Meet Mat Harrison, Programmer!


Mat HarrisonMat Harrison was selected as Socket's You-Make-the-Difference-Award winner for March. His fellow co-workers decided his ability to move things to a state of awesomeness was worthy of recognition.

"Mat is a real asset to the Socket team," said a co-worker who nominated him for the award. "There are so many examples of him taking something and making it more awesome, saving us time and helping us serve our customers better."

Mat joined Socket’s tech support team in October 2004 before moving to the programming department in 2005. If you’ve ever paid your Socket bill online, checked your email using Socket Webmail or used navigation menus on Socket’s website, you've used something that Mat played a role in building or improving. He helps make things run smoothly and keeps us looking good.  

Mat went to high school in Steele, MO (a stone’s throw from both Arkansas AND Tennessee). He earned a degree in systems engineering from the University of Arkansas-Little Rock before moving to Columbia in 2004. In his spare time, he enjoys hanging out with his dog, Rex, playing golf, home brewing and playing video games.

"I love my job because of the variety of projects I work on," said Mat. "It's never boring and I'm consistently refining and expanding upon my expertise."

Congratulations, Mat!

Socket Softball Season Starts With A Win


socket softballFriday, April 19 marked the first game for Socket’s co-ed softball team here in Columbia, MO. The team got off to a great start with a 10-5 win!
 
A few employees expressed interest in starting an employee softball team for the 2013 season, and we decided it was a great idea. The last time Socket had a company team was in 2008, but we are back and ready for action!
 
Our opponent on Friday was short the required number of players, but the Socket team sent two of its own so the game could go on. Our remaining squad of 10 players brought home a win in the fifth inning (the games have one-hour time limits) with some very memorable plays.
 
The highlight of the game was a solo home run hit by Jeff Smith from our accounting department. Everyone on the team had a blast and was happy to have the chance to represent Socket as a team. Catch their next game this Friday, April 26 at 8 p.m. on the purple field at Cosmo Park in Columbia. 

2013 Dream Factory Poker Tournament


dream factory poker columbiaSometimes you’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, and know when to fold ‘em. Perhaps maybe our poker players should’ve folded more often but that didn’t keep them from having a blast at this year’s Dream Factory Poker Tournament.
    
On Friday, April 12, Socket sponsored the event for the second year in a row, which benefits the Central Missouri Dream Factory. The tournament was held at the Knights Of Columbus in Columbia and raised more than $111,000 to grant dreams to chronically and critically ill children in mid-Missouri. Event organizers estimate the funds raised will help fulfill 20 dreams!

We sent six poker players to represent Socket, but we wanted to make sure we sent our best. On April 3 we hosted a mini-tournament of our own at the office after work. None of our poker stars made the final table at the real tournament, but they still had a good time for a good cause – and ate some good food!  

Our players said their favorite part of the event was hearing dream stories from some of the children in attendance and seeing how a dream grant impacted a child and their family. One girl shared her story about receiving 16 spinal taps and being in and out of surgeries repeatedly between the ages of 7-10.

For her dream trip, she visited the American Girl Store in Chicago, where she designed a custom doll and picked out matching outfits for her and her doll with a personal shopper. 

If you are a poker fan, we highly recommend checking out this event next year! 

Connecting Critical Institutions


As Socket’s fiber-to-the-home network expands, the number of residents able to enjoy high-speed Internet continues to climb. On top of that, major community institutions are beginning to see the benefits of high-speed, reliable connections.

For Callaway Community Hospital and Clinic, connecting to Socket’s fiber network has broadened the ability to quickly transfer large documents and patient records with the hospital’s network based out of Atlanta, GA.
 
In January, Millersburg Fire Protection District became the first emergency service provider to receive high-speed Internet services on our fiber network. We connected Callaway County Ambulance District with fiber in February.
 
In the coming months, we expect to add more critical community institutions to our network, providing hospitals, schools, emergency services and other public services with the high speeds and reliable service they have been anxiously awaiting.
 
Follow our fiber blog for more updates on our fiber network.
  
Check your address to see if you are eligible for service. Or, give us a call at 1-800-762-5383

Streaming Video 101


Streaming video has come a long way since the famous (in some circles) Severe Tire Damage concert in 1993 (warning: the band is...  colorful). There are many (mostly very boring) books on the topic of streaming, but one of the biggest improvements in recent memory is the way in which video is buffered.

Suffering from Buffering

At its heart, video streaming often results in impatience, since you must download a video file to your computer while simultaneously watching it before that download has finished. To avoid stops and starts in the video, some portion of the file has to be downloaded before playback begins. That process is called buffering. The faster your Internet connection is, the less time it takes to buffer enough of the file to avoid jerkiness. Yes, that's a technical term. The more reliable your connection is, the smaller the buffer needs to be. When you view streaming video, even in your Web browser, you're using clever software which calls all the shots on buffering so you don't have to.

Movie Adaptation

So buffering works pretty well if the speed of your Internet connection is constant. But if you're watching a streaming video and your son starts Skype on his tablet to video chat with his girlfriend, you might end up with a paused video and a message to wait patiently. There has to be a better way, right? 
One solution to this problem is adaptive bitrate streaming or ABR.  There are several flavors of ABR out there but an open standard hasn't really emerged yet. The de facto standard, called HTTP Live Streaming or HLS, was designed by Apple.

