Tuesday, 22 April 2014

BT woes

After being back with BT for a month it is reminding me exactly why I left them the first time.

With my PlusNet broadband costs rising, a promise of half price fibre broadband for 6 months, an 802.11ac wireless router and BT Sport for free I was seduced into returning to BT. What a mistake.

It all started off so well too. To begin with my wireless speeds were fantastic. Then BT decided to sign me up to BTFon, despite the fact that I had opted out. Since then it keeps dropping out as, I guess, other people are using my WiFi. Helpfully BT don't let you change the FON channel settings so there is always a collision domain. I tried to login to the FON website to [re-]opt-out but my BT login wouldn't work.

I called BT and after half an hour waiting on hold I explained my problem to Souveek, who couldn't help but was 'sure' the next person was in the right department to aid me. Alehya couldn't help either so passed me on to Sujithra. I guess you see where this is going? Yep, Sujithra couldn't help either and passed me on to Avinash who told me to login to the website! After explaining for the fourth time that I couldn't I was given another number to ring. That's an hour of my life I'm not getting back.

"You're really close to your broadband usage allowance"

Late last night I got an email saying I was near my usage limit (18GB of 20GB). Okay I thought, I've got 2GB to last me a week and a half, but to be safe I will use 3G anyway.

Well BT's email was as helpful as a concrete parachute as I discovered when I logged in that the limit had already been exceeded, despite the fact that I had not used the internet that day.

BT Sport

When I originally wrote this post this morning I forgot to include the farce that is trying to watch BT Sport. It seems that, looking at Twitter at the time, quite a few people experienced a loss of the stream of the FA Cup semi-final the other week, me included.

Just a snapshot of the dozens of complaints

The BTcare response was that it was all Microsoft's fault (a Silverlight issue) and using a different browser and clearing the cache would solve it... which it didn't.

Thanks BT... for reminding me how bad you are at customer service and why I will be leaving (again) as soon as my contract is over.

Update 10:40am
Social media seems to be a great way to get in touch with companies now. I didn't even @ them in my tweet (as I couldn't be asked with the back and forth at a 140 character limit) and got a reply. Shame it was to tell me to send an email, which I had already done on 29th March, and got a reply back with a link to a video on BT's website about improving wireless. It's not their fault that they don't know I deploy wireless for a living, but the request was to be able to login to the website!

I bit the bullet and called the technical support again. Another mistake. I was on the phone for a little over 31 minutes while I was talked through setting up another email address (this is exactly what I did with the other tech guys last time), only to prove that it still doesn't work. Exasperated, and only getting the same instructions over the phone, I gave up and said I would try it when I get home.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Chrome Remote Desktop android app

The android app for Chrome Remote Desktop has been made available. I downloaded it this morning and took it for a quick spin. (Link here).

The app is available on android 4.0 and up. 

If you start the app with registering a computer via the Chrome browser app you will see no computers in your list. There is a handy getting started guide in the mobile app and the Chrome app is found using this link.

A Chrome Remote Desktop icon will appear under your Chrome browser apps and selecting this will ask you whether you want to allow remote access and to set up a PIN. This is very similar to Teamviewer, which was a remote app I tried previously.

If you have multiple monitors set up the app handily lets you scroll across both screens rather than just choosing one. The only problem I see is that anybody at your desk while you are remotely connecting can see what you are doing and take control of your PC (as it is unlocked).

You can access the Ctrl-Alt-Del options by pressing the menu button or softkey on your mobile device. You can also disconnect the same way (just remember to lock or or log off your remote machine first!).

So far the app seems slick, fast and a very good alternative to similar apps on the market.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Wireless - Quick update (part 3)

We have lots of wireless work going on here as part of a project to cover the whole campus. The first two parts of the post can be found here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).

A few decisions have been made and, despite a number of meetings on the subject, many still unfortunately haven't. The stalling is mostly to do with ways to do high-density and high-usage. I have been pushing to use directional antennas and 'massaging' the data rates (and getting rid of 802.11b), but for whatever reason the 'higher-ups' are still holding off.

What has been pushed forward is that we have ordered two more WiSM2 controllers, on which we are going to install software version 7.6 MR2 and provide service to 3702 access points, that have now started to arrive. We have another 2000 access point licences too. However, having different controller software versions running is going to have to have some thinking about, so that users are not roaming across controllers and experiencing problems as a result.

We are planning to go ahead and look at dual-band antenna solutions for the 3702e to be deployed in high-density, high-use areas such lecture theatres, conference rooms and seminar rooms.

We have 7 more buildings fully covered and we have deployed around 70 access points with another 94 waiting for contractors to install.

We have been doing some RRM (radio resource management) testing. Some decisions looked strange that were made by Cisco RRM, but we don't really have the tools, such as a spectrum analyzer, to challenge it. So we've been stuck with testing throughput/loss/retries, changing it to what we think the channel and power selections should be and comparing the results.

We have found a few rogue networks on our surveys and also an area of campus where they will be using multiple AR drones (up to 8 at a time), which are controlled over the 2.4GHz frequency. Getting very tempted to almost 'force' 5GHz.

We spoke to our suppliers last Thursday who recommended we install two cables to each AP, a cat5e and a cat6, for wave 2 of 802.11ac. Needless to say, that didn't go down well with management.  The meeting was called to discuss some new buildings that are being built and how we will cover them with wireless. The suppliers though came up with the same argument as those of us doing the surveys 'in house'; you can't say where the wireless should be without testing and you can't test before the building has been built. However, the builders want the locations marked on the plans BEFORE the building starts going up. So it is a bit of a vicious circle... that usually ends up as a lot of guess work and crossing of fingers.

