Saturday, 08 February 2014
YouView vs Sky

2014-02-03T10-19-24_0I've been a Sky customer for over 11 years and while in the early years I didn't think much about shelling out near to £50 a month for all of the channels through the years, I realised how wasteful that had been seeing as I didn't watch most of them. I began by cutting back on the channels as much as Sky would let me getting my bill to about £23 a month.

If you're a Sky customer you'll be no stranger to Sky's offers, where they'd like to give you the movies or sports package for a large discount for 6 months or more. The problem comes when trying to cancel those channels. In the past I've been on the phone to the cancellation line for almost an hour trying to drop channels and with them suffering slow systems. Sky make it very easy to add new channels you can even do this online, however the functionality to remove channels was not made available online.

Don't get me wrong I have had no other problems with Sky through the years as a service and I have found it a reliable service. I even managed to save money by learning how to service my own satellite dish without taking out a service contract. However I couldn't help but be fascinated by BT's YouView option. BT give you the option of a YouView box along with 18 other channels among them SyFy, Universal and Fox which were some of the channels we seemed to watch the most on Sky. All of this would only cost me £7 a month added onto my existing broadband package. Previously I had been put off BT's service in the past because you couldn't record these extra channels which were sent to you over your broadband connection. After an announcement was made that these channels were recordable, I took the plunge and ordered the BT TV service and ran it alongside Sky for a few months to compare them and to start recording my shows on the new box.

The comparison 
It took me a bit of getting used to the interface on the YouView box but after a while it started to make sense. It also came across as more intuitive compared to the Sky program interface, the ability to go back in time on the planner and watch shows that had already been aired was a brilliant idea. Recording shows was simple enough and so was recording a series of a show.

On Demand Shows
2014-02-03T10-45-43_0Both boxes provide on demand content and there is no competition when it comes to the latest content Sky does win hands down. That's not to say BT's "BT Player" service doesn't have an impressive catalogue however quite a lot of the on demand content is older and much of it has probably been removed from Sky's catalogue already.

But wait! Is that Sky in the On Demand section on the YouView box I see? It is indeed! So while you have access to BT Player in the On Demand section on the YouView box from BT which features all the on demand shows BT have sourced you also have access to content from BBC iPlayer, ITV, 4OD, Channel 5, MilkShake, NOW TV, Sky, Dave and S4C.

The Sky Store player in the on demand section is basically giving you access to pay per view movies from Sky. If you're looking for the latest movie releases you're more than likely going to find them in here before they reach the BT Player Box Office section. Sky Store funnily enough actually seems to work better on the YouView box than it does on Sky's own box. The Sky Store is also available separately on other services.

What about NOWTV?
NOW TV is also a service available from Sky basically providing Sky's regular content over broadband (at a price). Don't get too excited though the NOW TV player on the YouView box does not have the ability to stream live content from NOW TV as it does on their website or via the Xbox such as Sky Atlantic or Sky One but Sky does mention they are working with YouView to make this available. For now the only content you can get off NOWTV on YouView is Sky Movies. I'll be writing a separate article about NOWTV and their dedicated NOWTV Box later.

Other on Demand Content
And as usual the other on demand players such as iPlayer, itv Player etc are freely available on the YouView box as they are via a web browser on your PC. I will admit I have only made use of BBC iPlayer and 4 On Demand and have had no problems so far with the quality of the service.

Anything Else?
I have found the YouView Humax box provided by BT reliable and haven't had too many problems with it. I have only had one issue watching a SkyStore film which kept on stuttering, the issue was corrected by quickly resetting the box by holding down the power button on the front for 8 seconds.

I suppose I will find out soon enough if I will end up regretting my decision to drop Sky. Only time will tell Smile

posted on Saturday, 08 February 2014 14:28:20 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Friday, 15 February 2013
The very distant future of retail

Reading several articles about the breakthroughs in 3D printing suddenly gave me a vision on what the future of retail could be possibly 30 years from now. You'll have to use your imagination as I take you on this journey, you may roll your eyes and utter the word "ppleeeasse!" but bare with me.

Imagine if you would a future in where we are all purchasing one physical product that gets delivered to our houses a bit like like gas or water its piped to our houses or shipped by lorries. Its arrives in large vats filled with not very interesting grey granules. It is a key product and its value is an indicator of how well an economy is doing just like the price of oil. We go to comparison websites to choose the company with the better deal as we do for out telephone, gas or electricity.

