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May 2008 Entries
Monitoring my ISP Stats - ADSL2+ fastpath 3dB profile

I'm beginning to play with this less as I settle on the highest throughput I can drag out of this old copper connecting me to the BT exchange a couple of miles away. What I will try to do in the coming days is match the time I run a speedtest to the stats on the router, the sets below are out of sync by about 15 hours.

Speedtest latest says (picked one of the best from the recent goes):

What is good is that you can see the drop in ping of around 10ms as a result of the removal of interleaving for fastpath. It doesn't make much difference to me at the moment, but the gamers like it.

Simple stats from the router go like at the moment:

ADSL Link Downstream Upstream
Connection Speed 8427 kbps 1308 kbps
Line Attenuation 46.0 db 23.8 db
Noise Margin 4.1 db 3.3 db

Be broadband have dropped the connection profile to 3dB which is having an impact on errors, but my long line appears to be generally ok and I am watching the more detailed stats every so many days.

posted @ Friday, May 30, 2008 3:42 PM | Feedback (0)
Motorbike Tyres

The bike is in getting a new pair of tyres, the front is getting a bit near the wear indicators for comfort and the rear is quite squared off. What happens over time is that the round profile of a rear motorcycle tyre gets worn off as you ride upright most of the time. After a while this makes it harder to steer as you go over the new square edge.

I've decided to go for the new Bridgestone Battlax sport touring tyres the BT-021s front and back. The bike got a pair of their predecessors over 2 years ago and they have been fine for me. The bike was booked in to get the wheels changed with the new tyres but apparently the garage supplier sent BT-020s, so they have a Saturday order in to try and get the bike back to me tomorrow.

There is blurb etc about what they've done to develop the tyres, but the main change I can see is that the tread pattern on the front looks more funky.

posted @ Friday, May 30, 2008 3:41 PM | Feedback (0)
Planning website for travelling in Edinburgh on foot

Mental title that, I was trying to come up with a short, snappy title to point at a website that shows you the best route for walking between two places in Edinburgh.

Walkit.com is great for route planning when you aren't using public transport or a car. Google maps are fine if you are sticking to the roads, and traveline scotland is great for public transport, walkit fills the gap for a small number of cities in the uk.

I'd decided I'd walk to Ocean terminal from the office for some exercise, and the directions were great for making sure I got there and back in the shortest distance.

posted @ Friday, May 30, 2008 3:28 PM | Feedback (0)
Monitoring my ISP Stats - ADSL2+ fastpath

As I was getting good error stats on my long wire from the exchange, I asked to get interleaving switched off on my line - i.e. fastpath. So with nothing else apart from standard ADSL2+ and fastpath I get:

And I get the following summary from my Netgear DG834PN

ADSL Link Downstream Upstream
Connection Speed 6100 kbps 1157 kbps
Line Attenuation 48.0 db 24.7 db
Noise Margin 6.1 db 6.4 db

Assuming things stay stable (based on the advanced stats) I will go for a lower noise margin profile.

posted @ Wednesday, May 28, 2008 9:24 AM | Feedback (0)
Monitoring my ISP Stats - playing around

I tried to make myself not do it, but I've spent the last week playing around with settings on my router and configuration profile settings with my new ISP to wring the most I can out of my internet link.

The fastest I have managed so far is shown here:

The sad thing is is that I've been playing with settings so much that I can't remember exactly what the settings are that produced that result. That said though, the one thing I am sure of is that I have now switched to the Be Unlimited (or Be Home) package as the distance I am from my BT Exchange means that I can't get the full benefit of the more expensive package, so I've downgraded so that I get the same speed for £4 less a month.

To get improved settings I've been evaluating what is called fastpath, or interleaving removal. I was reminded reading a post that ADSL technology originated in cable tv over copper, so some of the technologies (like interleaving) are really targeted at video delivery. Leaving TCP/IP to deal with error correction improves latency.

The other thing I have been playing with is signal to noise ratio margin, or at least I think that is what it is. Using a downloaded tool to talk to my router and make it run closer to the wind on this margin ups my speeds to what you see above.

MORE SPEED ! :)

posted @ Monday, May 26, 2008 5:02 PM | Feedback (2)
Monitoring my ISP Stats - Demon FUP Cap in action

Had enough so kicked a couple of bittorrent downloads into action and crashed against my 60Gb limit for the rolling 30 days, so I'm now capped to 128k during the day - a slight difference in speed:

Although 128k is the figure Demon quote, you get an illustration above of the congestion on these speed tester sites. Either that or the kids and my proxy server are using bandwidth.

