With the recent announcement by BDUK (Broadband Delivery UK) that the first tranche of the £830 million promised for delivering super-fast broadband, things now start to get interesting. £50 million is up for grabs and the Government has basically said it’s up to local communities, through their local authorities, to come up with ideas and apply for the money. Whether using local authorities is the best vehicle, we’ll see (I though the idea was to give power to the people and cut through the local bureaucracy) but they had to start somewhere. Personally, I would have thought using the local community councils would have been better.

The irony is this-those big councils/authorities will already have access to superfast broadband (lets aim high here and say anything greater than 20Mb/secs is superfast) so it’s the outlying areas, the more rural sort of places we are talking about. Basically where the likes of BT and Virgin either never built or don’t see as immediately profitable. Which in turn will be more technically challenged. You only need to look at the 4 BDUK pilot sites to see that.

Which leads me to those technical challenges. You either go one of two ways-wired or wireless. Wired (cable, fibre optic, copper) is the more long term and feasible way to go because it’s a lot more future proof). Wireless (Wi-Fi) is cheap and relatively easy to install. Wireless also includes the mobile operators but you only need to look at the recent debacle in London with O2 and Iphone users, to see that those chaps are now looking at Wi-Fi to offload the data costs of upgrading their cell systems. The system can’t cope with the amount of bandwidth that hungry smartphones desire. However, wired has an awful lot of up front costs in laying the cable (even if BT go down the fibre to the home route).Wireless is limited (although the review of the 800Mhz spectrum could go a long way to improving things) as it’s an unregulated spectrum, it’s very crowded and has limited distance capabilities).

So what do these local communities do? It all depends on their aspirations. Local people need to decide what they want to do before embarking on this brave new world. The Government defines superfast broadband as > 2Mb/secs. Which is pitiful when you consider that none of the big players now market such a service. Indeed, Virgin dropped it some 2 years ago! If your looking for that sort of speed, I would suggest wireless is the way to go. Anything higher, the limitations of the physics of radio, shared amongst many, start to come in to play and you need to go wired. But wired means ducts, or digging up roads, street cabinets, commercial power, battery backup, local road laws, wayleave-the list goes on and on. Even if you manage to get access to BT ducts, it still will be a long slog. If it was that easy, we would have done it years ago. There is also a perverse irony in the wired/wireless argument-most people in the home use a wireless network but it is brought to them via a wired connection. If you are out of the main broadband areas, the differences in speed between a wireless connection from a street light, or in your home router, start to shrink. But I digress. Ofcom also worry, or should, that in the gold rush for superfast broadband, they end up with a UK that has lots of different technologies and solutions ton what is a common problem.

For me, it’s not the local solution that will be the roadblock-it’s the backhaul. That is, use whatever means to connect communities (I’m trying to get a small wireless network up and running in my area-more out of interest than anything else) but where does the fat pipe come from? Wired will involve the BT route above which, in 99.9% of cases, doesn’t bare thinking about and will be beyond the capabilities of most (though not all), so wireless seems appropriate. My town has about 7,000 people-with about 12 strategically placed mesh transmitters/receivers, with dynamic routing, and  I could blanket the town. 

I don’t think it would be hard to find 12 people who would let me put an aerial on the roof and access to a power socket in the loft. Indeed, with the local authority help, there are enough of their buildings where this could be the case. We have a lot of people in outlying areas (farmers and rich people J ) where wireless would be ideal, through P2P (point to point radios), and most probably increase their broadband speeds. Again, ironically, it’s probably those who need it the most. That backhaul would need to be a minimum 1Gb/sec, upgradeable, to satisfy the needs of local people. The counter argument is if all your aiming for is 2Mb/secs, then you don’t need this but it really is a pitiful speed-one stream of BBi Player and your maxed out. This is the part that needs an answer, not the local bit. So far, I’ve not seen this. People are concentrating on how to connect people-that is easy, with wireless.

Unfortunately, this is where you need a big player, with wired connections. Which usually means BT, and/or a service partner/provider. It also costs a fortune. Which means we are back to the beginning again. It will be interesting to see how this all pans out, and what/where/how the money can be spent on. I hope that BDUK will help in this part as the local part is the easy bit.