Just how every home now has a TV, broadband and a computer of some kind, every home has an advanced compact and state of the art 3D printer. Online Shops such as Amazon and Apple were at the forefront of this technology wave as just as we had programs such as iTunes installed on our machines for music we have programs such as iWear and Jungle Stuff. These programs work almost exactly the same as iTunes or Spotify, we find a digital item we want and pay for it. It is then automatically downloaded. But the difference is we are now paying for the DRM protected designs for clothes, shoes, hand bags, pans, dishes and small furniture items. We download these items and our 3D printers which take the grey granules we purchase in bulk, "print" these products into the real world as wearable clothing shoes or small items.

The quality of what we buy is governed by the price we pay for these granules. We buy cheaper granules for things we do not think we will posses for long. When we are done with an item of clothing it is fed back into the printer and broken back down into its granular form. The system recycles itself. Thousand of unknown designers just as unknown authors did, now have a platform to market their designs to the public at incredibly low costs. The industry of manufacturing cheap garments in the far east has disappeared and replaced by just the need for the most up to date designs. But here is a grey area and as markets have taught us there will always be a black market to any new product. It takes it place in copies of original copyright designs and the breaking of DRM protected designs and people "chipping" or hacking their 3D printers so they can accept non copyright designs. There is of course an open source movement, as usual its not for the technically inept and more focused towards those that understand the technology and can accept designs through an open market where people have contributed free designs.  

It is a world where traditional brands such as Nike, Adidas etc focus on the next cutting edge design of their product and will probably endorse a certain type of granule for their products.

There will still be a market for traditional products but these will be for the wealthier as our populations increase producing cottons, silks and wool become more expensive as land is better suited given over to food production.

There you have it my thoughts on where retail could be in the very distant future.

posted on Friday, 15 February 2013 10:06:31 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Friday, 08 February 2013

If you've been using trying to get the FritzBox VPN client to work lately and have been getting the above error. It is probably caused by a missing folder on your machine. In my case I was missing the folder "FRITZ!Fernzugang" which is found in the following directory on my machine "C:\ProgramData\AVM"

It seem the Fritz!Box tries to save a file to that directory but doesn't check if it exists or even tries to create the folder of it doesn't exist. I had this problem with the 64bit version of the client for Windows 7. I am guessing it may only be a problem on that version.

You can see more of whats going on if you check the following folder C:\Program Files\FRITZ!VPN\logs there is a files named nwtsrv.log which will give you a lot more detail on what's happening.

If you have been having errors importing the configuration for a VPN into the Fritz!Box itself trying exporting the file encrypted first for some reason it doesn't seem to like an unencrypted file.

posted on Friday, 08 February 2013 10:26:15 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Monday, 28 May 2012
The EU cookie law, what a mess..

If you haven't already noticed, the EU cookie law has now become mandatory in the UK over the weekend.

However it's left a terrible taste in the mouths of several website owners when the ICO (Information Commissioners Office) at the last minute stated that it was ok to use "Implied Consent" as opposed to implicit consent  before placing cookies on the users machine. While thousands of website owners will rejoice. Those that had committed the recourses to meet the implicit cookie consent requirement are probably fuming.

Implied consent is effectively placing the onus back on the user by telling them that by using your site a cookie will or has already been placed onto their machine. If they are unhappy about this, they can remove it themselves, or they can just continue using your site as usual. As a large majority of sites have been informing users about the placing of cookies on their machines in their privacy policy for years you can't help but feel that it has somewhat lost its bite and makes a mockery of the whole situation.

What is interesting is there appears to be an attitude among some companies to sit back and see who gets sued first before taking any action. You can certainly understand their reaction when a large amount of government websites themselves are not compliant, direct.gov.uk this morning appears to be following with the implied consent root. By placing cookies on your machine and displaying a small message at the bottom of the page about their cookie policy.

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You can't help but feel when the government came to overhauling their websites to try and meet the implicit cookie consent requirement that someone said "Hang on a minute we have X hundred sites and we're going to have to recode how all of them to handle cookies in one year!". I also couldn't help but wonder when developers were looking at the issue and discovered that certain server technologies they were using just couldn't be changed to handle the new cookie law requirement. The issue probably fell heavily on the ICO's shoulders, you can almost picture that meeting taking place. How on earth could they enforce a law the government itself was not even abiding by?

How are websites implementing the cookie law this morning?

