest locally and expect the return on our investment in both dollars and in a better life for ourselves instead of distant bank executives. Instead of giving foreign companies our tax dollars to entice them to come to Glasgow, we need to use our tax dollars to pay for the things that make it easier for local farmers to sell their products locally and create a durable and more enjoyable place for us all to live. With a sustainable local economy, those outside businesses and industries will be attracted to Glasgow because it is a great place for their employees to enjoy their lives instead of just because we are willing to pay them for coming. In the long run, sustainable development will flourish more with those incentives than it has using our old formula.

The world is giving us every reason to embrace localism right here in Glasgow. The time has come and the movement is alive. Stay tuned to this blog for more and more information about how we can make Glasgow better without constantly asking for more and more.

Internet Service Upgrade Update

It has been a month since we last updated you on the progress of our massive upgrade of our internet service and cable modem network, so it is time to fill you in on where we are. For the last two Sunday mornings, Wade England and his team of technicians have been at the EPB bright and early to carry out the movement and reassignment of hundreds of cable modems to our new CMTS hardware. The first Sunday produced about 1,500 homes and businesses moved to the new controller but several of those customers continued to have problems after the move such that our team spent much of the next week helping customers recover their connections. Obviously we learned from that experience and made adjustments in our procedures before the next group was moved yesterday.

Part of what we decided to do differently was to continue to move folks to the new controller, but to tell the cable modems to maintain the configuration that they used on the old controller until everyone is moved to the new controller and we can send a universal upgraded configuration file to all 5,000 cable modems on our network. This seems to be the best way to move folks with less chance of their system failing to communicate with the new controller. Of course, that means that, even if your cable modem has now been moved to the new controller, the speed of your connection is not yet fully upgraded due to the need to keep everyone the same until we can broadcast a new configuration to everyone. But you should already be noticing a considerable improvement! In fact, just during the evening of September 17 we were able to make a major improvement in the way our circuits to AT&T are utilized. Those of you in the gaming community, who have already had your modem moved to the new CMTS, should see much less lag.

At the same time, our new fiber interconnect with Bowling Green and the AT&T network located there is also nearing completion. When this is done we will be able to establish our own, locally owned, near-infinite bandwidth to the outside world via the new fiber circuit which is constructed atop TVA's transmission line that feeds Glasgow. Once we establish our presence in Bowling Green we will also be looking at ways to route our traffic to sources other than AT&T so we will no longer have all of our eggs in one basket, but that is still several months down the road.

With all of that said, our projected date for completing all of the presently planned upgrades such that you will see drastic improvements in the speed and performance of your cable modem internet connection is October 6. We are confident that you will find the wait well worth it as we are determined to provide the fastest internet access speeds available anywhere.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Barracuda Spam Firewall, Now at Your Service

If you are one of our internet customers, you have a new servant working for you! Please meet the Barracuda Spam Firewall which is the latest tool from the Glasgow EPB for helping you win the battle with junk email. The Barracuda Spam Firewall is the replacement for our old spam filter you knew as Postini. The Postini system was great for a few years, but could no longer meet the demands of today’s email environment. We will be terminating our contract with Postini so if you have any type of whitelist (list of email domains that you have identified as friendly) you want to transfer to the Barracuda, now is the time to do so. The Barracuda device is a state-of-the art spam filter from Barracuda Networks and is doing a wonderful job of eliminating junk spam email and keeping it from clogging our network. On average this piece of equipment is blocking over 2 million pieces of junk email a day (that is over 130 per day for every man, woman, and child in Glasgow)!!! Postini was only blocking around 900,000 pieces of spam a day so you can see why we feel the new Barracuda device is worth the money.
The Barracuda Firewall has several different layers of defense to protect us from things like email floods, viruses, and just the normal every day annoying spam emails we all get. We are going to attempt to focus on the features you, the customer, will see and what they mean, but first let’s talk about how the Barracuda Spam Firewall works.
The device and the software that drives it, assigns each piece of email that comes into the system a spam rating of “1" to “10". From the Barracuda device’s perspective, the higher the number, the more likely it is that the email is spam. Conversely, the lower the number, the more likely it is to be something you really wanted to receive. The whole system is set up on this concept and every piece of email that comes in gets tagged with a score of 1-10. The system looks at your email score and it uses the following rules to decide what to do with it:
· If the score is 2 or below, it delivers it to your inbox as a legitimate email.
· If the score is between 2 and 7, it might be legitimate but it’s probably not so it puts it into your quarantine box so that you have the option of delivering it to yourself.
· If the score is above 7, it is almost 100% sure it is spam and it drops it so that it isn’t delivered to you at all and you don’t have to deal with it.

Now let’s talk about how you go in to customize your new spam filter. By now you have received a “Spam Quarantine Summary” email from the Barracuda Spam Firewall device.
It shows you what is currently in your inbox and the easiest way to login is by clicking the link at the bottom that says:

To view your entire quarantine inbox or manage your preferences, click here.

By clicking the “click here” link you will be taken to your personal Barracuda account.
The other way to login is by going to http://barracuda.glasgow-ky.com and entering your username, which is your entire email address, and your password. If you don’t have a password yet just fill in your email address and click “Create New Password” and the Barracuda will send you an email with a password in it and instructions to log in.

