Our next meeting is intended to be a hands on evening where we can all share some tips and tricks for the Operating Systems we use be that Windows, Mac OS X, Linux or RISC OS. Hopefully we can also dispel some myths on the function of the Windows registry and also how many other modern OS have similar directories for storing preferences together with advantages and disadvantages.
At our last meeting Michael gave us an interesting overview of broadband technologies past, present and future.
We began with a look at the early days of ADSL originally released in 2001 with 512 kilobits/second downstream bandwidth by BT on a retail and wholesale basis to other ISPs. This marked a major leap in performance over dialup and when you consider the speeds we have today we have come a long long way since those days of analogue modems.
In 2003 with lessons learned in the performance of our copper phone lines and how far they could be pushed BT released 1 and 2 Megabit/second broadband products retaining the asymettric upload speed of 256 kilobits.
In 2006 speeds the ADSL Max product was launched giving "upto 8 Megabits/second" depending on line conditions and pushing the upload bandwidth to 448kilobits/second. Also around this time LLU or Local Loop Unbundling started to become popular allowing other ISPs to install their own equipment in exchanges and access the local loop, or "last mile" of copper to our homes and businesses. Prior to this all ISPs using the BT phone lines had to purchase wholesale ADSL services from BT itself.
During this time period cable companies such as Telewest and NTL (now all consumed by Virgin) also offered broadband services over their cable TV networks, using cablemodem technology over their coax/fibre network. Initial speed offerings were also ~512kilobits/second but have risen more quickly than ADSL on phone lines, now offering upto 50 Megabits/second downstream.
Following on from the introduction to where we are today, Michael used a popular broadband information site www.samknows.com to look up some details of Frank's broadband using his phone number and postcode. From this we got the exchange he is located on, which services are available from BT at this time which include ADSL Max but not yet 21C ADSL2+ together with which LLU providers are available at the exchange, in this case Talk Talk. Also available is a map of the locality showing a rough visual of the area served by the exchange. We were also able to get an indication of distance as the crow flies from the exchange for Frank, in this case 619 metres.
We also looked up some details on Manningtree exchange which was very similar with the addition of AOL as a unbundled provider. Again no date has been set at this time for BT's 21C Broadband upgrades.
Finally we looked up details of Foxhall Exchange in Ipswich which serves Gareth, Peter and Michael. This exchange was enabled quite early in 2001 for ADSL, gained ADSL Max in 2006, and is already enabled for 21C broadband providing upto 20 Megabit speeds.
Michael next moved on to the issue of speed and what can affect this, both physical line constraints between property and the exchange, but also issues within the home and in configuration. He recommends running some speed tests using sites such as www.speedtest.net at various times of day to get an accurate picture, as many ISPs do throttle at peak periods. Another useful site is speedtester.bt.com as this also gives you your IP Profile within the BT Network, which has been known to get stuck at lower speeds.
Michael also uses Microsoft service pack downloads as a good test of his download speeds as he finds the site to be consistently quick.
Next we looked at IP Profiles, which are a configuration on the BRAS (Broadband Remote Access Server) within the BT network, which represents the remote end of the ADSL connection. This is a value set slightly lower than the sync speed of your ADSL line to help ensure stability and policing of bandwidth. BT chooses to use a set of specific values and this may mean in real world tests your throughput is upto half a meg lower than your theoretical sync speed. Some other providers of unbundled service Sky for example do not use fixed IP Profiles and therefore you will get closer to full throughput although they may still police the bandwidth further into the network.
These IP Profiles should change both up and down over time to ensure stable service if your line conditions change, but in practice can get stuck. If you are able to verify this via the BT Speedtester you can request this is reset via your ISP helpdesk.
Moving on to issues affecting line performance Michael discussed how extension wiring in the home can have a detrimental effect on broadband service. One test of how much internal wiring is affecting this is to connect your ADSL modem to the internal socket of the Master telephone socket, which eliminates extensions. If broadband speed goes up by a significant margin then this is an indication of issues within the home for which there are various fixes. BT also sell the iPlate and other providers can sell similar devices which plug into the master socket and the ADSL router to try and help with these issues.
Next Michael logged into his Sky Broadband router at home to show us some statistics for an ADSL line. His line was synced at 5 Megabits/second downstream and 600 kilobits/second upstream. This is a service using local loop unbundled using Sky equipment in the local BT exchange. We next looked at some figures for the quality of the line. The line attenuation in dB is an indication of the quality of copper (or aluminium) and joints etc. the Signal to Noise margin figure is important in that it reduces as speed increases, and hence defines the limit of performance for your broadband. BT tries to maintain this figure above 6dB and if it drops below this will force a resync to a lower speed. If you find this figure a lot higher, eg 12+ dB it is an indication your line could potentially be run at higher speeds.
Michael then discussed the fact that many ISPs have usage caps and fair use policies. These vary by ISP and tariff you are on, and vary from a few Gigabytes a month up to unlimited, although true unlimited is quite rare. Exceeding the limits can lead to your line being throttled, in BTs case down to 1 Megabit for the rest of the month, but in Michael's case it his previous ISP this was down to 128 kilobits. For this reason if you are a heavy user it does pay to keep track of your usage, there are various free tools to do this.