No 10 Downing Street - number10.gov.uk

No 10's website (you guessed it) has gone for "Implied Consent" I get 4 cookies placed onto my machine. You'll be forgiven if you missed the information about Cookies I've highlighted it for you below.

image

 

Amazon.co.uk
Amazon placed 9 cookies onto my machine as soon as I visited the website with an anonymous browser. They also appear to have gone with implied consent, scroll right to the bottom of the page and you will see the words in the footer "Cookies & Internet Advertising"

Lloyds TSB - www.lloydstsb.com

Lloyds TSB have a small message at the top of their site that links to their cookie policy

image

 

Visiting several European websites, I found many of them also followed the implied consent pattern. The information about what cookies they placed on your machine was usually buried inside their privacy policy.

While it has been stated that Britain is out of step with EU law because of the use of "Implied Consent" which could lead to fights in the European courts, you can't help but feel the law really doesn't hold much water if the rest of Europe appears to be following the same approach. Perhaps someone somewhere responsible for the law, realised what a massive mistake it was and hopefully it will slowly be forgotten as yet another mistake. You only have to look at the European Unions own website which also uses "Implied Consent" with some details in its "Legal notice" to realise that not much will probably happen as long as you explain about your cookie policy in your privacy policy.

Report those offending cookies

The ICO has also created a page to allow members of the public to report their concerns about the use of cookies. Personally I really can't see too many people using it, if they were not aware of what cookies were to begin with. I would guess it is targeted more towards technically minded people, however these type of people are more than likely to just delete the offending cookie from their browser than think anything more of it.

Fighting Crime

The ICO also states on its website that ".the intention behind this Regulation is also to reflect concerns about the use of covert surveillance mechanisms online." It goes on to explain about the use of spyware and "..such activities often have a criminal purpose behind them.". While I appreciate the intention of the law to fight crime, I don't believe a criminal enterprise is going to stop using cookies in this way because it is illegal to do so. However when a criminal is charged with this very offense I presume I will stand corrected.

I await to see what will happen in the coming months, if anything happens at all..

posted on Monday, 28 May 2012 10:30:57 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Thursday, 03 May 2012
The EU Cookie Law and your website

You've probably ended up here doing a Google search and there are hundred of websites tagging onto the "EU cookie law" that comes into effect on the 26th May 2012.

Firstly there are a lot of sites offering solutions and consultancy around the issue. If you are a developer who just wants to get down to the knitty gritty with all the cool free tools that are available on the Internet then please continue. Secondly the wording I have used and the various interpretations are my own, I strongly encourage you to read the ICO guidelines before implementing them and would also add that you use any of the wording or ideas I have put down here at your own risk.  If you are a large organisation I would refer to your legal department first for their interpretation of the law.

Right everyone is talking about doing a cookie survey and a lot of organisations will offer to do one for you. The truth is, this isn't a hard task at all it just takes a little time. All you need to do is make a list of all the pages on your site and all the actions you would go through on your site. Then get yourself a copy of.

  • Firefox (if you don't already have it, all web developers should have a copy)
  • Firebug (just about every web developer I know has this installed)
  • Firecookie (Its an add on for fie bug to to tell you about cookies)

Now there are plenty of other tools out there you can use. The ones above just happen to be my favourite.

What cookies do we have?
Right fire up FireFox and enable Firebug and then FireCookie then visit the website you want to do your cookie analysis on

image

You should see something similar to the image above. As you can see we have 4 session cookies and the cookies with the underscores on them are from Google Analytics. We'll worry about Google Analytics later, the next step is to find out if any of these cookies are still being used by your site. In many cases a lot of sites don't use the ASPSession cookie although this is enabled by default in IIS (if your site is hosted on IIS). If you know you are not using it (you may want to do some tests on a dev environment first). Turn the ASPSession off using the following Microsoft Technet Article. So far in the above site I have eliminated 2 cookies from the equation.

The next step is to navigate the pages in your site (remember the list I mentioned above), use your contact forms and any other functionality in your site that may use a cookie. If you are using an ecommerce site, add items to your basket and monitor what cookies appear. Note these down as you make your way around your site.

After you have a list of all of the cookies on your site you need to list down what their purpose is and you have to work out if its easier to carry out that functionality without a cookie. So for example if you are storing the fact that a user has seen a message in a cookie and the user is logged into your site. You may want to make use of a server end process to store this information against the users profile which would enable you to get rid of another surplus cookie.  For example when logging into a website a user is usually given a session cookie. The site checks this session cookie and may look up details such as the user id, username and basket items for example using this session cookie against the database. You could use this very same session cookie to store the fact the user has clicked on a message by using a table which stores the users preferences against their user id.

