Posts Tagged ‘ISP’

IMG_0376Well, we knew it was coming, although not for long due to Bell’s incompetence and the shitty way they are handling this “discontinuation of service”.  I was going to title this post “Bell, you suck“, but that title has been used way too often. (even in some variations by me, see here, and here.)

We’ve had the Portable internet or Unplugged service for quite some time now.  They’ve renamed it a few times over the years since Rogers bought up the Inukshuk internet service as part of the Microcell buy out, which ended up becoming a joint venture with Bell back in 2005.  It has never been great as far as speeds go, but at least it was available.  That is, up until now.  About a month back I found out purely by accident that the service was being discontinued at the end of March.  The story behind the shutting down seems different depending who you talk to, but in the end, it wasn’t making enough money is probably the real reason despite all the talk of the CRTC wanting that particular bandwidth back, or that the equipment was dated and in need of replacement, major repair, etc.

It seems this particular internet service has been in the process of being discontinued for some time now, depending upon your area.  I think the intention was to cancel the service once a reasonable replacement was in place.  Sadly, for those like me, that still hasn’t happened.  We are one of the lucky few not included in the government promises to bring high-speed to rural communities, seems we are too close to the city, and yet not far enough away to get coverage from the rural providers.

The worst part of the whole ordeal is the fact Bell really dropped the ball repeatedly in letting its customers know.  I found out while talking to a Bell tech about my slow internet, that the service was actually being discontinued.  I immediately got in touch with Bell internet customer service, and was informed that letters had been sent out to let people know, but strangely many people did not receive them.  WTF?  I was informed again later during another phone call that yes, in fact letters had been sent out a couple of times because there was an issue the first time.  But still, again, many people never got informed.  In this day and age how is it possible to screw up sending a letter to customers?  They would never miss making sure you get your bill, so why not just add it in there.

I got in touch with all the major players, Bell and Rogers, and long list of ISPs that I had never heard of or had little knowledge of.  Xplornet, Execulink, ISP Canada, Teksavvy, Canada Online, Falcon Internet, Allcore, and Terago to name just a few.  None of which could get a signal to my house, with the exception of Terago and they are just way too expensive to be considered a residential provider.  Wind mobile is available, but at a data cap of 10 gig per month, after which they throttle the speed down to 256kbs it is not a viable solution for a household internet service.  Especially one with teenagers that enjoy instagram, youtube, Facebook and netflix way too much.  10 gig would last about a weekend.

As it stands, we are awaiting our new turbo hub modem from Bell to start up our overpriced and data limited mobile internet service, since it is the only service anyone is offering that can reach my house.  I can physically see the city limits from my property, close enough I can read the population sign, but not close enough that any landline services have been upgraded in my area.  So for now, we are struggling by with our cell phones, trying to limit our data usage, and will be sitting in coffee shops and burger joints to do our updating of apps and OSes until such time that the powers that be finally bring real high-speed internet to ALL of the rural customers, and not just some.

barkerp

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I was surprised to get an email from Bell my ISP about the problem that occurred with emails not being received. It shows they are trying to be more transparent and informative, rather than just leaving people wondering what the heck was going on.

But… instead of giving us a vague generic email with very little information, how about adding a link in it to a more detailed description of what happened, who was infected, how widespread it was, etc.  Maybe everyone doesn’t really care about the details, but some of us do like to know what the problem was that got fixed, not just be told it was resolved. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” doesn’t quite cut it with me.

Much like trying to find your email settings, or logging onto webmail with Bell, or finding account information, i find the Bell website tough to find the info you want without digging. Most of the time i end up googling what i am trying to do to find the link i need on the Bell.ca website.  To that end, i’m sure somewhere hidden on their website is an explanation or listing of outages, but why do they make it so tough to navigate to the info you are looking for. You shouldn’t have to put in your email address twice and go through a bunch of redirects and pages to finally get your webmail, and you shouldn’t have to search through forums and news stores to get to the bottom of issues that are  specific to your ISP.

tcg

Getting and Staying connected

Posted: March 17, 2007 in hardware
Tags: , ,

 

I was in a hotel in Dallas for a few days recently, and while playing around with the wireless connections available in the hotel it got me thinking about network connections in general, and some of the problems people may experience just trying to get onto the “interweb” (to quote the master of all things duct-tape Red Green).

Most of the time we use networks that are familiar to us, but the availability of wireless hot-spots is becoming more popular and the number of people traveling with laptops is increasing (point of fact, my flight back home from Texas had half the people in first class with laptops, and about 10 to 15% of the people in economy class with laptops as well.) It would seem that staying connected is important to us, and here’s a few pointers to help you do just that, while experiencing as little frustration as possible.

