Weak French Connection

Having recently gone on holiday I wasn’t that surprised to find, as I did the previous year, poor 4G speeds whilst on the campsite in France.

Over the last few months we thought we wouldn’t be going on holiday at all because of Covid-19 and the lockdown. We had thought about going away in the UK, we looked at York but it was proving expensive and things we wanted to do weren’t open. At the end of July we checked a few sites and found that we could book a Eurocamp holiday relatively cheaply, especially compared to the UK holidays we had been looking at. We did wonder about the impact of Covid-19, but the story in France appeared to be less risky than in the UK! So we booked the holiday and five days we were driving down to Folkestone to catch the Eurotunnel.

As we entered France, thank you EU roaming legislation as my Three account easily connected to a French network. I recovered the obligatory SMS from Three which stated that I could use my allowances in France as though I was in the UK. I have an unlmited calls, text and data plan, however I was limited to a 20GB limit on data. We were only in France for six days so I thought that should be okay.

We were staying at the La Croix Du Vieux Pont campsite and though the phone said I had a good 4G signal, alas the speeds were nothing to text home about.

In the morning the connection wasn’t too bad, but by early evening the connection was not just poor, but intermittent as well. I did an (unscientific) speed test and you can see I was struggling to get more than 3Mbps download speeds on 4G.

I am guessing partly that the issue was, we were in a somewhat rural location. When we visited Paris, though I didn’t use my phone much, I think the connection was much better (which was to be expected).

The campsite, in theory, had wifi, but this wasn’t very good either by our caravan. In the first half of the week we could connect to the wifi for free, but this was “fixed” by the second half, where we would have to pay. So we became dependent on the 4G connection.

This was critical towards the end of the holiday as we had to fill in an online UK government form before we got back to the UK. We did manage this, but using the connection for anything apart from e-mail or basic web browsing was out of the question.

It was interesting to see that we could get 4G in the Eurotunnel, I had assumed that this wouldn’t be possible, but it worked, partly because we had already switched and connected to the French mobile phone network, so we remained on that as we went through the tunnel.

Top Ten Blog Posts 2018

Over the last twelve months I have published 19 posts.

The post at number ten was from ten years ago, and contained a (now deleted) YouTube video on the new Skyfire browser for your Windows smartphone or PDA. Skyfire discontinued its Skyfire Web Browser in 2014.

The post at nine was now a rather dated post from ten years ago about how Scrabble’s owners were going to sue Scrabulous.

The eight most popular post was another ten year old post which was about when Apple was offering some free TV shows on iTunes.

The seventh post was from 2012 when my HP Photosmart printer died. My printer is dead! was a sorry tale about how replacing the ink cartridges on the HP B110a resulted it in destroying the print head.

The post at number six was Comic Book Fonts which was about the amazing comic book fonts from Comic Book Fonts.

The post at number five was wondering Where are my Comic Life Styles? I found them.

The fourth most popular post was about the free wifi (or lack of) on my holiday, Haven no wifi.

Polaroid Pogo printer

The post at three was about Dusting off the Pogo my old Polaroid Bluetooth pocket printer. Still going strong.

The second post was about when my iMac Fusion Drive Failed and had to have it replaced.

So the most popular post on the blog was my post about QR codes on chocolate bars, Cadbury QR Coding and Twirling was published in 2015 and was one of many posts I published on the use of QR codes back then.

Cadbury Twirl Bites QR Code

Where did my hotspot allowance go?

checking my e-mail

When I got my iPhone 6S Plus in 2015, I got a new phone contract and moved providers. The SIM only contract was with Three and came with unlimited data. However this was unlimited on the phone only, there was an allowance for hotspot, which was only 4GB. This was initially problematic as at home we had a very poor ADSL connection, so I would use the hotspot quite often when I was frustrated with my poor connectivity. As a result I would need to keep an eye on my usage. Quite often I would run out. 4GB was generally fine for simple browsing or e-mail, but would quickly run out if I was streaming video.

I did think about increasing the allowance, but the packages available weren’t cheap. Today Three’s unlimited data contract has a 30GB hotspot allowance. Why don’t I upgrade? Well my contract is just £17 a month, the current unlimited data contract is now £30 a month. However since my home broadband was upgraded to fibre I’ve stopped using the hotspot feature at home, reserving it for trips and visits, again mainly for browsing and e-mail. The 4GB allowance has been fine for this kind of internet activity.

A recent trip away to Glasgow made me aware to still carefully check my usage. I was away staying at the Premier Inn which came with free wifi. According to the blurb the free version of the wifi was for browsing and e-mail and the Ultimate version of the wifi was for streaming. Testing the free wifi, I found it worked fine for streaming Netflix. So there I was watching my favourite TV shows on the iPad and though the free wifi wasn’t brilliant, it was working. As I watched the next episode I found the quality had improved, this is alright I thought. Then another episode…

Then I got a SMS from Three saying I had nearly used my hotspot allowance. I was confused, it was only five days since it had reset. Where had my allowance gone? I then noticed that my iPad wasn’t connected to the hotel wifi it was now connected to my iPhone’s hotspot.