These are all the cookies we need
After we have made sure we have gotten rid of the cookies that are surplus to our requirements the next step is messaging to the user about the cookies we want to keep. The Information Commissioner Office appears to be clear on one fact and that is the "obtaining consent" before placing a cookie on a users machine.

What does obtaining consent mean to us?
It basically means that before placing any cookie onto a users machine you have to ask them if this is ok. There appear to be various caveats here, for example if the cookie being placed on the users machine is essential for them to receive a service or functionality they are asking from you. From what I can understand you are fine placing this cookie onto their machine as long as you inform them you are doing so. Here are some examples

Ecommerce site adding item to my basket for the first time
If this is the first time a user adds a product to their basket, you could use the following message

"In order to add this item to your basket we need to store the following cookie on your machine" Yes/No

If the user consents to this action you do not need to ask the user again as you have now gained consent. You may also need to gain consent for the very fact you may store a consent cookie on the users machine (yes it does get rather silly).

"In order to register the fact you have given consent to store this cookie on your machine we need to store another cookie on your machine" Yes/No

However I don't think you will be dragged over hot coals if you don't. Additionally because the cookie is essential to the working of your site I have heard from some people that they believe giving notification for this action should not be needed. As you can see the law is quite open for interpretation I suppose it depends on just how cautious you are being.

Logging into a secure site
If a user logs into a website for the first time you could use the following message placed by the login button with a tick box they have to tick before logging in.

"In order to log into this website you agree to receive what is called a session cookie on your machine"

or without a tick box.

"In order to log into this website you agree to accept the following cookies .."

Analytics
This option is going to cause a lot of pain and a lot of websites are going to lose out if they use cookie based analytics packages such as Google Analytics. As far as I can tell there is no other way around this but to actually present a nice big dialogue box to the user with one of the following messages.

"This sites uses Google Analytics in order to monitor its performance and for us to make improvements to our site. It does not store personally identifiable data about you. Can we place a cookie on your machine to enable this functionality?" Yes/No

The above according to some results I have seen usually leads to a black hole in analytics data. However the following text may work better, however may prove controversial depending on the organisation.

Deny Access/Catch All Scenario (Controversial)
The following text may prove controversial and I have no idea of knowing how it will impact the business of a site. Although if enough large sites do it, it may be something users become used to.

"In order to use our site the following cookies will be placed on your machine. If you object to the use of these cookies you will not be able to use our site" Yes/No

Under the message all cookies the site uses are listed with their purpose on why they are being used. This solution is probably the easiest solution to implement and the wording can be altered to reflect that. The dialogue box is shown to anyone who does not have a "consent" cookie on their machine.  Implementing this above solution though could be a problem depending on how cookie generation works on your server platform. You could implement it in various ways here are  a few examples.

Before your site places any cookies on a users machine you:

  • Check for the consent cookie on the users machine. If the consent cookie does not exist you redirect the user to a page containing you above message.
  • Check for a consent cookie. If it is missing you activate code to display a light box on the page with your above message. Clicking ok reloads the page calling your cookie generation functions to place cookies on the users machine. I favour this option as the user can see your site behind the light box and know they are just a click away from getting to it.

Master Pages

  • If your site makes use of master pages you most probably have the Google Analytics activation code sitting here. It should be a simple process of placing this code inside a placeholder that is not activated until a consent cookie is detected.

Terms and Conditions/Privacy
Don't forget you will also, if you haven't already done so need to update your websites Terms and Conditions /Privacy pages to reflect the above.

Conclusion
I understand what the new Cookie Laws are trying to achieve however I believe the approach they have taken hasn't taken into account the many software packages and platforms that will need to change and could cost dearly. There are also the smaller ecommerce sites that make do with out of the box packages where the owners of these sites have no knowledge of how they work just that they have been installed and they run their businesses off them. There are also countless blogs out there with analytics and various bits of functionality they're users probably have no idea are using cookies.

