Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Campus switch count

As part of some information gathering (probably to be used as a stick for one person to beat another person with during a meeting) my colleague has had to find out how many active switches we have around campus as well as the number of outlets in the data cabinets.

I knew it was a lot, but I was quite surprised to find we have 1,859 switches in use and 45,644 data outlets.

If you are great at mental arithmetic you will be able to tell that is a little over 24 sockets per switch. Hopefully those switch numbers will come down as we replace Cisco 2950-24's with 2960-48 and 3750-48's. We will also not be patching sockets that have not been used for some time in the hope of saving some switch and power costs and reducing CO2.

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.

Update - 1 week later
I have been sent an email with details of how to reset my account. Done so a opted-out again of FON. Again said the request will be processed in the next 24 hours.

Update - 10 days later
Still not gotten rid of FON, despite opting out a few more times. Each time "the request will be processed in the next 24 hours."

Update - 12 days later
Success. I saw my router reboot and once it had I got my WiFi analyser switched on and it was gone. FINALLY!

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.