With ABR, that big video file you want to watch is saved in multiple resolutions, each one suited to a specific connection speed. Then each of those files is broken down into smaller pieces, each a few seconds long, and stored on a server along with a file that describes where each of those small pieces can be found and how they can be assembled into the full video. When you watch a video using ABR (you probably already have without knowing it), your computer talks to that server and figures out how fast your Internet connection is at that moment. Then it requests the first small chunk of your video in the appropriate resolution (bonus: since it's a small file, your video starts up quicker!). Once it has that file, it analyzes how long it took to download it, re-thinks which resolution is appropriate and grabs the next few seconds of the video. Wash, rinse and repeat! You may see a drop in resolution as you're streaming that video, but it's much less likely to pause and jerk.

Where Can I Get This Amazing Technology?

You're probably already streaming (and buffering) video and using ABR without knowing it, but be sure to look for our next post where we'll compare and rate a number of online video streaming services.

Implications Of Online Sales Tax


Online retailers could soon be preparing for potential changes in the way they do business, most notably the expansion of sales tax to more online purchases.
 
The Marketplace Fairness Act was introduced earlier this year, and it would allow states to tax consumers for online sales. This could have big implications for businesses both online and offline. 
 
Online businesses like eBay.com are often able to undercut brick-and-mortar stores with much lower prices. If sales tax is in play, the total price will likely end up higher than consumers are used to. This could impact where consumers end up buying.
 
3 things will likely happen if the Marketplace Fairness Act becomes law:

  • Online prices will rise to compensate for the tax.
  • Consumers will be more likely to shop locally if prices are similar.
  • Tax revenue will increase in the states where online purchases are made.

 
The change is no surprise, as an expected $23.3 billion in sales tax was not collected last year on online purchases. However some companies are supportive of the bill. This excerpt from a letter to Congress written by Paul Misener, VP of Amazon explains why the company sees it as an advantage:
 
“I am writing to thank you for your bill, which will allow states with simplified rules to require sales tax collection by out-of-state sellers who choose to make sales to in-state buyers."

Currently, online sales tax is typically collected when the business has a physical presence in the same state as the buyer. The Marketplace Fairness Act would allow states to collect taxes for all online purchases, regardless of the business's location.

For more information, visit www.marketplacefairness.org

Helping the Columbia Community


Columbia polar plunge 2013Here at Socket, we like to support local Columbia and mid-Missouri charitable organizations and events. Columbia and its surrounding communities have given so much to us, so we like to give back however we can.
 
One way we do this is by providing free Web hosting and discounted Internet service to Missouri non-profits. Interested organizations can fill out an application to apply for the program.
 
Many of our employees enjoy volunteering for local charities as well. We assemble a road crew every few months to clean up our Adopt-A-Spot location near our office along Clark Lane between I-70 and Paris Rd. We also organize food drives and volunteer nights for the Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri and host blood drives at our office for the American Red Cross.
 
This year, we’ve been having some fun with our local non-profit partners, sponsoring two local Columbia events. The Polar Plunge in Columbia is a fun event for our company, and this was the 4th year we participated. Our office was represented by a team of more than 20 plungers, most of them dressed in costume as their favorite fictional character. It was pretty funny to see everyone jump in Stephens Lake into 34-degree water! This years’ event raised over $100,000 towards the Special Olympics of Missouri! In case you missed the plunge, watch the video of our team below.
 

 
 
We were also a proud sponsor of the True/False Film Festival, a main staple of weekend entertainment here in Columbia. Thousands of movie fans attended the event, which featured dozens of independent films and garnered national attention. This year, the event celebrated its 10th anniversary, and we were happy to be a part of it! 
 
On May 7, we will be sending 10 veterans to Washington D.C. with the Central Missouri Honor Flight. This organization helps local veterans visit the memorials dedicated to their service. Each year as part of our holiday season rituals, we choose a local organization to give back to. Learn more about our plans with the Honor Flight.
 
Keep up with all of our local happenings in Missouri by following our Community Blog, liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter.
 

Meet Adam Shipp, Network Design Specialist


Sometimes, you just know a person is awesome. Even if you can’t put your finger on exactly why. 
 
That’s true when it comes to Adam Shipp, who was chosen as Socket’s You-Make-the-Difference-Award winner for the month of February. A co-worker who nominated Adam for the award said the following:
 
You know the people who, even though you don’t know exactly what they do, you know they are very smart and extremely good at their job? This is Adam Shipp. I can’t think of one thing that Adam can’t do. He’s a key Socketeer, and Socket wouldn’t run as well without him here.
 
Adam has been a Socketeer for almost five years since joining our technical support team in 2008. He now assists with network design for Socket, as well as helping to assemble quotes and orders for Socket's business clients.
 
Adam is originally from the Jefferson City area and has lived in Columbia for the past 10 years. He and his wife recently purchased a home and will be moving soon. In his spare time, he enjoys playing video games and traveling when he gets the chance.

"I love that I can learn something new every day here, and that I work with people who are passionate about their job,” said Adam.

Who is Socket

Founded in 1994, Socket is a Missouri-based telephone and Internet service provider with the largest service area in the state.

Socket is a privately held company that provides families and businesses a choice for local and long-distance phone and Internet service. We combine the highest quality customer service with in-depth technical knowledge.

Our network serves more than 20,000 residents and businesses in more than 400 Missouri cities, and our customers enjoy simple billing and quick, friendly service.
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