Line stats are much the same as before:

ADSL Link Downstream Upstream
Connection Speed 5856 kbps 448 kbps
Line Attenuation 42.0 db 22.0 db
Noise Margin 9.4 db 22.0 db

posted @ Monday, May 19, 2008 7:12 PM | Feedback (2)
Me and networks sometimes don't get on - wifi channels

Well, a few hours after that post about changing wifi channel numbers and I have learned a little more than I expected about WiFi configuration. Turns out that changing the channel number made a big difference to a particular machine on my network, my desktop PC.

The other machines were happy following the wifi around the different channels, but my Dell 5000 (with exactly the same card and drivers as the old Dell 4100) would only work on Channels 1,7,8,9,10,11,12 and 13. As you can guess I was working my way through the channels in sequential order and that big gap at the top lead to all sorts of changes by me to try and trace the problem.

Of course the engineer side of me should have said "The only thing that has changed is the channel", but I was in there rebooting routers and fixing wep keys. Then I discovered a post about channel powers and worked through the options - that was the issue.

But what was really confusing was that everything else was happy reconnecting, just not the machine I was using. Strange. So I'm sticking to channel 7, which has the best connection speed.

posted @ Sunday, May 18, 2008 7:42 PM | Feedback (0)
WiFi Survey

While I'm on the topic of networks and the like, I have been reading over the Be Unlimited user forums and someone mentioned clashing wifi channels. I'd thought I was ok as my router does rangemax stuff to adjust and frankly throughput has been fine.

It got me to check though, as I've seen the problem at work when our wifi channels clash with wifi networks in the building and houses around us. I had a look in windows xp but it didn't tell me much about the other wifi network it could see. So I turned back to an old wardriving application I had a great amount of fun with in the past. It is called WiFiFoFum and it runs on my Orange SPV M600, using its built in wifi to do its thing. It lists all networks it can see around - including those that are trying to hide their SSIDs. It logs results to xml files that you can play around with. The real fun bit is when I hook up my bluetooth GPS receiver and it adds latitude and longtitude to the information. I once left this setup running in the car and plotted the results on google maps - cue one mapped list of open wifi between the office and home!

This flushed out an access point running without SSID on the same channel as my setup, plus the other two networks I usually see from home. Time to change myself from channel 11 to one that isn't used by the other guys.

posted @ Sunday, May 18, 2008 3:43 PM | Feedback (0)
Monitoring my ISP Stats

I mentioned previously that I'm switching from Demon Internet to Be Unlimited. Speed claims are great, but it is really the unlimited aspect I am going for. With more folk on my network and me playing with new toys, there will be a risk in the future that I would hit Demon Internet's Fair Usage Policy limit again and I can't be bothered network shaping.

Anyway, in the last few days I have been monitoring the stats on my Demon connection so that I can get a comparison after the switch. I've been given Tuesday 20th May as the activation date, though not a time so that will prove interesting. Firstly for fun, I include a result from Speedtest - an online speed checker. I'm more interested in the change, rather than the actual figure. I try a few servers as the nominal nearest isn't alway what I get the best result from. The first result is against the Maidenhead server, which gives the best ping.

The second is from the Paris Server, which gives a better download but longer ping.

And finally some of the stats on my line with Demon Internet:

ADSL Link Downstream Upstream
Connection Speed 6624 kbps 448 kbps
Line Attenuation 42.0 db 22.0 db
Noise Margin 6.9 db 22.0 db

From what I read on forums the Line Attenuation makes a difference to the potential speeds in DSL implementations, what I found interesting is that the distance to exchange using an online calculator puts me at around 3km from it in cabling terms, which makes a lot of sense. The BT Exchange is between our and the next villages, and we have a tributory of the river Almond between those too, which will dictate the routing somewhat.

posted @ Sunday, May 18, 2008 12:14 PM | Feedback (0)
Contact lense visit to Boots Today

Went to boots for a contact lense eye test today. Apparently I'm supposed to get my eyes checked with contact lenses annually but the last time I got them looked at was about two years ago at my last eye test. I'm not on their direct debit scheme because I only wear them on the motorbike, and that isn't every day of the week.

As I have astigmatism it was a bit complicated last time and the prescription didn't quite match but things have moved on in the last two years and the new set they have given me to try are excellent. A different make of daily disposables and they have ordered another set that will be even closer to the prescription for my glasses.

The new kind are called 1 day acuvue, I used to have focus daillies. The only tricky thing is that the material of these new ones is floppier and therefore harder to put in but the effort will be worth it for the better clarity. Just took them out after wearing them since midday and they have been superb, very very close to the prescription of my glasses. It was a revelation to see so clearly, without the loss of peripheral vision and the areas blocked out by the thick frames of my glasses (my wife said they were more fashionable).

posted @ Saturday, May 17, 2008 10:27 PM | Feedback (0)
Did I mention my Mac ? I don't believe I did

I'm the proud owner of a Powerbook G4, bought second hand from Colin at work who was upgrading to a bigger better mac, which was due to Raj at work upgrading to one of those thin Macbook air thingies.