Once you’re logged in your going to see a few screens which we will discuss below. First you will see the “Quarantine Inbox.”

Quarantine Inbox:
On this tab you can view the contents of your quarantine box and use it to perform several actions. To perform an action on an email, put a check in the box next to the item then click an option at the top to perform that option on your email. If you want to perform an action on all of the messages, then click the checkbox in the header right next to “Time Received” and it performs the action on all of the emails on the screen. Your quarantined emails will stay in the quarantine for up to 30 days then they start to be deleted.

Here is a description of the options:

Deliver – Choosing this will deliver the selected item to your inbox and you will receive it shortly like you would any normal email.
Whitelist – This adds the sender of this email to a whitelist which means that it will bypass all of your spam filters regardless of what the message is about and it will be delivered to your inbox. For example if you have a mail coming from jimbob@yahoo.com and it is always getting declared as spam but it’s not, you would white list an email from that user and then every piece of mail you receive from that email address will be delivered to you.
Whitelist/Not Spam – This does the same thing as the above Whitelist function plus it automatically delivers that piece of mail to your inbox and classifies it as not spam for use in your Bayesian Filter (that is a term you will see a lot and it simply refers to the way Barracuda filters each piece of email).
Delete – This does just as it says and deletes the selected email from the quarantine box on the Barracuda.

The next two options are used to load what is called the Bayesian Filter. The Bayesian Filter is basically a self learning intelligent filter that learns that you as a user think is spam, and what is not. This is different for every user so the more emails that you classify the better it works. It takes a minimum of 200 emails classified in each category before the Bayesian filter begins to learn.

Classify As Spam – Classifies this email as spam in the Bayesian filter and makes sure that emails like this are always classified as spam and not delivered to you.
Classify As Not Spam –Classifies this email as not spam and loads it into the Bayesian filter as a valid email. It then delivers it to your inbox.

There is also an actions column at the left hand side of each email listed which is a shortcut to the actions at the top. These are basically used to perform a given action on a single email without having to check the box and click the buttons at the top.
That is all there is to the Quarantine Inbox so now let’s take a look at the Preferences tab. As I’m sure you’ve already guessed the Preferences tab is where you can customize almost everything on your account.

When you first enter the preferences tab will see the Whitelist/Blacklist Options.
As we talked about above, the whitelist are things that you want to get through no matter what.
The Blacklist is email addresses that you always want to block. So if you’ve got someone who sends you emails you don’t want to ever receive emails from, the Blacklist will make the Barracuda eat those emails and you’ll never see them.
To add an email address to either of these categories all you have to do is type the email address in the blank for that category, and hit add. It’s as simple as that!!!

The Quarantine Settings tab is our next option.
It has several options you can change but we recommend leaving these alone.
Enable And Disable Quarantine - If you disable your quarantine then any of those messages which rate a score of between 2 and 7 are going to be delivered to you and the word [BULK] is going to be put in the title of the email. This is fine for users who have some type of anti spam software setup on your computer, but we do not recommend turning this off unless you’re 100% sure you know what you’re doing.
Quarantine Notification – This sets how often you would like to receive the notification emails from the Barracuda about what is in your quarantine inbox. Many users don’t want to receive those emails so you simply check Never and then hit “Save Changes.” After doing this you are not going to receive quarantine emails so you’ll need to check periodically and see what’s stuck in your quarantine.
Default Language – This one is pretty self explanatory. Please don’t change this setting.

The next tab is the “Spam Settings” tab which of course actually controls your spam settings. Under this tab you can do all kinds of stuff but once again we enable leaving it to the defaults we have set for you. However, if you want to change the settings here are what the settings do.
Spam Filter Enable/Disable – This turns off the Spam Filtering. If you are unhappy with the Barracuda and want to receive all of your emails regardless of whether it’s spam or not, you set this to “No” and click “Save Changes.” Be warned if you do this you are going to receive every piece of email that comes to your email address regardless of whether it’s spam or not.
Spam Scoring – We recommend leaving this alone so we’re not going to go into it much. If you set “Use System Defaults” to no and change the numbers, you can change how the Barracuda interprets your email. We do not recommend and don’t support you changing these settings. If you do however want to you can read the description next to each category to see what it does.
Barracuda Bayesian Learning – This is the control for the Bayesian filter which I talked about earlier. As you can see it lets you know that you need 200 of each type before it starts to work well. If you want to delete everything in your database hit the “Reset” button.
Bayesian Database Backup – This allows you to download your Bayesian Database to a file and keep it for re-uploading it later in case you accidentally erase it.

The final tab is something that I’m sure everyone is going to use. That is the “Password” tab.
This is where you go to set your password to something besides the randomly generated one which the Barracuda gives you. To do this you simply type the old auto generated password in the “Old Password” blank. Then you type what you want your password to be in the “New Password” blank as well as the “Re-Type New Password” blank and you hit “Save Password.” It’s as simple as that and now you have a password you can remember instead of having to memorize random characters.

That’s all there is too it. We hope you enjoy the Barracuda as much as we do. It is a very powerful tool that we are using to make our email system the best in town.

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