Been lazy (and busy) so not has a chance to post. Besides I’m not one of these bloggers who feels they have to put something up just for the sake of my viewing figures. As my wife says, quality over quantity ;-)

DLNA-or to give it its proper name Digital Living Network  Alliance. Big name, rubbish sounding but it’s all around us. PVR’s (Personal Video Recorder). It should actually say DVR (Digital Video Recorder) but the two names are interchangeable. Most people know the latter, few know the former. Thing is, you’ve got a DLNA TV or a DLNA client (PS3 is one) and you probably don’t even know it. And probably don’t even use it. So why is it a big deal?

Well, it’s all to do with the magical expression that media companies and Internet providers will stuff down our throats called the “digitally connected home”. There-I said it. Sky will say they do it, with their multi-room facility and Virgin Media would like to say it but they’re not quite there-yet. Freeview is even worse, as you need a separate box for each room and there is no way to watch one programme on one box, on another TV.The big problem with this is you need a separate box for each room-pain in the b*tt, extra power, need one for each of the kids and costs you a fortune. Plus it isn’t scalable. Be honest-how often do you watch Sky Movies? Thing is, the media barons will have you believe that you need them-you don’t. In the US, this is called cord cutting-that is, people are ditching their traditional Pay TV subscriptions and streaming straight from the content providers-NetFlix & LoveFilm are two examples. In a few years, the TV will again become the centrepiece of the family home but this time with the Internet content on it.

(I hear people complaining that this doesn’t cater for Premnium TV-true, but Freeview is by far the biggest provider of TV in the UK-and always will  be. You could always supplement your viewing experience with a Slingbox  ;-))

What you do like is the flexibility they give you, to tie in with your busy lives. I always look at my family and friends, rather than some media marketing nutjob, to make me stop and think what people want. My wife very rarely watches anything “primetime”-she’ll watch it delayed. Why? Because a) it fits round her life and b) she can fast forward through the adverts. So I’ve set the scene and hopefully you get the point.

So you have the big TV (s), you don’t have the time and you want the flexibility-how do you do it? With DLNA, stupid. I’ll go on to describe, with a little thought and some cash outlay, how you get all your programmes, wherever you want, when you want.

Home DNLA set-up
Step 1-fire up that old desktop PC you consigned to the loft. This will be you media centre-where you have all you videos, your music and wait for it, your TV recordings. You’ll need 3 things-a TV tuner card (about £50) and 2 bits of free software. The first part is called MediaPortal and the second part is PS3MediaServer. You install the software and the tuner-tip-try to get a connection to the tuner card (which is a USB stick-no need to pull apart the PC) from your external aerial. It will come with a small internal one but unless you’re close to your TV transmitter, you won’t pick up all the channels. Might be a bit of hassle but it will be worth it.

Step 2-get your TV or client connected up to the media server PC. Now, I’m assuming if you’re reading this, you have a broadband connection. If you’re really lucky, and not like me, you’ll have a Virgin Media broadband connection-which means you’ll have blazing speeds, as well as a router. This router supplies your wireless connection and wired-I specifically mention the wired (Ethernet) side of things as that part seems to have been forgotten in the mad rush for everything wireless (see my earlier posts). I blame that bald guy and his slightly ugly female partner on the Gadget show-or Dick and Fluff as I call them. A lot of the TV’s, which have DLNA, have the facility to connect to your router via a special wireless dongle-tip-don’t bother. They will also have an Ethernet port on the back-use this with a Powerline adaptor. It’s cheaper, and faster. You can do it wireless but wireless doesn’t really scale to high-def video, plus you’re in a very congested airwaves scenario-go for wired, you won’t regret it. As your TV will need to be near a power socket, you can use these all round the house-you can now get ones with in-line sockets so you don’t even need an extension. So idea is, wherever you have a TV, stick in a Powerline adaptor. These are all connected to the router (and hence your media server) by another Powerline adaptor. If you’re really adventurous, you could just run CAT5 cabling all round your house and dispense with the adaptors but I guess you really can’t be bothered drilling holes through your walls and putting your foot through ceilings.

Step 3-ahh, but what if you have an older TV or one that doesn’t have DLNA? Well, this is where this little beauty comes in-£60 and it fits in the palm of your hand. An extra bonus is that it can also do some Internet “stuff”, like YouTube and suchlike. No hardrive, it really is meant for streaming, but you can connect USB drives off the back of it (powered or pen drive).It would also fit very nicely strapped on the back of a wall mounted LCD/LED TV.

Step 4-addtional software to make your life easier. For remote control of the media centre (you don’t even need a monitor) get TeamViewer-stick the main app on your laptop and the client app on your media centre. No more running back and forward. The more canny of you will realise that with a PC as the hub, you can download other “stuff”. Maybe a few torrents with the likes of Utorrent?

