Cox Enforcing Flat Data Limits on All Packages – Downgrade Speed to Save Bandwidth!

There are many articles and blog posts around the internet about people that had no idea Cox Communications limits their internet data usage until it was too late, and some were even lied to by Cox employees about data limits beforehand. A few years ago, I was no different.

I’ve been using Cox as my ISP for about six years on both the “Preferred” and then the “Premier” package. At first, I had no idea there were data limits, but since I didn’t have a lot of internet activity it was fine. Then one day I got a letter from Cox in the mail saying my limit had been increased from 400GB to 700GB, Hooray! Right? No…

The Cox Data Limit Problem

I was a bit annoyed that the Cox website’s pages for internet comparison/shopping did not ever mention a data limit back when I initially chose them for my internet service provider. When I set up an installation over the phone the representative never mentioned data limits, neither did the installation guy when he was going through my services with me after setting things up. Cox purposely avoided telling a potential customer and a new customer about data limits, while making information about data limits on their website hard to find as well. I could only find pages regarding data limits on Cox’s website by searching “Cox Data Limits” on Google!

Only recently have they added a mention of the data limits to the website, only instead of saying “1TB Data Limit”, they call it a “1024GB Data Plan”.

Cox Ultimate Lowered to 1TB data – Ultimately SCREWED!

The BIG Cox Data Limit Problem

When I got the letter that my Cox data limit was increased to 700GB I went to the Cox site and found the “Data Usage Meter” for my services after a bit of searching. It turned out that my data limit was initially only 300GB, then was shortly raised to 400GB after I started service. I also noticed that three months before the raise to 700GB I was blowing past 400GB due to Netflix and Hulu streaming plus running a couple dozen online-game bots. I was barely under my new 700GB limit, but since Cox had never charged or contacted me about going over the old 400GB data limit I figured I was fine.

And I was fine, for about 4 years. Then recently I got a Cox email saying they were raising my limit to 1TB! Sweet, right?! Nope… I then read that ALL Cox packages were placed at a 1TB limit, including the crappiest packages who’s customers pay nowhere near what I pay for internet. The worst part is that customers using the highest Cox internet package, “Ultimate”, were downgraded from 1.2TB data limit down to 1TB. What?!? So now, whether you pay $30 or $100 for internet, you will have a 1TB data limit from Cox Communications. What a joke..

Plus, topping off the bad news from Cox, the email informed me that they would now be charging for data overages in my area. An additional $10 per 50GB. Now that may seem fine, but at the time I received the email from Cox I was heavily into game botting with my Sun Fire X4600 M2 server (32-core, 128GB Ram) and was using far more data than I should have been, an obscene amount… The highest I saw was about 4.2TB in a month. At that rate, had I not seen the email from Cox, my bill after their 2-bill grace period, my internet cost would have jumped from $65 up to $705. I think a letter in the mail would have been nice, perhaps even a telephone call?

Obscene Cox Data Usage, Even more Obscene Data Limit!

Nope, Cox was ready to send me that $700 bill!

The Cox Data Limit Solution

So what did I do?

First, I rented a root server from Hetzner for $50/mo and moved all my game botting stuff to that. With a monthly limit of 20TB, the Hetzner server should do fine for me… and I was paying $60 in electricity to run my big server, so Hetzner was already saving me money.

Now, I think I’m going to lower my Cox Internet package from 150MB/10MB Premier down to 50MB/5MB Preferred or even the 15MB/2MB Essential since they all have the same 1TB data limit. Essential’s 15MB Download speeds and 2MB Upload speeds are fine for Netflix and Hulu streaming, especially if no other devices are online hogging all the bandwidth.

The only reason I ever even considered upgrading to Cox Ultimate Internet was for the 1.2TB limit. Once I got this latest email from Cox I would have paid up to $150 to have the same speeds I currently have but with unlimited data usage. That means I was willing to pay over double what I pay just for unlimited data, rather than the hassle of having to rent a dedicated server that actually saves me money.. But no, that’s not an option with Cox.

Cox Data Limit Conclusion

So basically.. Cox is charging people extra for faster speeds to hit the same 1TB limit that all plans have, just so they can then charge people even more for every 50GB data you use over the limit! Get slower internet, that 1TB will last longer. 😉

Enable Lightbox and Extra Media Functionality to WooCommerce 3.0 Themes

I upgraded a WooCommerce site using the theme Wp Portfolio and all my products started opening images in new tabs rather than a lightbox.

First I made sure my theme was updated, but it made no difference. So, naturally I started searching Google for answers. It turns out that WooCommerce 3.0 added new/different media functionality which removed the old lightbox and most WooCommerce geared themes haven’t been updated to use the new functionality.