1. Use a web-based email program when traveling. This will eliminate the need to adjust smtp settings to be able to send your mail. Receiving email using pop is never tough, but sending can be depending upon how the network you are using/borrowing was set up. I can normally make my pop email work, but i may have to try 3 or 4 different outgoing smtp settings to find one that will send, whereas hotmail or gmail or some other web-based email program like that works without any necessary changes at all.

2. Check your network adapter settings. Network switches and server network adapters have to have the duplex settings matched for communication to function correctly. Both must be set to full-duplex or half-duplex. They cannot be mismatched. The computers on a local area network (LAN) typically share a common full-duplex network medium. This configuration permits two computers to transmit data at the same time. Connectivity problems may occur for a number of reasons, but there are two that are quite common for laptop users. If, for instance, the computer was moved to a new Ethernet switch port that automatically senses network speed. However, the computer’s network adapter is configured to force full-duplex communication with a static network transfer speed setting (10 Mbps, 100 Mbps, or 1 gigabit per second [Gbps]) this can cause issues. So you may be saying – huh? – half duplex/ full duplex – what do houses have to do with this?
“Full-duplex permits two-way communication between networked devices. Without full-duplex hardware, information is sent one way and then sent the other way. Packets frequently collide on the network in a half-duplex hardware configuration, and every time a collision occurs, the packets that collided must be resent. This creates even more traffic that can decrease network performance. With full-duplex, transmit and receive paths are separate. Therefore, you can transmit and receive at the same time, and collisions are prevented. Because of the increased throughput and lack of collisions however, full-duplex is more susceptible to bad cable terminations or to cable attenuation that exceeds recommended limits. This can generate data retransmissions that become sufficient to degrade performance.”

3. Another issue is some network adapters or switches with transmission rates of 10/100 megabits per second (Mbps) do not switch over correctly. Some autosense settings may not correctly detect the speed of some network adapters. You may find that “tweaking” your settings, ie: changing your speed, may give you better access speeds than letting your computer decide for itself. Unfortunately you may not have any access to these settings in a public environment, being as you are just using someone else’s equipment that they configured.

4. In the case of a hotel for instance, check with the front desk as to their rules for network usage and settings. If nothing else, they will be able to tell you which network to connect to (many times there is more than one that’ll will show up in your wireless sniffer, and knowing which one you are supposed to be using may speed things up). Sometimes you need to agree to a usage agreement before getting full internet access through their server, other times you may need to get a temporary password to be allowed to sign on.

And finally, always remember, you are borrowing someone else’s bandwidth, so try to be courteous and use it wisely, and only for legal purposes. In a perfect world, in the not to distant future, i can see freely available wireless networks all over the major cities, with hotspots being able to be linked to, the way your cel-phone links from tower to tower, but if we have to limit their usage and installation due to misuse, and end up clicking okay to usage agreements every time we change access points, it will only hinder the progress.

chow y’all (sorry, a bit of texas got in me)
TCG

 

So, i’ve been living with the wireless modem for about a month now, and it’s been mostly a pain in the keister.
The wireless modem is getting it’s signal from the cel-phone towers put up by Inukshuk, which according to info i have read is now a group effort by Bell and Rogers to provide high speed internet to people who can’t get it through the phone lines or through cable, people like me for instance. There are a couple of different “flavours” of the service available depending on who your provider is and how much you want to pay,even though the actual service is from the same place. From their web site,…
“ The Inukshuk Wireless broadband network is currently available in 20 centres across Canada. Built in conjunction with Bell Canada and Rogers Communications, the Inukshuk Wireless network is one of the largest of its kind in the world.
”…
That being said, finding a spot in our house that consistently had a good steady signal proved to be impossible. I would get a signal, but it would be weak, maybe two lights out of the possible five, but even at that it would be intermittent at best, and quite often drop off to one light or even no lights and start searching for a signal again. Not fun if you are browsing the web or checking your email, or worse yet – in the middle of a download.

So, without boring you with all the trials and tribulations of my wandering around the house day after day (no, not constantly, just for a few minutes a day, but every day) looking for a hot spot, i eventually decided I should try in the garage/barn to get a signal. A little back-story is necessary here I think….