So you now have the software, you have the hardware and they are all connected up-sorted. Hopefully the diagram will show you what I mean. Because your TV’s will all have Freeview built in, you still have all your channels as before, for the usual real-time experience. The programmes will be recorded to media centre PC-in my experience, a 30 minute show will take up about 400MB of space (about half a CD). Whereas a 90 minute film will be about 1-2GB of data (half of a DVD). But you can get a 1TB (terabyte) drive for about £50 now so you have oodles of space-as as with your PVR/DVR, you can simply delete the files to clear up space.

Additional Notes (techy bits)

DLNA server software-I prefer PS3MediaServer as you don’t have to continually update/refresh your library as the likes of TV Versity and Serviio require-I Iike the latter but the PS3MS lets you browse all your drives

Media Centre software-yes, you can use the inbuilt Windows supplied one (if your operating system came with it), or you could use the likes of GBPVR but I find Media Portal to be much more feature rich and user friendly, especially where the EPG (Electronic Program Guide) is concerned.

Freeview PVR’s-there are some PVR’s coming onto the market now that have networking capabilities but they are pricey (£300) and probably best to wait until they become mass market. Besides, its just another cost.

So this is a brief intro to getting that media content around the home-hope you've found it useful!

If you've been following the news websites recently, you'll know there has been a breaking story detailing a breach on the corporate website of ACS:LAW
ACS:Law are a company who chase people, on behalf of the movie and record industry, who download content that they shouldn't be-in laymans terms, movies and music. Usually from illegal sources and distributed by Torrent sites and other P2P programs (Limewire is an example). **Update**-I had to link to the wiki article as the ACS:Law website is down-I wonder why?
The main thrust of the story is that a hacker group managed to get inside the servers of said company and obtain files detailing not only IP address's (the "fingerprint" of your broadband connection) but the customer details of who owns that connection. This group, being the charitable souls that they are, then put these files up on the web for anybody to download and view-ironically on the same Torrent systems that were used by the people fingered in the ACS:LAW files. They are still there-go to any Torrent site (here's one I am reliably informed that will point you in the right direction-I wouldn't know being an honest chap). You'll need a Torrent client to download the files-again, so I'm told.I still think Netscape is groundbreaking technology in action :-)

Just to rub salt on the wounds the UK's Information Commissioner has said the company may face a fine of up to £500,000 for this breach of the Data Protection Act. The irony increase as this has happened in the same week that the ICO have issued guidelines for small and medium business's to protect this sort of data-ouch!

Now, I've not seen these files as I keep away from torrents and all that but I'm reliably informed (I'm well informed me) that there are customer details, postcodes etc for each infringement of copyright. So if you download the files, you can look at the various peeps and see if your neighbour is one of the "bad people". Again, if I was betting man and reading the various articles on the web, I bet the files being downloaded, especially the movie ones, are not the type you would show your mother-more likely there's a mother in them-all the above is alledged of course.

So what's this got to do with wireless you say? What's you point matey? My point is, if you know about the likes of ACS:Law and what they do, and you still want to get these files, would you be likely to do it on your own broadband connection? Nope. You'd use someone else's (an open/unsecured wireless one) or you'd hack into a weakly configured wireless network (again, using the likes of aircrack facilitates this-so I'm told). This is probably the most high profile news story to date I can think of that demonstrates why you need to have a very high level of wireless security on your home broadband network.

