Archive for the 'Technology' Category

Apr 22 2008

Broadband Upgrade – 6th May

Published by under Guernsey News,Technology

Could it possibly be that Cable & Wireless are almost ready to roll out the long awaited and delayed broadband upgrade in Guernsey?

Last week I heard from an insider at Cable & Wireless that they are due to be finished internal testing some time this week.  Today I have just received an email from a friend sent to him by C&W saying:

There will be a short break in service for all High Speed Internet Pro users from 5am on the 6th May 2008. The outage is expected to last less than one hour.

If this is the case we can look forward to a blindingly [not very] fast broadband service.  I must say that I’m not overly confident that either this will be the upgrade or, if it is, that the downtime will be limited to one hour.

I have heard from an inside source that the equipment that they have bought in to  facilitate the upgrade isn’t all it was meant to be and that maybe they are regretting buying it.  If this is the case I’m guessing (from the way the person spoke about it) that we can expect the reliability of broadband in the island to go down hill once the upgrade has been rolled out.

 

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Apr 13 2008

Broadband upgrade – a bit of context

Published by under Guernsey News,Technology

Following on from my previous blog post, about the continuing delays with the broadband upgrade in Guernsey, I have just received an email from C&W in which they give a bit of context about the upgrade, why they have made some of the choices they have and a bit of background of the commitment from C&W to the telecoms infrastructure of the island.

With regard to your technical questions, you are correct that the new faster services will be based on the ADSL standard.  Rather than being an out of date technology, in our experience standard ADSL is far less susceptible to noise and interference than either ADSL 2 or ADSL 2+ at speeds of up to 8Mb/s.  Both ADSL2 and ADSL 2+ are also extremely prone to problems arising from variations in wiring quality, and for these reasons we have opted to use standard ADSL as it offers a more stable service.  However the equipment that we have now installed is capable of supporting both ADSL2 and ADSL2+ in future.

It’s good to know that at some undetermined point in the future we might possibly get ADSL2 or ADSL2+.  However, my personal opinion is that I would rather have 12Mb/s or 24Mb/s that is occasionally dropped to a lower speed because of quality.   Is your average home user really going to know that they’re not getting full speed.  As a result of contention ratios you’re not always going to be getting 8Mb/s on ADSL anyway, so does it really matter?

The current project is a proactive £2.5 million investment by Cable & Wireless, as part of our ongoing plan to provide faster broadband services in the Bailiwick. That level of investment hopefully provides you with some idea of the scale of cost involved in providing broadband services in a market of just 24,000 households.  Comparisons with the UK, where the market is a 1,000 times larger, are often misleading. 

I’m not going to argue that these numbers sound impressive but I wonder how they stack up against the C&W annual profits?  And what is the annual investment per-capita in Guernsey compared with the UK?  I’ve no doubt that there are economies of scale coming into play but it would be interesting to find out.

The entry level price for broadband in Guernsey is just £14.99, and when you also consider that many UK broadband services require a standard BT line, which is around 50% more expensive than the local exchange line rental (£7.99 per month compared to £12.50 per month), then hopefully you can begin to see the overall cost this into context. 

These numbers are a little miss-leading.  For entry level broadband from BT is £15.99 (not including any current offers) but if you bring the C&W entry level plan up to the same level as the BT one it shifts the Guernsey one up to £19.49.  Also, the line rental from BT is £10.50 and not £12.50.   With these numbers I make it £26.49 for 8Mb/s from BT and £26.99 for 1Mb/s from C&W – I know which I would prefer!

Since 2001 Cable & Wireless has invested more than £35 million into capital projects in Guernsey as part of our commitment to improving the Bailiwick’s telecommunications infrastructure.  

Would C&W care to share with us what this money has been spent on?  Also, what real effects of this can the average end customer see?  Because to be quite honest all I can see is that I’ve still just got a basic landline, a plain old 2.5G mobile phone and I’m still stuck in the dark ages with 1Mb/s broadband.  I fail to see where the £35 million has been of benefit to me.

One response so far

Apr 11 2008

Broadband Upgrade Still A Month Away

Published by under Guernsey News,Technology

Yesterday C&W release a notice on their website saying that they are entering the final phase of testing the broadband upgrade in the island and that this should be complete within four weeks.

This upgrade will bring the whole island up the the old-school ADSL (8Mbit up / 1Mb down) standard.  None of this fancy-pants ADSL2 or ADSL2+ wizardry.

I emailed C&W several days asking about what was happening at C&W regarding the upgrade but he has so far declined to respond.  I think that may be due to the fact that I questioned why the upgraded speeds would be so low and why we wouldn’t be getting ADSL2 or ADSL2+ speeds, and wondering if maybe C&W was abusing it’s monopoly position to make sure that they can get the maximum profit from a minimum investment.

After minimal research (and a lot of guessing and estimation) I figure

the pricing of broadband will look something like this:

  • 2Mb – £24.99/Month
  • 2Mb Premium – £49.99/Month
  • 4Mb Premium – £79.99/Month
  • 8Mb Premium – £99.99/Month

Oh well, here’s me hoping I’ll get included in the upgraded speed trial.