Rounding off the evening we looked at upcoming technologies, both now/near term and further into the future. Virgin cable already offers 20 Megabit services in all their cabled areas and 50 Megabit service in much of their network. Virgin are also promising to roll out 100 Megabit service by the end of the year, with 200Megabit in trial for a lucky few in Kent.
BT is currently rolling out WBC (Wholesale Broadband Connect) across the country at a quick pace. This is an ADSL2+ service offering "upto" 20 Megabits/second downstream and 1.2 Megabits/second upstream. At the time of writing this is available on the Foxhall Exchange in Ipswich, and Gareth has just been upgraded, now getting ~15 Megabits/second on his line.
BT has also announced a fibre rollout called BT Infinity. This is a mixture of fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) which deploys a fibre network out to the green cabinets and fibre to the home (FTTH).
With FTTC fibre is deployed to the street cabinets which get DSL routers called DSLAMs installed and then use the copper wires to your home. This uses a technology called VDSL2 offering upto 40 Megabits/second downstream and 10Megabits/second upstream depending on line conditions.
With FTTB fibre is deployed directly to your home using a passive fibre network (PON) requiring no underground electronics between you and the exchange. This provides very high bandwidth potential in the future, but it is likely initially it will be upto 100 Megabits/second downstream.
As with all BT's products these will be marketed both directly and wholesaled to most UK ISPs and is an aggressive rollout costing billions of pounds. The first phases have been announced and sadly Ipswich is not yet listed.
Michael also mentioned a company called Fibrecity who have deployed fibre to the home in Bournemouth using the sewage system. A number of ISPs sell service on top of this network offering 25, 50 and 100 Megabits a second, some with the option to pay to burst to Gigabit speeds while also providing TV services with prices upto £50/month. A point of interest with this is that Ipswich is one location being considered for future rollout.
Sam Knows - http://www.samknows.com/
Think Broadband - http://www.thinkbroadband.com/
DSL Zone UK - http://www.dslzoneuk.net/
ADSL Nation - http://www.adslnation.com/products/xte2005.php
Sky User - http://www.skyuser.co.uk/
BT Infinity (Upto 40Mbps FTTC) -
News of Fibrecity considering Ipswich - http://www.mynewsdesk.com/uk/view/pressrelease/fibrecity-holdings-announcement-of-next-fibrecity-networks-heralds-uks-largest-fibre-to-the-home-initiative-408865
Fibrecity Home page - http://www.fibrecity.eu/
Fibreband (Fibrecity ISP) - http://www.fibreband.co.uk/
Velocity1 (Fibrecity ISP) http://www.velocity1.co.uk
I've Just found this which might be of interest:
A little report about broadband in Suffolk. Michael.
I do apologise for the late production of the Newsletter this month as a result of being very busy both in and out of work. Hopefully normal service resumed again! Gareth
|"Tips and tricks in Windows/Mac/Linux/RISC OS-
and what is the function of the Registry?"
|Social Evening - Venue TBA
|Digital Photography and How to manage your photo collection
|Gareth et al
|Slide show evening
|"How to rebuild a RISCOS machine."
-making one machine from parts of two Risc PCs.
|Gadgets and Party evening
|Social Evening - Venue TBA
|Gigabit Networking , USB2 & 3
|AGM plus Games
Meetings are now on the Third Wednesday of the month unless otherwise stated.
Our meetings are held at the Bourne Vale Social Club, Halifax Road, Ipswich IP2 8RE , for a map and other details please see the website. http://icenicomputerclub.users.btopenworld.com
The first visit is free and subsequent visits for non - members is £2·50. The membership fee is £20 due from the AGM date in April, but may be reduced for those joining late in the year.
Continuing our publicity for EAUG events, there is now a full list of meetings up to the end of the year on their website.
Tea/coffee/biscuits usually available.
Visitors pay 2.00 GBP for the evening, which is deductible from the normal joining subscription if you decide to join at a later date.
See the Membership page of the website for more information:
Meetings are at the Great Baddow Village Hall, on the second Tuesday of the month
opening at 7:30 p.m. for a start at 7:45 - 8:00 p.m.
For directions see below (note the new web addresses)
They have now moved to the St. Andrew's Computer Club at Britannia Road, Ipswich. They have picked up a couple of people from the Church and are seeking to include people from the Parish. There's not much about the Computer Club on the website (http://www.ourstandrews.co.uk) but there are a few words. (Ken Tew)
"ICENI does not have any Insurance cover for computers or other equipment so please be advised that you bring machines to the club at your own risk."
However many household insurance policies will include cover away from home often with no increase in premium. (Ed.)
If anyone would like a copy of the CD of our old newsletters this could be arranged.
I am open to suggestions on what people would like to have included in the website.
Our website URL is
http://icenicomputerclub.users.btopenworld.com as a virtual domain,
it can also be reached using http://www.btinternet.com/~icenicomputerclub
Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org