I have a barn on my property that was converted into a loft upstairs and a garage downstairs. When I first got the wireless modem, i tried it out upstairs in the loft and got a great signal. The trouble is, I don’t want to go out to the barn every time i want to be connected to the “interweb”. I tried hooking up the modem to my wireless router and did not get a reliable signal in the house, so i gave up on that idea and tried to deal with having a somewhat reliable signal in the house instead, thinking that the router was just not sending a strong enough signal to the house – i wonder if my neighbours were enjoying the free internet though?!?! …hmmm…, anyway, back to the story at hand…
I wandered the barn knowing that i would get the best signal on the south side (one of my many conversations with bell over the past month, had told me that the towers were to the south of me) and found I could get a steady 3 lights with sometimes 4 lights in the upper southeast corner of the garage. So after a little “macgyvering” I got the modem up near the ceiling, and ran a 100 ft ethernet cable over to my wireless router near the front of the garage on the driveway closest to the house. Low and behold, I could get a good signal in the house, mostly near windows or in direct line of site of the router. After a bunch more testing I found out it did not matter if the router was outside or in the garage near a window, the signal strength was the same in the house, so I have permanently mounted the router near a window in the garage closest to the house and have relatively good signal strength within my house since then.
Finally, I have highspeed. And the speed is relatively good as you can see from the benchmark. I got the 1.5meg service and am getting close to that on average now, so it would seem I am finally connected to the world again. As Joni Mitchell (BTW, thanks for the correction timbit) sang many years ago,

“that you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone”.
I didn’t realize how much I relied on my highspeed until I was forced to live without it.
TCG

 

I’ve been going through the horrendous ordeal of moving to a rural location – getting away from the big city, if only by a few miles. It’s been a big change, mostly for good with a few drawbacks, one of which is the change from cable television to satellite TV.
I won’t name any names, but suffice to say my satellite TV provider rhymes with hell, and that is exactly what i went through to get it hooked up and working being as they somehow screwed up the date that it was supposed to be installed. After a dozen or so conversations with various customer service people over the period of a couple of days, being disconnected, transferred, telling the same story over and over again, etc., I eventually found out the root of the problem (someone typed in an incorrect moving date) and managed to arrange for an installer to come to our house and install the satellite dish and program the receivers. Part one of my little personal horror story is over, aside from the lousy reception whenever it storms, but hey, on the bright side more time for family when the boob-tube is off.

Part two begins with transferring my highspeed account to the new house – or at least trying to transfer it. When I first decided to move I checked into the availability of highspeed at the new house and was informed it was available and scheduled the connection and subsequent disconnection of my current service. The trouble is apparently I was misinformed, and in fact highspeed through the phone line is not available at my new house. After another bout of transferring and jumping through hoops, I found out I may be able to use the latest internet service called Unplugged. A wireless modem based on cell-phone type signals. The supposed cut-off point though, is seemingly on the edge of my property and we are just a little outside of the coverage area, but it seemed like my only hope of getting any kind of service other than dial-up so I ordered a modem with the understanding i may be sending it back if the signal strength sucked.

I got the modem the next day after ordering it, so 5 stars for promptness and as soon as i got it home i hurriedly unpacked the modem and wandered around the house plugging it in to see what kind of signal strength i could get in various places. The dining room window seemed to be the best place, so i connected my laptop with the included ethernet cable and viola, i had an internet connection. after a simple online setup to confirm the service and contract i was surfing and collecting my mail. The signal strength kinda sucked so i continued wandering around the house checking for more bars. I also noticed that i was getting a lousy throughput when the modem was connected to my wireless dlink router. It seemed to increase dramatically when i was just using the modem directly connected to the laptop or if a separated the modem from the router instead of having them side by side. On a speedtest i got approx 400 kbs for download when directly connected and only 78 kbs when through the wireless router. This was strange as I have never seen such degrading of a signal when using my router before.

In the second floor window in my loft above the garage, the signal for my wireless modem is 3 to 4 out of a possible 5 bars. sucks. because the wireless router is not strong enough to reach the house from here. damn brick houses. they block the signals too much. i can stand in the driveway and i get a good connection from the modem/router in the loft, but as soon as i go in the house – nothing. and i wasn’t too thrilled with it either being as it was in direct sunlight, and the modem would get very warm. When i did a speedtest in the loft i was getting 1900 kbs with or without the wireless modem, so it seems that the wireless modem is only an issue when you get a poor signal.

I found another “sweet spot” in the house – up above the kitchen cupboards, and with the way the cupboards are constructed there was even a small chase between them to drop the electrical wires through, so it is basically hidden. i’m only getting two out of 5 possible bars, but it is consistent, so that is pretty good. i’ve also separated the modem from the router by about 5 feet which seems to work better, less interference. I’m living with it there for a while to see how things go, at least it is visually a good place for it, rather than sitting on the window ledge.

So all in all my experience with the wireless modem is inconclusive at best. As i stated, i’m a little outside of the coverage area, but with good elevation i can get a decent signal. the range is a problem with the wireless router, not the modem. there are different routers now which may work better and i also heard the new macbooks have better antennas so they might pick up a signal better than my ibook would, but it’s an expensive “might” and i’d rather not buy a $1800 laptop right now just to test it out.

TCG