I hope this article has proved useful, and I am sure as I have seen already on various sites that I may have opened myself up to flaming from people in the comments section. If you have interpreted things differently, please share your knowledge, the sharing of ideas is part of how we learn right?

posted on Thursday, 03 May 2012 21:47:06 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Tuesday, 26 July 2011
SkyDrive, I wish it had a guarantee

I have always been a big fan of Microsoft's SkyDrive and the Windows Live Mesh Service that bolts onto it for syncing all of your folders in "the cloud". One of the things I like about SkyDrive is the ability to map it as a network drive on your machine with relatively little trouble at all. If I am out and about I can access my SkyDrive documents from any web browser I can also edit my office documents online using the Web version of Office. Although I must point out that the web versions of office do have a few limitations when it comes to editing documents with shapes and images I have discovered.

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If I install the Live Mesh client on my computer I can also access my computer from a web browser anywhere in the world, Live Mesh will also sync my browser favourites and my Office Templates for me and it will do all of the above mentioned for free!

I believe that Microsoft are great at releasing brilliant services although I don't feel they get quite the cult following they deserve as a service that would have been released by Google or Apple. Microsoft's approach always appears to be an "on going thing", when Google, Facebook or Apple launch something new it usually ends up on some major news websites not just the usual technical news services.

One thing Microsoft could make a bit more clear are some tutorials on some of Sky Drives features . By this I am referring to the features I mentioned at the top of this article. I am surprised that few people realise you can map a drive on your machine to SkyDrive and there is no little app that offers to do this or tutorial on the SkyDrive site (that I could find) that brings this into view. While the more tech savvy users don't mind "hacking" about for this information the less technically astute would probably be lost. Mapping a drive makes things so much easier when uploading pictures and files to SkyDrive in bulk it also make working on Office documents a lot easier.

I believe Microsoft should charge for even greater amounts of space on SkyDrive which is something they don't currently do. SkyDrive is currently capped at 25gigs.  I as a user of the service feel that for such a great service, how on earth are Microsoft paying for it? What's the catch? It can't be cheap maintaining the software and infrastructure for such a service and I really can't see how advertising can cover the service. I feel that because its a free service Microsoft could pull it when ever they wanted to if they don't feel its adding value. While I doubt they would, I feel that paying for the service enters me into a contract with them and some type of a guarantee?

Microsoft appear to be very good at "changing" and reinventing everything every few years or changing how services work which can be difficult for users who get used to having things working in a set way. If I wanted to use SkyDrive as my primary storage options for "everything" I'd pretty much want some assurances that it will always be there and that I can access it the same way in the future i.e. a virtual drive on any machine I use in future. If you look at the service agreement on Microsoft's website the following from point number 5 regarding "Your content" has the following paragraph in bold.

"You're responsible for backing up the data that you store on the service. If your service is suspended or canceled, we may permanently delete your data from our servers. We have no obligation to return data to you after the service is suspended or canceled. If data is stored with an expiration date, we may also delete the data as of that date. Data that is deleted may be irretrievable."

The above paragraph is just about the only thing that stops me from using SkyDrive in a serious capacity and makes me feel that the service is seen more as a convenient virtual pen drive that you can access from anywhere or share parts of it with friends than an actual long term storage solution or backup. Its aim appears to just make your data available "everywhere" through syncing maybe with Live Mesh (only 5gigs though) with the machines you use, but at the end of the day you still need to invest in a good old fashioned hard backup solution for "your stuff".

posted on Tuesday, 26 July 2011 11:52:24 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Wednesday, 29 June 2011
My first experience with Google+/Google Plus

I received an invite to join the Google Plus Field Test from a friend of mine who works at Google. My first impressions of the sign up process for Google+ (or g+ as people now refer to it) was "this is rather simple" simple is good!

Page1

I suppose the beauty of Google+ is that most people have a Google Account, well lets put it this way most people in the IT industry have a Google Account and therefore a lot of the people I associate with have Google Accounts.

All Google+ asked me when I signed up was if I wanted to link my Google+ account to my PicasaWeb Albums, it automatically picked up that I had a Google Buzz account (which I seldom use). 

Logging into Google+ for the first time, you are presented with the following screen

 

GooglePlusHomePage

The first thing I noted about the interface in Google+ is its pretty clean, they've done a bit of work making sure its not cluttered. Facebook has that cluttered feel to it which has probably come about by Facebook bolting on new features throughout the years as its grown organically while Google has had the chance to think about this from the ground up.

The Circles
One of Google+'s selling points is its "Circles" concept, basically a human being has many circles, they can be a circle of friends, circle of associates a family circle.you get the picture.

GoogleCircle

Google+ suggests people I have corresponded with in the past be they from Google Talk, Buzz or my GMAIL contact list.