What happened was that previously at the Airport I had connected my laptop to the hotspot, but hadn’t turned it off. My iPad was connected to the hotel wifi, however that connection must have stopped or dropped and then the iPad found and connected to the hotspot network automatically. So when the hotel wifi came back it didn’t re-connect. So the quality of the Netflix stream had improved because of the new connection… the downside was that it sucked up all of my hotspot allowance.

Will I upgrade, no, because it was an error and though it may happen again, I am quite content with a 4GB limit.

Tech Stuff: Top Ten Blog Posts of 2017

Over the last twelve months I have published 26 posts, many of these were about my return to fibre. So it is nice to see that the tenth most popular post on the blog this year was from nearly a year ago.  We will have fibre in “12 months”!  I said back then that according to BT Openreach we would have fibre within twelve months, I was slightly sceptical, but nine months after publishing that post I did get fibre.

new fibre cabinet 25

The ninth post was about when my iMac Fusion Drive Failed and had to have it replaced.

The post at number eight was another post about my fibre journey, Still checking… was when the cabinet was activated, but alas wasn’t accepting orders.

The seventh post was from 2012 when my HP Photosmart printer died. My printer is dead! was a sorry tale about how replacing the ink cartridges on the HP B110a resulted it in destroying the print head.

The post at six was about  Dusting off the Pogo my old Polaroid Bluetooth pocket printer. Still going strong.

Polaroid Pogo printer

The fifth post was how I don’t like BT FON which was originally published in 2011.

The post at number four was wondering Where are my Comic Life Styles? I found them.

The third most popular post was about the free wifi (or lack of) on my holiday, Haven no wifi

The post at number two was Comic Book Fonts which was about the amazing comic book fonts from Comic Book Fonts.

So the most popular post on the blog was my post about QR codes on chocolate bars,  Cadbury QR Coding and Twirling was published in 2015 and was one of many posts I published on the use of QR codes back then.

Cadbury Twirl Bites QR Code

You have been using too much wifi

GWR HST in 1976 colours

I’ve noticed that GWR (who were First Great Western) have started to limit their customers’ use of wifi. Three years after free wifi was introduced on their high speed trains, they’ve realised that it’s very popular and have implemented restrictions.

I've noticed that GWR (who were First Great Western) have started to limit their customers’ use of wifi. Three years after free wifi was introduced on their high speed trains, they’ve realised that it’s very popular and have implemented restrictions.

Back in 2007 I wrote an article, This is the age of the train… talking about the refurbishment by FGW, then I said

Do you think I should point out to First Great Western that some train operators provide free wireless on their trains, or do you think that would be pushing it?”

After seven years in 2014, it looked as though they finally listened and added wifi to their carriages on their high speed services from Bristol to London. Back then when trying it out I discovered.

The speed, as you might expect travelling at 125mph is inconsistent, but having done a speed test I was hanging to get between 5-9 Mbps which is more than reasonable. I was also able to stream video using YouTube and iPlayer.

I also asked the question:

Will the travelling public use the wifi, what with 4G and 3G so much more commonplace than back in 2007?

Well it certainly looks like they have been using it, hence the restrictions that GWR have put in place.

It’s nice that they also let you know how it is being used and how much bandwidth is available.

It's nice that they also let you know how it is being used and how much bandwidth is available.

It isn’t surprising that they need to do this, as technically I can’t see them being able to increase the bandwidth easily, so it make sense to restrict usage.

Having said that 15MB is not very much, not in this day of HTML e-mail messages, attachments, Twitter, Facebook and so on…

Well at least it’s still free. Hey Cross Country are you listening?

Me, well I still using my own 4G connection, it’s faster and unlimited data is greater than 15MB.

Wifi on the tube

On the tube

Finally managed to sort out getting wifi access on the London Underground through my Three account on my phone. You need to set it up above ground, which I did, but didn’t quite get my password right, so when I was down on the tube, it didn’t work the first time. After resetting my password I was able to connect to the underground wifi.

It only really works at the stations on the tube, not in the tunnels. However with the short time between stations you can still do stuff like read web sites, do the Twitter and send e-mail.

What I find it most useful for is tracking train times as I return to Paddington after working in London.

Melting the Wi-Fi

The canal in Birmingham

Back in the early noughties I remember attending edtech conferences and the wifi failing to cope with the number of delegates. That wasn’t surprising, they were often using a single wireless access point and when sixty plus edtech delegates hit the event with their laptops and PDAs it wasn’t much of a surprise to find the lone access point failing to deliver any wifi.

Even today I have been to events where the wifi struggles as delegates with their laptops, iPads, smartphones connect to the wifi. It is partly about the number of devices, it is also about how they are using the connection, refreshing twitter, uploading photographs, streaming video like Periscope. I also think that some people may take advantage of the fast connection (sometimes inadvertently) to download updates, podcasts and video.