I think it was hoped that they would be able to use their experience to provide a better 'educated guess'. They were understandably reluctant to say they could make recommendations that would work, but I think they are going to make some suggestions once they've got the latest building diagrams.

...and in other wireless news:

Quantenna Communications have announced the first 10G Wi-Fi using 8x8 MIMO.

iPlayer for android update

I noticed an update for the BBC iPlayer android app this morning and noticed something quite significant in the 'what's new' section.

You can now download videos to watch later or offline. This is a fantastic update, especially with holidays coming up.

I'm not sure if it will keep the shows for 7 days or the full 30 (like the new iPlayer online http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer), but will give it a try.

The downside is this is only for android devices from 4.0 and up. That means it won't be available for the, roughly, 15-20% of devices on older android OS.

The app can be downloaded from Google Play here.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Google Opinion Rewards

Google have now released their opinion survey app to the UK. The idea is you answer a few questions every now and again (Google states: "We'll then send you surveys around once a week, although it may be more or less frequent"), and in return you can earn credit for the Play Store to spend on movies, books, games and music.

Once you start the app you are requested to provide a few general details to ensure the surveys are suited to you and to perform a short test survey.

I'll see if I get approved and then how I get on. You can find the app by following this link.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Why I feel it is time to remake the original Star Wars trilogy

I know, sacrilege right? But just hear me out.

A New Hope is now 37 years old. 37! That's older than I am and, although admittedly they have been 'tweaked' over the years, you've got to admit that they now look their age. The original trilogy was released well before the demographic the films are aimed at were born and if they are expected to use the prequels as their introduction to Star Wars, then NO, that is just wrong. My kid tried to watch The Phantom Menace and couldn't sit through it (it was 'boring' and there was 'no Darth Vader'). To be honest Episode I is enough to put many people off watching a Star Wars film ever again.

There is a danger of a generation growing up only interested in the Lego movie versions of the Star Wars stories. I admit, they are amusing, but they are what? 20 minutes, half an hour long? It's like jumping in at a final chapter and spending half your time wondering who the people are and what the relationships are between them, even if you find it well written and amusing.

Look at the recent reboot of Star Trek and remake of True Grit. It can be done (in the right hands).

Imagine the scenes that could be improved from the original. Fight scenes that are not just lightsabers being swung well away from the actors, and the force can be used effectively by Jedi and Sith as they do in The Force Unleashed (which is set before A New Hope). Then think of all the problems with the plot that could be fixed:
  • Stormtroopers don't ignore a door when it is locked.
  • The Empire doesn't ignore an escape pod when there are no life signs.
  • Luke is 'hidden' from Anakin but keeps the same last name...on Anakin's home planet...with Anakin's family.
  • Remove the 'incest'.
  • Fix the fact that nobody recognises the two robots who played the biggest part in the prequels, R2D2 and C-3PO (especially Obi-Wan, who interacted with them constantly).
  • Leia says she remembers her real mother.
  • Obi-Wan says that Yoda trained him.
  • Obi-Wan says Anakin wanted Luke to have his lightsaber. His whole story doesn't make any sense after the prequels.
  • Luke is trained to be a Jedi in the same time it takes the Falcon to get to Cloud City (Bespin). In the prequels we see even 'young Anakin' is considered too old to start training.
  • The abilities and technologies they have in the prequels is greater than what they have in IV-VI (and Clone Wars, Force Unleashed etc for that matter too).
  • Stormtroopers should be identical if they are clones.
  • When Anakin became a ghost, he turned into Hayden Christensen.
  • Han Solo’s states that the Millennium Falcon “...made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs” is just one line that doesn't make any sense and can be changed.
  • The Death Star had to wait to get around a planet to...blow up a planet.
  • Ewoks win.
...to name but a few.

I still prefer the original trilogy to the prequels (that in places were just awful) but with the various inaccuracies and nonsensical plot contrivances that have been highlighted over the years by numerous satire comedies (see Family Guy for example), I get annoyed at the story in places.

I think it's time for a reboot. A better story, better costumes, better acting and action.

Who knows, they might even make it so Han shot first?

Why I'm Blocking All Ads

I am a big believer in the web being free, but one of the main ways in which content on the web stays free is by the use of advertising. It is an obvious conclusion that ad-blockers are hurting a lot of content providers, people who rely on adverts on their websites as their source of income. As such I have used ad-blocking tools sparingly or not at all. This is even though my brain has been trained not to click on ads and unknown links over the years. Some adverts pay on per view, rather than per click, and these have hopefully been helping to fund the good quality content I have enjoyed over the years.

Unfortunately the spreading of malware has become more advanced and this post on the Bromium Labs blog has now convinced me it is time to 'block all'.

I normally try to block or not have Java installed wherever possible (unfortunately some almost essential tools require it) but this malware described in the blog was spread through adverts, allowed by Google, on Youtube. If a site as big as Youtube lets these through then this is extremely worrying.

I have now installed AdBlock Plus and removed the 'Allow some non-intrusive advertising' option. Until I feel that enough is being done to prevent the spread of malware through these means, then this will stay the case.

*You may notice I don't serve ads on my blog. Not only because I probably wouldn't make any money, but because I write this blog because it is something I enjoy. As you can see from the quality over the years, I am no professional and, if someone is, then I agree they deserve to get paid for it. Not everyone will want to, or could afford to, give their time and expertise away for free.

So what is the answer? Paywalls? Who knows where we will go from here?

Monday, 17 March 2014

Ballad of a WiFi Hero

This made me chuckle on a Monday morning.

"In Which I Fix My Girlfriend's Grandparents' WiFi and Am Hailed as a Conquering Hero," by Mike Lacher. Rejoice!