Broadband Update

Yes, well, apparently it’s not an instantaneous bump up in speed as I’d hoped it would be. Yesterday (3 days after my official regrade date) the only difference I saw was a 15kB improvement uploading and 3 or 4kB downloading. At first I thought it was my router. I’d decided not to go with buying one from BT whilst ordering the regrade since I’d only recently bought my Netgear DG834G.

My wireless router happily reported that I have a Downstream Connection Speed of 8128 kbps and an Upstream Connection Speed of 448 kbps, but this doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll get 8Mb downloads. What actually happens is that they do a regrade, which mostly likely consists of a monkey flicking a switch from 2Mb to 8Mb. Then over the next 10 days they run a series of tests that tweak various settings to try and get the maximum possible speed my phone line can handle without setting on fire and burning down telegraph poles.

Given the crusty old technology involved (which I’m starting to understand, thanks to Computer Comms at college) this varies depending on how far you are from the exchange and whether or not your phone line is made of string. The thing is, BT are a bit vague are the details of this.

Yes, I’ll give them credit that they do tell you this in a round about way, but only on the day of the regrade, not in advance. I suspect that if they did, not as many people would regrade. Effectively you’re looking at so many weeks til regrade plus 10 days. Anyhoo, a marketing speak floaty light description of this wasn’t really good enough, and on my travels I found this scarily technical article that does tell you what the heck BT is doing.

Of course I didn’t know this at the time (bah, who reads emails!) so started tweaking my poor router. In fact I spent fecking ages trying various versions of firmware thinking it was that. But it wasn’t a total waste of time because I was able to upgrade the last “stable” firmware, v3.01.25, with the latest beta version, v3.01.31 (funny that I have to use an obscure Australian messageboard to find firmware updates) which has been great. It no longer goes tits up and require the power yanking out the back of it when you tweak the odd setting.

In my stupidity I even went to the trouble of browsing the wonderful BT Broadband help site and downloading the BT Broadband Desktop Help software, but I think by virtue of the fact that I…

  1. managed to open a web browser,
  2. load up BT’s site and
  3. download the software…

…showed that I was way beyond it being any use to me! It’s a horrible little program that seems to think it’s important enough to be running all the time in the background checking your connection! Yuck.

Whilst fettling I kept hammering the Speakeasy speed test (for Washington DC) looking for the slightest change. Not a sausage. Until a couple of hours ago! My best initial speed test came in at:

  • Download Speed: 1853 kbps (231.6 KB/sec transfer rate)
  • Upload Speed: 367 kbps (45.9 KB/sec transfer rate)

Now it comes in at:

  • Download Speed: 4900 kbps (612.5 KB/sec transfer rate)
  • Upload Speed: 369 kbps (46.1 KB/sec transfer rate)

OK, so I’m not exactly rivalling the 1Gb you can get in Hong Kong, but it’s a nice speed jump. Hopefully over the next few days it’ll just inch up a bit more. The moral of the story here is, don’t go tweaking a damn thing!

Canadian Grand Prix

Another excellent weekend for Alonso from start to finish. Stunning really, which carries on his run of five consecutive poles and four consecutive race wins. It was a pretty eventful race with various crashes and the ice rink conditions off the racing line was certainly a new one on me. Typically going on the marbles just causes a drop off in speed, not a total lack of grip. I don’t recall a Canadian GP where it’s happened before.

I’d love to see some form of penalty for both Toyota and Ralf Schumacher for their gross incompetence in keeping Ralf out on track for so long when his car was clearly not up to it. With the best intentions in the world (i.e. pulling over to allow an overtake), he caused Villeneuve’s accident. I feel sorry for Villeneuve, I’m not his biggest fan, but this year has put in some excellent drives and looked on for a good finish.

Toyota also managed to successfully shaft any chance Kimi had of attacking Alonso in the closing laps after the safety car period caused by Villeneuve. Kimi was stuck behind Trulli, who was off in the land of fairies and let Alonso storm off on the restart. That ruined any chance of a scrap.

Realistically though Fissichella should have been in second place to safeguard Alonso and help him extend his points lead in the championship. Instead he had a terrible start and ended up with a drive through penalty for speeding in the pits. The discrepancy between Alonso and Fissichella is starling. I can’t fathom why Renault signed him up for next year, I can only assume it’s maintain some form of consistency in the team what with Alonso’s impending departure at the end of the season.

The scary thought here though is that if Schumacher had qualified better I think he’d have won the race, but Renault and Alonso have this level of consistency that is just easing them through. The run Michael had at the end was frighteningly fast though!

But the same applies to Kimi, if his luck was better he’d have been in with a chance. He was all over Alonso at the start of race and nearly got past at one point, but his problematic pit stop put pay to that.

As to whether Alonso can repeat this performance at Indianapolis next week remains to be seen. Ferrari are again meant to be strong there, and given McLaren’s pace of late, it should certainly be entertaining! I just hope that it isn’t like last years utter farce of a race (just 6 cars taking part due to Michelin tyre problems!).

Formula One Survey

If, like me, you enjoy a good whinge and complain about Formula One, then this survey should be of interest (from F1 ITV). It’s 41 riveting questions long and you get the chance to enter in a competition for a laptop:

In less than 50 words please explain why you think you deserve to win an Acer Ferrari laptop powered by AMD?

“Because my Dell Intel powered laptop is bloody awful”

I haven’t got a chance in hell, but it’s worth a go!

Opera 9

All it took was 5 minutes for me to switch back to Firefox (unfortunately).

I closed a tab by accident and went to right click in the tabbed area to undo it. There was no such option. Bugger. Ok, fine, I went and reloaded the page I was after.

Then I loaded up Google Calendar and got told it doesn’t support Opera officially, but I can still try it. So I did. I created a new event and it added it in twice. Not a problem, I deleted the extra one. That worked.

I needed to tweak the CSS in a website design, but first I thought I’ll view what’s already there. Oh.. err… I have no Web Developer toolbar. Sigh… back to land of the memory devouring web browser it is then. Still, it was nice while it lasted.

Half-Life 2: Episode One stats

Now this is cool. Valve implemented some tech in Half-Life 2: Episode One that monitors various stats. There’s nothing particularly new in this idea, usage stats for software have been around for ages and are incredibly useful. It’s great to be able to see what options are used and what paths users take through software. It can help remove ways of working that don’t work and make sure more popular ones are used. The end result is hopefully better, more usable software.

Blast from the past

Whilst coding the other day, I saw a comment by a former work colleague and thought what was he up to now? As it turns out nothing particularly earth shattering (the old same oddness) but I did however find a gallery of pictures from when he used to work with us. Boy did I stumble across a gem. It must have been about five years ago… because I had hair.


I am the king of spoons! Fear me!

I think this deserves a caption competition! So post ’em in the comments :)

Broadband Upgrade

BT are slowly rolling out automatic upgrades to existing customers to 8Mb Broadband, but if it’s anything like the upgrade from 1Mb to 2Mb, it could be a while (like 6 months) until it happens. Being the impatient git that I am, I went on their site to get upgraded sooner. The rub is that you end up signing a new 12 month contract, but since I’ve been with them since 2002, I doubt I’ll be changing any time soon.

As part of the process they give you a rough estimate of the line speed you’ll get. I was slightly disappointed it was 5.5Mb and not 8Mb, but that’s nearly 3 times the speed I have now so I can’t grumble too much ;). So at some point next Monday I should be automagically upgraded. Woo and stuff!