I can also import contacts from Yahoo and Hotmail.

I can then choose to add these people to my network by dragging them into the circle I think they fit into best.

Later when I want to share content I can choose which of these circles I'd like to share my content with or just make the content public. Google appears to have carefully noted peoples annoyances with Facebook and appear to be making sure Google+ does not fall into the same security trap Facebook did in the past. (hopefully I didn't speak too soon!)

 

The Streams
When posting updates, Google has a concept called "Streams", the circles you placed your friends into earlier each have their own corresponding stream where anything posted by these users appear in the corresponding stream.

writingupdates

As on a Facebook wall you can post different kinds of content into a stream such as photos, video's, your location and links.

Trying it out for a while I quite like the Stream concept I think its very cleverly done. I also like how easy it is to see who I am sharing my content/updates with by selecting a Circle from the drop down list (see the picture).


Hangouts
Another feature I didn't get to test out (not many of my friends are online early in the morning!) is a video conferencing feature called Hangouts. You can basically open a Hangout to which you can choose which friends or Circles of friends can join at their leisure. In a Hangout you can watch YouTube videos together and video chat or text chat to each other. The video conferencing with more than one person at a time seems to be a direct competitor with Skype's premium conferencing service. I can see the potential for Google to Launch a commercial version of this tool with their business offerings.

Security
So far Google have made the security simple to understand. You can access these settings from the top right hand side of the screen.

image

Google carefully explains to you what can and cannot be seen, how the various features work and how to change these settings if you wish.

You are also able to see how other people might see your profile by typing in their username.


Conclusion
I have only used Google+ briefly but from what I have seen I am pretty impressed and I would love it to succeed. I know there have been a lot of anti-Facebook groups lately who are unhappy with the security in Facebook, I believe they now have a suitable alternative to choose from (albeit no one finds a gaping security hole). Will people leave Facebook in droves to join Google+ ? I am not so sure they would I believe people may sign up for both because its pretty easy to do so. Which one they may end up using the most may depend on several factors such as ease of use and where their friends hang out the most. As Google is just about everyone's search engine of choice these days the integration with their flagship search engine will probably appear seamless and easy for users to switch between.

I can foresee further integrations between Google+ and search which will help Google monetise plus. For example a friend finds a jacket they like on Google Shopping and hits a button on Google Shopping which says share with my Circle. The friends in that circle then get to see a nicely displayed update in their stream so they can click on the product and see more details. Every click in theory would earn Google AdSense revenue.

What I have found in the past is that Google often focuses on launching a product or service that at the time doesn't really make much sense until later when you see the bigger picture. If Google gets this right they could crack a large revenue stream if they get it wrong it could be yet another Wave.

Note: Please don't ask me for a Google+ invite. People in the field trial have not been given the ability to issue invites as yet.

posted on Wednesday, 29 June 2011 19:17:55 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Friday, 24 June 2011

I have just upgraded to BT Infinity and am getting a good 37meg download and about 5.28megs upload (not that happy with the upload but its better than what I used to get).

After the BT engineer installed the new modem I asked him if the BT Infinity Modem (the kit that connects you to the new socket) supports PPoE. The engineer told me it did and I asked if I could plug in my trusty FritzBox instead of using the BT Home Hub (which I was less keen on) he was quite keen to see it work as he hadn't seen one before. I plugged the FritzBox I had setup previously for PPoE WAN over LAN port 1 into the modem and within seconds everything worked! The speed at first was dreadful as I was only picking up 5meg downloads and less than a 1 meg upload. The engineer tested the line and told me he was getting 40meg down and 10meg up. I knew then it had to be the FritzBox, I took a look at the settings and discovered my upstream was set to 5megs and my downstream was around 1meg. Ah ha! I set the Upstream to 5760 kBit and the Downstream to 6400 kBits. I know these values are a bit higher than what is supported on Infinity but it seems to have done the trick in giving me 37meg down and 5.28 meg up.

There is a little guide below for those of you who have a FritzBox. Mine is a 7170 but the FritzBox's are very similar. For those that do not have a FritzBox, you just need to check if your old ADSL router supports PPoE over one of its LAN ports or sometimes referred to as a WAN port. Note this is not replacing the BT Infinity modem which supports VDSL it is just connecting another device to it, other than the BT Home Hub using a standard network cable.