Just watch me slide into wearing a beret, growing my goatee back and being known as Gustav (check dilbert)

posted @ Thursday, May 15, 2008 9:58 PM | Feedback (0)
Latest on the broken Motorbike

Latest update on the broken Motorcycle is that it is progressively getting unbroken. I patched it up with gaffer tape last week and took it out for a run on Friday night, but got to the petrol station at Dreghorn to find my left foot and lower leg covered in oil. Not the best in any situation, but it was pouring with rain and made things really slippery.

The bike was running fine though, but this had me thinking all sorts of crazy things about cracked cylinder head or other terrible things. So I laid a trail of oil on the way home and put the bike away in a rather dejected state. Then I did a bit of comedy trying to get my oily stuff off without getting oil on the carpet. Thank goodness it was dark when I got home ;)

I phoned up George the mechanic and arranged to see him on Tuesday evening, and let the folks know that I wouldn't make the charity run I'd hoped to be on on Sunday. Tuesday night and George spent 10 minutes discovering that I had failed to mount the inner seal properly on the LHS valve cover I had fitted. It was effectively blowing oil out round the spark plug and making a right mess. So went back home and fitted the new seal I still had in its bag at home.

In the middle of the week I got a second hand fairing so I'm making contact with a chap who's details were given to me and get him to spray the red fairing to blue to match the bike. So tonight I took 90 minutes to remove the existing front fairing in preparation for handing that over for the paint match and the new one to get sprayed.

Things are coming together, next thing once the bike is back together is to get my confidence back up on the bike.

posted @ Thursday, May 15, 2008 9:27 PM | Feedback (0)
It finally looks like I will be switching from Demon Internet

I've been a bit of a boring fart and stuck with the same Internet Service Provider since I first got a dialup account about a decade ago. Since then Demon Internet grew up, got bought by Thus, chucked away the infrastructure they had established. Got broadband, etc etc.

But their speeds haven't been great and I was on their best consumer product with no way of buying my way out of it with them. Knowing folks with cable just rubs salt in the wounds of speed. And then I got a new server toy and downloaded loads and started getting emails from Demon saying I was running close to their FUP limits and look out.

That was the nudge to switch to a cheaper ISP who suggests they can give me up to 3 times the speed I do at the moment. Frankly, with ADSL technology being what it is I take this speed claim with a mild pinch of salt. But if they can give me the same speed and not threaten to disconnect me if I use it then I will be happy enough.

So I've boosted the infrastructure behind alistairl.com to switch from mail forwarding to mail hosting (sounds posh - I clicked an option on a web page) and I'm in the process of switching online accounts over to my personal domain. So that could be the end of goajl.demon.co.uk, and my dodgy website to go with it.

I'm going for a pro account with Be Unlimited, which compared to the £25 a month for 8Mb Broadband from Demon, is supposed to be £22 for 24Mb Broadband. Of course both speeds are a bit of a joke, but here goes.

 

posted @ Sunday, May 11, 2008 5:04 PM | Feedback (0)
Gaffer tape

I'm going to have a bit of fun over the weekend and tape the small broken bit of my bike together with some blue Gaffer tape I bought over the web. Roadies and the like no doubt know all about the wonderful qualities of the stuff but I have only just found the wonderful gaffertape.com and the multitude of tack levels and colours available. So I've got a couple of rolls in blue, the colour of my motorbike. I'm going to do a temporary tape up job to stop the indicator blowing away.

posted @ Friday, May 9, 2008 12:59 PM | Feedback (0)
Fed up with congestion? Buy yourself out of the problem

I read an article about CAFE with interest, they are in the business of promoting personal fuel-efficient flight.

I think they are right that anyone who has the option of sitting in a queue of cars or up free in the air would choose the latter, but the point I think they miss is that the ground is so congested because there are so many people wanting to get somewhere, who all have the money to have their own vehicle. Over a hundred years or so ago a few people had cars and frankly the only thing to get in the way was pedestrians and horses. So no congestion because noone else could afford to have a car.

Roll forward a hundred and thirty years and all those early adopters will spend goodness knows how much to get flight, just as all us folks from council houses start aspiring to it. Roll forward 50 years and us plebs will all have planes too and we'll all be flying in circles in a stack over the Pentlands while traffic control shows us a red light to stop at a junction.

 

posted @ Wednesday, May 7, 2008 12:21 PM | Feedback (0)
Fell off my bike today :(

I was out for my Observer practical test and fell off my bike. I was getting along fine and I was down to Peebles and Galashiels and all of the way back up the A7, came up to the on-slip at Lasswade Junction on A720 for some reason a survival reaction kicked in as I made the turn and I put both brakes on and the bike went down on its left side with me.

Couple of holes in the bike - beside the LHS indicator, left hand valve cover. A few other scrapes on the bike too.