One response so far

Apr 03 2008

Evernote Maintenance

Published by under Technology

This morning when I tried adding a new note to Evernote I was surprised to get a warning message saying that Evernote could not synchronise with my online account.   However, due to good application design this didn’t stop me from creating new notes, it simply meant I’d have to wait until later to get text recognition on images.

On checking the Evernote website it appears that some changes to the web application are being rolled out as visitors are greeted with the following message:

Ssshhh. The elephant fell asleep.

Actually, we’re performing some maintenance.

We’ll be back up and running very soon.

Please be patient and check back in a bit. This page will auto-refresh every 60 seconds.

Also the design is a little different.  Does this mean a mobile java version of Evernote is just about to be released?  Who knows but I’ll be watching and waiting with anticipation.

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Apr 02 2008

Higher Price Equals Longer Delays

Published by under Guernsey News,Technology

According to their website>, Cable & Wireless is working on a £2.5million upgrade of the broadband infrastructure in Guernsey that will allow customers within 2.5 kilometres of exchanges being able to get broadband at up to 8Mb – although this is still slow compared with other western countries.  News of an upgrade to 2Mb and the timescale for completion first emerged back on 31st October 2007 with a news item on their website:

A rolling programme of work will begin in December, and by March next year most local households should be able to get speeds of up to two megabits per second (2Mb).

This good news was then re-confirmed on 8th November with the same timescale:

Homes and businesses around the island will enjoy the new broadband speeds on a rolling basis from December 2007 onwards as Cable & Wireless completes engineering work on its local exchange. It is hoped that the whole island will have access to faster broadband by March 2008.

This would seem to indicate that everything has been planned and is on schedule.  Then, on 19th December the issued the follow update:

Work has already begun at the St Martin exchange, as well as in Alderney and Sark. Customers connected to these exchanges – those with phone numbers that begin with 23, 82 or 83 – will be the first to receive the improved broadband services. That work is scheduled for completion by the end of December.

In order to ensure the reliability of broadband services over the Christmas period, Cable & Wireless has decided that the switch over to the new higher speed services in the first areas will take place on January 9th 2008. All ISPs have been advised of the schedule.

They also included a roll out timescale for the whole of the island (by telephone number):


TEL NO RANGE DATES FOR UPGRADE
20xxxx St Sampson By 31/03/08
23xxxx St Martin 09/01/08
24xxxx St Sampson By 31/03/08
25xxxx Castel By 31/03/08
26xxxx St Peter By 31/03/08
7xxxxx Central By 31/03/08
82xxxx Alderney 09/01/08
83xxxx Sark 09/01/08

Excellent news!  I’m in the St Martin area and less than 1km from the exchange so I’m in the first area to get the upgrade.  However, it seems we weren’t being told the full picture.  The first signs of problems occurred on 9th January when I should have been upgraded to 2Mb…. but wasn’t.  On the day Cable & Wireless issued the following announcement:


Cable & Wireless engineers are currently working to resolve a small number of technical issues that have arisen during this major upgrade. This has meant a slight delay to start of the planned roll-out, however the full island-wide upgrade it is still expected to be complete by 31st March 2008.

“A small number of technical issues”?  Sounds like a but of an understatement to me but then what do I know about these things?  On the 2nd March after nearly two months with no updates on progress of the project I decided to email Cable & Wireless to find out how things were going and to inform them of my disappointment in the extortionate amount their customers have to pay for a measly 1Mb service (£25 + line rental!!!).  Their reply was:

The majority of the work involved in enabling the upgrade requires the
physical reconection of about 15,000 individual lines onto new network
equipment in all exchange areas, and it is this work which required the
longer project timescales extending into March.

Therefore, while we have postponed the bandwidth upgrade for St Martins,
the physical work migrating lines has continued in this and other areas.
We therefore anticipate that when we are in a position to roll out the
upgraded line speeds, these will now be made available in all exchange
areas within a relatively short timescale.

This would seem to indicate to me that the hardware in the exchanges has had to be replace as it simply wasn’t up to scratch as it hadn’t been touched since Cable & Wireless bought Guernsey Telecom from the States of Guernsey – I can’t remember exactly when that was as the Cable & Wireless website incorrectly states “We were here right from the start of telephone services in the Bailiwick in 1898.”

With the deadline looming, Cable & Wireless finally made another announcement on 20th March:

Equipment has been fully installed to enable the upgrade of Guernsey’s broadband network.

The initial work to upgrade equipment at the exchanges has been completed successfully. However the final activation of the upgraded service will only take place once we are certain that there will be no impact to our customers’ experience. We hope to reach this point in the next few weeks.