In order to enable the new media functionality on my WP Portfolio theme I edited the functions.php file by finding the add_action(‘after_setup_theme’, ‘wp_portfolio_setup’); line and add the following three lines below it. (Your line will have wp_portfolio replaced with your themes slug instead.)

and the functions.php will look like this:

giving your WooCommerce store functionality like this:

Enjoy your newly working Zoom features and fixed Lightbox functionality! Don’t forget to bug your theme developer to update their theme release with the new WooCommerce 3.0+ media functionality!

Default Windows IIS WordPress web.config XML

Recently I was migrating a test site from a Linux/cPanel based web-host over to a Windows Server running IIS. After migration, none of the site’s pages or posts worked and all returned 404 errors.

I’m familiar with .htaccess files causing 404 problems so I knew that was probably the issue, and since this was now on a Windows server I knew it had to be the IIS equivelant file “web.config” causing problems. Upon further investigation I realized there was no web.config file at all even though I was used to it always being there after setting WordPress up through IIS. Since I’m using Server 2016 for the first time, perhaps things are different and web.config files aren’t created automatically any longer.

Either way, my problem was solved by adding this XML to a newly created web.config file in the site’s root folder:

Now pages and posts are working properly and pretty permalinks are functioning as they should! Note: If “URL Rewrite” is not installed then it will need to be first in order for this to work.

Setup Steps for Single NIC Hetzner Root Server Running ESXi with pfSense Router

  1. Order a Hetzner Dedicated Root Server with no operating system, called a “Rescue Server”.
    1. Purchase an add-on IP address for the server and request a separate MAC address for it.
    2. Request a LARA Console session from Hetzner with a VMWare ESXi installer USB inserted in the server.
    3. Once LARA Console is started and you are connected, set up RAID on your hard drives if you are going to use it.

  2. Install ESXi to Hetzner root server, in ESXi Developer Tools enable SFTP or SSH.
    1. Transfer your pfSense installation image and other guest operating system images to the server datastore.
    2. Login to the ESXi host control panel using the vSphere Client or Web UI.
    3. On the Configuration tab of the ESXi host, go into the Networking settings.
    4. Create a new Standard Switch, name it “vSwitch1” by default with it’s network named “VM Network 2”.
      (So now you should have a vSwitch0 on VM Network and vSwitch1 on VM Network 2.)

  3. Create a virtual machine named “Router” on the ESXi host with 2 NICS, 1 Core, 1GB RAM, 8GB HDD, OS set to “Other”, and choose FreeBSD OS.
    1. Assign one of the Router virtual machine NICs to “VM Network” and the other to “VM Network 2”.
    2. Assign a CD/DVD Drive to the Router virtual machine and point it to the pfSense image transfered to the datastore.
    3. Power on the Router Virtual Machine and install pfSense with all the default settings.
      (You will end up with one NIC acting as WAN using your Hetzner main IP and one NIC acting as LAN with no IP.)

  4. Create another virtual machine on the ESXi host with your desired main operating system and NIC on VM Network 2.
    1. Install your operating system to the “Main VM” and start it, you should have local network access but no internet access.
    2. Open the Main VM’s web browser and go to the pfSense UI url, which is by default.
    3. Login to pfSense with the default credenital “admin” and “pfSense”, start the pfSense setup wizard/walkthrough.
    4. When setting up LAN, choose the option to Spoof MAC Address and enter the MAC from the Add-on IP bought from Hetzner.
      1. (Do NOT manually set Static IP, use MAC Address Spoofing and ONLY enter the MAC Address… learn from my mistakes.)
  5. Restart the Router VM – the Main VM should now have a local IP, an external IP, and internet access!

That’s it! The process really is simple, the main bulk of time spent will be waiting on OS iso’s to transfer to the ESXi datastore plus a bit of time for the actual OS installations.

Please comment below with any questions, suggestions, or anything else!

Hetzner VMWare ESXi Install Over Lara Console Drive Redirection Error

I rented a rescue/root server from Hetzner and was attempting to install VMWare ESXi to it via LARA Console. After Waiting 45+ minutes for the .iso to transfer and load via Drive Redirection, the ESXi image booted successfully and the install process started.

Hetzner Root Server - ESXi Install Over LARA Console
Hetzner Root Server – ESXi Install Over LARA Console

Then, as my luck would have it, an error occurred with a crazy purple screen I had never seen before:

Hetzner Root Server - ESXi Install Over LARA Console Error
Hetzner Root Server – ESXi Install Over LARA Console Error

So what was the solution? Ask Hetzner to put a ESXi image on usb for you to use. 😀