Scrapes to me are to my left boot, left arm, shoulder and knee got it too. Nothing really hurts on me apart from my right thumb, goodness knows what I was doing with that. So my kit looks a bit used - it took a while to spot the complete damage - there is a big black patch on my exhaust from where it melted through my left trouser leg.

As per usual the recovery was complicated, so I ended up with another RAC membership but thankfully the bike is now home and I can get some bits bought to fix it.

It wasn't much fun and I'm taking a pause and reconsidering training to be an Observer with the group - if I can't follow an Associate and stay on my bike then it is a bit pointless. I'm supposed to ride my own ride.

posted @ Sunday, May 4, 2008 9:41 PM | Feedback (1)
Tested out my radios last weekend

It has been a bit of a busy week, hence I am a bit slow in posting this. My writing efforts have also been devoted to drafting up a magazine article, only a short news report but hopefully it will end up in print - more to follow.

The article was about a training event held by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) for their Senior Observers in Scotland. I managed to blag my way in to helping out on the day. I originally offered to make the tea but got a minor promotion to signing folks in and talking photographs. As it turned out, due to numbers I actually ended out on the road with a couple of the other attendees, both Senior Observers - one was also one of the Organisers of the day. If you haven't read my earlier posts, an Observer is an unpaid volunteer who helps people along to their IAM Advanced test, Senior Observers are a step along from a so-called Qualified Observer and they have to go through extra testing outwith their local Groups.

Going back to last week, I ended out on the road on an Instructional run, and the examiner out with us had his radios along to connect us up for comms. This was an opportunity to give my bike to bike kit a test. I got my Autocom Kit 200 fitted recently at C&J Wilson in Uphall and this was great for my run down to Wetherby for providing tunes to listen to from my MP3 player. I've also got a bit of a setup working with TomTom Navigator 6 on my Orange SPV M600 phone. The Autocom kit comes with a hands-free lead to the standard 2.5mm (I think that is the size) socket on the phone. There is a wee bit of an issue with the bluetooth gps - all the stuff is chucked into the tail section of my R1100RS, and if the gps doesn't hear anything on the bluetooth for a while it shuts down to save battery. Together with my MP3 players habit of stopping now and again, it can mean for silent running at stages. On the other hand, when it all works the GPS kicks in with directions from time to time, fading out the music temporarily, then the music fades back in. The lead to the MP3 and the lead to the phone both connect directly into the Autocom unit in the tail of the bike, using pretty standard small black leads with 3.5 and 2.5 mm connectors at each end. To help my wee MP3 player I also have a boostaroo inline amplifier to help me hear the music.

There are three other connectors on the Autocom, two go to the headsets for rider and pillion and are 7 pin DIN connectors - big beefy waterproofed things, coloured black and finally there is a grey 5 pin connector which can be used for bike to bike communications. Going in to that is a wee straight and coiled lead - one end has the grey five pin connector to fit into the wire in the tailpiece, then a coiled bit then finally a right angled single connector that fits into the side of one of my Motorola T5622 radios. I tried these a few weeks ago on an Observed run but my Senior Observer couldn't hear anything so I gave up. In the meantime I ordered up a radio holder that will attach a radio to your arm or belt. They came with various bits of velcro so I attached these to the frame at the back of my bike which the top box fits in to and locks on.

I had the cabling, mounting and stuff for the radios and had the opportunity to try them out on the run. I quick change to channel and code on them - quite easy to do on the Motorola. Switch to scan, listen for the Examiners test signal and then set the channel and code to what was detected. First time I've done it and it worked fine. And the rest of the run was excellent from the comms perspective - the radio holder worked, I got good reception and could hear really well through the headset fitted for my Autocom in my BMW System 5 helmet. It wasn't as easy for the other two guys - they had to wear the standard receive kit that folks doing their DSA tests will be familiar with - a wee bag with a strap to take the helmet and earpieces in the helmet. Unfortunately for them I believe they already had other radio kit fitted, which meant rather painful pressure on their ears. The two of them were a lot more experienced on the bikes than me, so I'm sure they coped. It was a brisk progressive ride which meant safe riding all the way but up at the applicable speed limit wherever safe - the weather was really good so the roads were dry and warm and we were really getting a move on. I think the briefing given to the examiners on the day mentioned applying police standards to riding, and those guys can shift along on their big ST1300s.

Radio reception was really good on our run up through Crieff and Lochearnhead, the only time the signal broke up was further South when the examiner was round headlands where the road disappeared round a hill. Trees and things didn't create a problem with the signal - just the hard stuff like rocks etc. It was an excellent test of my radio, I don't know how much was down to the Icoms that the examiner was using but reception and clarity was excellent. All I need to do now is contrive some way to check with me on transmit.

posted @ Saturday, May 3, 2008 9:43 PM | Feedback (0)