Well, the end of March has been and gone and still there is no sign of a speed increase or any news as to when it might happen.  I dare say it will be another month or so before we finally see increase in broadband speeds.  What is more important, I believe, is why Cable & Wireless are spending £2.5millon on a upgrade that will only allow broadband speeds of up to 8Mb?  Bulldog Broadband (C&W broadband in the UK) is offering 16Mb broadband (unlimited) at £25 – that’s the same price as I’m paying for 1Mb.  Sweden (top for broadband in Europe) offers 24Mb over copper and 100Mb or even 1000Mb over fibre.

Sometimes it feels like this island is being held to ransom by Cable & Wireless, and they wonder why they have been refused a 3G Mobile license.

No responses yet

Mar 11 2008

Evernote Mac Interface

Published by under Software,Technology

Evernote has just released an Mac OS X version of the interface to the Evernote application.  I haven’t had a chance to test it yet as I work in a Windows only office but I shall be testing it as soon as I get home.

This must be news hot off the press as they haven’t posted any information about it on their blog yet!

2 responses so far

Feb 26 2008

Save Google Maps Driving Directions

Published by under General,Technology

One of the really neat features of Google Maps that I use quite often is the ability to alter driving directions if you don’t like the given results.  I’ve just written up my recent trip to the UK on my R1200GS and one of the features of the site is having a map displaying the route for the trip.

Doing a simple driving directions gives the basic route that I took but it doesn’t include the wrong turns and deviations that I made.  In Google Earth the only way to change a given route is to manually modify the line, which  take hours.  With Google Maps I can modify the route to take account of these deviations but it doesn’t allow you to save the changes… unless you know Google-Fu!!!

It turn out the url to view a Google Map is also the same url used by the Google Maps API to access kml files.  The process to save a modified route to kml is as follows:

  1. Get the basic driving directions
  2. Modify the route as you wish.
  3. Click the Link to this page link.
  4. Copy the email/IM link.
  5. Paste link back into your browser address bar.
  6. Add &output=kml to the end of the url & hit enter/go.
  7. Save the kml wherever you wish.

NOTE:

Following the comment from Nicole (25-04-2009) I have done a bit of playing around with Google Maps and exporting KML.  When you create a route in Google Maps use the right click Directions from here / Directions to here and the right click on the map and select “Add destination”, when you come to use the above method to export the KML file, only the starting point and the first destination will be included in the exported route.

If you want to export the full route, you need to set the start point and the final destination and then “drag” the route to the intermediate destinations in-between. If you use this method and the export the KML file will include the full route.

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15 responses so far

Feb 25 2008

Google Maps For Jersey

Published by under Guernsey News,Technology

I’ve noticed recently that Jersey has recently had an update in Google Maps so that it now has roads and road names.  Although it doesn’t yet appear to have driving directions.  This is good news for Guernsey, as it was only a short time after Jersey had an image resolution update until Guernsey got the same treatment.

The only worrying thing at the moment is that it appears that the west coast of Guernsey and the north of Jersey seem to have a degradation of coastal definition when viewed in Map mode.


View Larger Map

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Jan 03 2008

A New Battery For My Mac

Published by under Technology

For a while now I’ve been a little disappointed with the performance of the battery in my 15″ Mac Book Pro.  I bought the laptop in January 2007 (just under a year ago) and have been more than happy with it ever since… apart from the battery.

I first started getting problems at the end of the summer when the battery health dropped to about 65%.  With only around 230 cycles on it.  At the time I took it back to the shop I bought it from and had it tested.  This was shortly after Apple announced a battery recall program for batteries sold from February 2006 through May 2006.  Unfortunately my purchase date put my battery out of this range.

In October 2007, however, Apple extended the recall for laptops sold up until April 2007.  At the time my battery fell outside of the requirements for getting a replacement battery.  However, in the last could of days the battery health has suddenly dropped from 60% to a measly 14%.  Also, the charge time has reduced to 20 minutes (I don’t think that’s right somehow) or the time to charge has been “Calculating” for up to an hour.  As soon as I remove the power cable the computer just dies.

With a few weeks left on my warranty I thought I’d give it a shot and called Apple support line.  Five minutes later they have agreed to replace the battery and have taken my details (including my credit card incase I decide to not return the dud battery).   The replacement should be here in 5 days and then I have another 10 days to get the replacement back to Apple.

2 responses so far

Oct 24 2007

More Fun With QR-Codes

bomb I promise this will be the last post for a while to include a QR-Code.  If you don’t know what a QR-Code is, go read about it on wikipedia.  There are several QR-Code readers out there but I have personally chosen to go with the Kaywa Reader.  I also use the Kaywa QR-Code generator.

The reason for this post was to play with an idea I came up with after reading the Wikipedia article on QR-Codes.  One of the images they show is of an picture encoded into the code.  Whilst I haven’t yet been able to figure out how they encoded the image into the code I have made another discovery.  It turns out that QR-Codes contain a lot of redundancy.  It is possible to loose up to 30% of the code and still be able to read its content.

I’ve found that it is possible to paste an image over the top of the QR-Code.  My experiments so far indicate seem to indicate the image needs to cover less than 30%.  I haven’t had to time to find out how the QR-Codes are structured.  It may be possible in re-structure the data so that more of it can be lost to the embedded image.

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