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Broadband upgrade

There have to be good reasons for living in Birmingham. Apparently one is no end of good Balti restaurants. As I am not keen on hot, spicy food this does not appeal to me. The other is fast broadband speeds. I have just upgraded from Plusnet 8Mb to Plusnet fibre-optic 76 Mb and my connection now really motors. I wouldn’t get that in the “sticks”.

There were two things I noticed about the engineer when he came to install it. First he was in a B.T van. I guess B.T do the installations for all the different providers. Second he was not looking too confident. He had the look of someone new on the job. He duly got on with it and after a while announced he had completed the task. The problem was the modem and router were by the front door where the B.T box enters the house. Not many people keep their computer at the front door. I pointed out that the current Plusnet equipment was upstairs in the study. He moved both boxes up there, but they would not work. He suggested it was the internal lines. I said it was working when he arrived.

After some discussion he said he could run a cable up the stairs that would solve the problem. I was not keen as it would be very visible and ugly, but in the end I agreed as working at my computer by the front door was a none starter. I helped a little with the drilling of holes through walls to thread the cable and we had it in place quickly. Then he started to fit the plugs to the cable ends. He was struggling, looked puzzled and announced that he needed to go fetch some different plugs. I never saw him again. Loose cables sticking out of walls was what he left me with and no broadband.

The Plusnet help desk were excellent. A quick answer and positive advice from someone who clearly knew his job very well. First he asked me if I had a laptop I could use by the front door for testing purposes. He waited while I set this up and moved the modem and router downstairs again. He then talked me through some steps to get the broadband working. Then he asked me to describe the new cable the engineer was installing. He said this was a waste of time as the new broadband will not work over internal telephone lines. This was the only disappointing point with Plusnet. Their website and information leaflets did not make it clear that they only installed the cable to the point the B.T line enters your house. Any cables from there were my responsibility.

I had three choices. First the Wifi from the router was working so I could use that, but my two desktops do not have Wifi. Also this is always slower than using a cable network and I would not get the full benefit of 76 Mb. Second I could install the network devices that use the house mains system to get around the house. This consists of two plugs that go into the mains sockets in two different rooms. Then the network passes along the mains cable between these two plugs. The specification stated 200Mb maximum speed so I expected this to work well. It did not. Speed tests on the broadband gave about 40Mb, while at the front door I was getting 70-80 Mb. I used to test it.

Thirdly I could install a LAN cable from the front door to the study. I had an old, very long cable in the loft from a previous life and the next day fitted this. It is a simple job, but time consuming as furniture has to be moved, carpets and floorboards lifted to thread the cable through and more holes drilled in walls, but when complete I have super fast broadband in the study.

It really does move fast. Upload speeds are about 19Mb. I probably upload 800-1000 hi-res jpeg pictures a month online and if I did a batch of 100 had to leave it running overnight before, which was not a problem unless it failed. To some servers it failed frequently and it might take several nights to get an upload through. Now I can do 100 pictures in about 30 minutes.

Wonderful. Until I started to get corrupted pictures. This was a real puzzle. Some of the uploaded pictures lost pixels. It was intermittent and took a while to pin down. At first I thought it only occurred when loading from one hard drive, but finally proved it did not matter which drive. I looked at the settings in the Filezilla FTP program I use. It is possible to restrict the upload speed and after a bit of experimenting I found that if I set a maximum of 400 Kb per second I get no corruption. That is still very fast and I am content with it.

It would be interesting to know why it corrupts though. I would expect the data to use a parity check on the buffers to ensure what is sent is received. Apparently not, but I am a little out of my depth here.

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