How its done on the FritzBox 7170

  1. Log into the admin interface on your FritzBox and click on Settings
  2. Go to Advanced Settings > Internet > Account Information from the left hand menu (your router may need to be in advanced mode to see these)
  3. Ensure you have the settings as illustrated in the diagram below. The important part is "Internet connection via LAN 1" and the other options should appear for you to select.Note the username is broadbanduser@btinternet.com you do not need a password.

    image

  4. IMPORTANT: Scrolling down the page, I set my Upstream and Downstream to the following values (below). You may need to experiment to see what gives you the better speed. Some FritzBox's may not have this setting as they may automatically configure these settings for you.
    image
  5. The next step is to plug LAN port 1 on the FritzBox into the BT Infinity Modem sometimes referred to as the BT OpenReach Modem. There should be some cables that came with your install to do this, otherwise a normal network cable should suffice.

That's really all there is to it, you are basically no longer using the DSL part of your FritzBox/ADSL Router you are just making use of its WAN feature, almost as if you were connecting to a cable provider.

posted on Friday, 24 June 2011 19:37:13 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [3]

 Thursday, 16 June 2011
Setting up DasBlog on Windows Server 2008

I've been meaning to do a quick blog article about this for some time so I don't forget. I found setting up DasBlog on Windows Server 2008 pretty difficult. I currently run DasBlog on a Windows Server 2008 server with the following app pool ".Net Framework v2.0 Application pool in Integrated Mode"

One of the issues I discovered was setting up the permissions so that DasBlog could read and write the to the content folders. To do this follow the steps you find here http://learn.iis.net/page.aspx/624/application-pool-identities/ 

Basically you need to give the Application Pool that DasBlog is running under, permission to these folders. So for example setting permission on the content folder to allow the following user IIS AppPool\[your app pool name] read and write access.

posted on Thursday, 16 June 2011 20:12:10 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Thursday, 10 March 2011
Cookie Trouble

I read the following news article with interest about the European Unions new laws that basically state you have to ask the users consent to place a cookie on their machine.  Reading through the new legislation I found the paragraph below, which appears to be the only paragraph that refers to cookies.

"Third parties may wish to store information on the equip­ment  of a user, or gain  access to information  already stored, for a number of purposes, ranging from the legiti­mate (such as certain types of cookies) to those involving unwarranted intrusion into the private sphere (such as spy­ware or  viruses). It is therefore of paramount importance that users be provided with clear and comprehensive infor­mation when engaging in any  activity which could result in such storage or gaining of access. The methods of pro­viding information and offering the right to refuse should be as user-friendly as possible. Exceptions to the obligation to provide information and offer the right to refuse should be limited to those situations where the technical  storage or access is strictly necessary for the legitimate purpose of
enabling the use of a specific service explicitly requested by the subscriber or user
. Where it is technically possible and effective,  in accordance  with the relevant  provisions  of Directive 95/46/EC, the user's consent to processing may be expressed by using the appropriate settings of a browser or other application. The enforcement of these require­ments should be made more effective by way of enhanced powers granted to the relevant national authorities.."

If you look at the second section of highlighted text it appears an exception to this rule is when placing a cookie onto the users machine is to do with the explicit working of the service the user was expecting. So for example if you log into your banks website with a username and password the placing of a cookie onto the users machine without their consent is legitimate as the service would not work without it as the user expected. This is basically how I understood this paragraph.

What I do think will be an issue are people that use analytics packages on their websites (it is unclear if this is covered), paid for advertising and  affiliate tracking programs. I can already think of several organisations such as Google, Yahoo and even MSN/Bing that may be affected by this. I don't feel much thought has gone into this legislation and I am not too sure how this legislation will be enforced. It will not stop affiliate or tracking sites that are not hosted in the EU. It could end up with companies hosting these services or making use of services from countries outside of the EU zone to get around this issue.

One thing that is incredibly difficult to do, and that is to govern how sites work on the Internet. It is not the job of governments but of International bodies how this should work.  What the legislation cannot protect against are spyware and illegal sites making use of this information or tracking users in this way. I also feel that not much thought has gone into how this legislation would be interpreted or if it could possibly destroy how some businesses work.

A rather funny take on this new legislation can be found here

posted on Thursday, 10 March 2011 00:25:18 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [1]

 Saturday, 03 July 2010
The technology push to your living room

I've been reading articles about Google TV, Microsoft, Sony, BT, Sky and (now) Apple with interest regarding their push to your living room to put content on your TV.  There's a hell of a lot of content on the web and the age old issue of watching this content conveniently on your TV instead of having to fire up browsers on your PC is a problem none of the big companies appear to have really solved.