The canal in Birmingham

At the recent UCISA Spotlight on the Digital Capabilities event in Birmingham, the conference centre wifi, which in theory could cope with 250 wireless clients, failed to deliver a stable consistent wifi connection. I found that if my laptop was connected to the wifi, it not only took time to get a connection, but every so often the connection would drop. I would say that when I had a connection it was fast and consistent. I felt lucky that I could still tweet and upload photographs using my phone on my Three 4G connection. I was getting over 60Mb/s on that connection in the main auditorium. I was quite pleased that the seats in the auditorium had tables and power sockets.

60Mb/s

The thing is, a conference with delegates from the edtech world are probably going to melt the wifi as most conference centres don’t plan their capacity on the extremes. For most events it probably works just fine. Personally since those early days I have come less and less to rely on the conference wifi, using a 3G dongle, 3G tethering, a 4G WiFI Hotspot to my current 4G tethering. This means that not only do I not worry so much about melting wifi, but it frees up the bandwidth for somebody else, and I think I might a pretty heavy user of bandwidth!

Haven no 4G, well not quite no 4G

Though I have been pleased with the 4G coverage I get from Three at home in Weston-super-Mare and at work in Bristol, as well as travelling. I was pleased with the coverage I got recently in Dublin, but I didn’t expect anything less.

Going on holiday down to Cornwall I did wonder if I would be getting any coverage at the Perran Sands Haven resort we would be staying at. Checking Ofcom’s coverage map it was apparent that there wasn’t much hope.

Perran Sands

Arriving at the resort I wasn’t too surprised that in the caravan there was no signal of any kind. I was a little surprised to find that climbing the sand dune next to us, I could get a 4G connection! Not too practical to climb a dune to stream Netflix.

There was supposed to be free wifi in the central hub, but as mentioned in a previous post about the Haven wifi, my expectations about this weren’t too high, and I never did manage to see the free wifi network let along connect to it.

I wasn’t too worried about having a connection to the internet whilst on holiday, I was quite happy to leave the Twitter for a while, I certainly wasn’t going to worry about e-mail, but it would have been nice to be able to stream some video, or read the news. So in the end I watched the occasionally bit of live television and I also read books and newspapers.

Tech Stuff – Top Ten Blog Posts of 2015

Not too many posts on the tech blog this year,  surprised though that the post  Google Glass is Dead, or is it… didn’t make the top ten!

Looking at fonts especially those designed for comic strips was the tenth most popular posting in 2015. Written in 2010 it was about the excellent Comic Book Fonts available. Read the post Comic Book Fonts.

Thinking about the Apple TV back in 2012 was the ninth most popular post on the blog. Apple TV Thoughts was quite a long post on my reflection on the Apple device.

apple_tv-q410-angled-lg

The eighth post is from 2008 when Apple added free episodes to the iTunes Store. The high ranking for this post is probably down the blog post title: Free iTunes TV Shows (on UK iTunes Store).

A few years ago my HP printer died when I replaced the inks. The seventh most read post is about my dead printer. My printer is dead!.

HP PhotoSmart B110a

I haven’t done a podcast choice for a while now, but the sixth most popular post on the blog was the second in the series, Podcast Choice #02 – Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4. Quite a popular post as people seem to keep wanting to have my copies of the shows I have downloaded over the years through iTunes.

Comic Life is one of my favourite apps on the Mac, but once I lost my styles and that is at number five. Where are my Comic Life Styles?

Wifi makes an appearance at number four, with my experiences at a Haven Holiday Camp. Haven no wifi.

More Wifi this time with my experiences with BT Wifi networks resulted in the third most read post, called I don’t like BT FON.

In November 2014, we finally got free wifi on First Great Western trains, and my post about this, Finally, free FGW wifi on the train was the second most popular blog post in 2015.

Cadbury Twirl Bites QR Code

I use to post a lot of posts on QR Codes and the most popular post the year was this one from January 2015 about the ones you found on Cadbury chocolate bars. Cadbury QR Coding and Twirling.

Happy New Year and all the best for 2016.

It’s no wonder…

I am not surprised that people can sometimes go over their data limits with modern smartphones such as the iPhone.

I was on the Edinburgh Tram system the other day and it offered free wifi, so I connected and signed in. A little disappointed that there was a 20MB data limit on the free wifi

I was astonished to see the data usage on my phone gobble up the data so fast. Within seconds I had already used 3MB, and all I was doing was watching the sign in page.

 I was on the Edinburgh Tram system the other day and it offered free wifi, so I connected and signed in. A little disappointed that there was a 20MB data limit on the free wifi

I am guessing that the phone was doing something in the background, probably checking e-mail, but what this does show is how much (and how fast) smart phones use data. You can start to imagine the bills if you were using your phone abroad or on a limited data contract.