Sure you can watch some of Sky's content on your Xbox 360 now. But you won't get all of Sky's content because of content restrictions enforced by content distributors. You also won't get 4OD, BBC iPlayer or the ITV Player on this service. In addition to that you won't get YouTube, Hulu or Joost. Basically there is not one set top box that will give you all of these services through your TV without having to switch or unplug some box out of the VGA, SCART or HDMI slot on your TV. My guess is that Google are trying to address this with their new set-top box idea. Weather it will work remains to be seen, because at the end of the day it doesn't matter how fancy your platform is, content is still king.

Content distributors also hold a lot of sway, they dictate how their content can be distributed. If a channel is distributed via the Internet and over encrypted satellite in the eyes of the content provider they are separate mediums which require separate content rights. Hence Sky's problem of only being able to broadcast some of their Sky 1 shows via SkyPlayer and blocking the channels for the duration of that show for SkyPlayer customers while satellite customers get to view it.

Likewise content providers may give the writes to distribute a show over a streaming Internet Service with the caveat that it cannot be streamed to a service that connects to a TV as this right could have been solved to a terrestrial provider. This arrangement makes things incredibly difficult while all the user wants to do is watch their TV shows in the most convenient way possible.

I wish Google TV every bit of success although I am struggling to see how they will be able to offer the content we want all through one set top box. In addition to this problem when watching a series on TV sometimes people would like to start from the beginning of a series people are all raving on about. Content providers don't make it easy to get to this content and their appears to be a high amount of people using illegal downloads via services such as Bit Torrent to get to this content. The video/TV entertainment industry appears to be out of touch with how people would like to consume their content. The same thing happened in the music industry which saw a huge shift in how music was distributed which lead to services such as Spotify.

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a service that held just about every movie, TV series, documentary that had ever been made, made available on demand? You could pay for the content per item or for a monthly fee have access to all of it?

posted on Saturday, 03 July 2010 10:42:38 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Wednesday, 05 September 2007
China Cyber Hacking the west

Its quite interesting how Western countries have accused China of hacking into their systems. What I really can't understand is if these systems are so critical to the country and there are so many secrets on them, why put those machines on the Internet to begin with?

Its not rocket science just pull the cable that connects the server to the Internet. Have your own private network not connected in any way to the Internet.

posted on Wednesday, 05 September 2007 21:37:15 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Monday, 20 August 2007
Favourite web sites blocked at work?

Every now and again I hear friends talking about how popular web sites such as Facebook, My Space, Google Mail, You Tube and Bebo are blocked by their work. CatPass.info is a site that acts as a proxy to sites that have been blocked. In return  (nothing is free in this world!) you get some adverts thrown in at the top of your browser. Not a big price to pay to enable you to see these once blocked sites?

posted on Monday, 20 August 2007 20:56:50 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Sunday, 19 August 2007
BBC iPlayer Try 2

Okay after rebooting my machine twice I finally got the BBC iPlayer to work. Wehoo!

What can I say it actually works! The picture however is very "letterbox" style and not really 100% optimised for computer screens. Oh well will download some more now and see what I get. 

posted on Sunday, 19 August 2007 20:36:23 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Sunday, 22 July 2007
BT Home Hub pain in the ar*e

The BT Home Hub I have installed in place of my Conexant Hasbani router has recently started being a real pain in the ar*e. For no reason at all it will drop the Internet Connection and commence downloading updates from BT to update the firmware. It does this without disconnecting the BT Home Hub phone (one of the reasons I went for the hub) but it drops every other Internet connection.

I use the Internet a hell of a lot for work and dropping a VPN connection or a remote Citrix connection is not fun when you are in the middle of some important work. Yes I understand that BT wants to update the firmware but not when I'm using the hub and definitely not when I'm working on the damn thing! If this continues I am going to rip the damn thing out and go back to the Conexant. The Conexant is a simple bit of equipment but it works and is reliable. BT obviously weren't thinking straight when they decided to run updates on the Home Hub, and I suggest if they want this piece of equipment to be key to their new strategic idea of bringing TV, Phones and other services into the home that they had better think good and hard about standard of service. If you are going to update a piece of software you ask first you don't just disconnect people and let them lose their work.

posted on Sunday, 22 July 2007 00:05:18 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]