So if you don't want a letter demanding £££'s for a copy of Debbie Does Dagenham because your wireless broadband connection is open to the world and his porn hound, drop us a line or look at some of the tutorials.
Happy downloading ;-)
Powerline/Homeplug-take your pick. I have a few Samsungs TV's with the DNLA client functionality within them.Basically, your TV becomes a media extender.I use a program on my main PC called Serviio-check it out, its ace. It beats the likes of TV Versity into a pulp-beleive you me, I've tried them all and this one is not only free, it has a nice clean interface and it *works*.
Anyway I digress-I have more than one TV-the other main TV is in another room, away from the PC which has Serviio. I dont have direct Ethernet connectivity and the walls/floor prohibit me from running cables. I want to be able for my kids to watch films (or me) in this room. I have tried wireless but wireless, believe it or not, does not lend itself to media streaming, especially when you get onto the Blu-ray DVD's or HD. It just doesn't. When I say wireless, I mean taking a wireless router and popping on the likes of DD-WRT firmware-this extends the functionality with things like repeater functions. But what I found was that when you get to the 9-10Mb/secs rate (Fantastic Mr Fox is an example), you get stuttering/freezing etc-and then the cry from the kids comes up "Dad-the TV is preparing to play again"!
So I looked at Powerline-basically its a technology that has been about for years (I remember discussing it in 2000) which really should have beaten wireless hands down, in the home, but for some reason (regulation,standards bodies etc) it lagged and wireless filled the void. Wireless was going the same way but the vendors got sick of the regulators and just started launching products-consumers lapped it up and Wi-Fi was born.
Powerline uses the mains circuits in the home to tranfer Ethernet data-same idea as wireless (a conversion ) but not through the air.You need at least 2 adaptors-one connected usually to your home router (the assumption being your main PC is also connected to the router) and the other at the TV. Another reason Powerline has not flew are the prices-your still looking at £40-50 UK for just one circuit-this adds up for a big house and you dont get the conveince of wireless. And this only gets you the "basic" bandwidth model-I'll come onto that shortly. What also happens is that you take up a mains plug socket-so you really need a double socket next to the TV (one for your Powerline box and the other for your TV), or you get a passthru Powerline unit (more expense again). And guess what?-Powerline hates extension leads (I quote from the ZyXel website FAQ " It is not advised to use PowerLine HomePlug Adapters with an extension lead as this can lead to a degradation of throughput signal or in case stop the signal completely") Oh yes, they despise each other.So you can see the consumer barriers starting to come up here-price, functionality and ease of use. And for some reason, some companies think that electric blue is a nice colour to have sticking out of your sockets, rather than white-my wife particularly hates those ones! There are also security issues but unless your in a flat, you should be ok.
Perfromance wise-this does grate on me-you have 3 standards at the moment-by speed it is 14Mb/secs,85Mb/secs and 200Mb/secs. As with wireless, you will get nowhere near this speed.The 14M/secs I could manage 5Mb/secs throughput, the 85Mb/secs I could manage 25Mb/secs-I've not tried the 200Mb/secs because frankly, I'm not shelling out for a 3rd time to be dissapointed. And the above speeds were 2 laptops, on 2 Powerline adaptors, on the same wall socket-start going between rooms or different ring circuits and the speed drops dramatically.My house is only 10 years old so the electrics are fine. Its just not very good.
So I'll be using Powerline as a filler at the moment-dont be fooled by the claims. If you can run Ethernet cables, please do-it really is the only way.The other suggestion is you use a combination of wireless for low bandwidth/easy use/conveince with Powerline for point to point circuits. But dont depend on one of the two to fill all your needs as you'll be dissapointed. With the media home on its way, somebody better had come up with an alternative to wired Ethernet or plasterers will be in big demand shortly
First of all apoligies-I've not found the time to keep the blog up to date. It's a mixture of work and laziness :-)
I've been meaning to write about this for a while-BT FON. What's that then I hear you cry-and if your a BT customer, then that wouldn't surprise me! BT FON is a freebie that BT throw into your home broadband wi-fi connection. Essentially if you give a bit up of your wi-fi connection for public consumption, you can then use other BT FON users bandwidth when your out and about-sounds great. A massive source of untapped broadband supply, just waiting for you, the loyal BT user, to use. One problem-most users dont know they have signed up for this service.On all new users, the facilty is opt-in by default-that is, BT have it turned on on your router when it is shipped to you/ bought by you. Which is fine if you get your 8Mb/secs (lucky you) but not so if your getting a few Megs. I'm surprised more has not been made of this when you consider the Facebook row over privacy settings story.You would think a big company basically making decisons on what some people see as important as their gas, electricity and water-giving it away from free-would have eliicted some sort of response but no. I think a lot of just amplifies the general ambiliance and ignorance most broadband users have towards that home connection.Think of it this way-its like the Water company saying if you give up some water from your garden hose connection, you can use someone else's when your out. Thing is:
1) I doubt if you would sign up for it
2) you wont use it very often
3) the reason for 1 is 2
But they've stuck a big map up on the Web where all those free taps are-dont believe me? Try this and stick in your postcode-ok, here's one I did earlier
Random BT FON map
The large blue circles represent areas where the indivdual wi-fi hotspots are so many, BT need to show this as one big circle.Now I'm sorry, I know that the British are known for their generosity but I simple dont believe that all those people are 1) giving up their bandwidth and 2) are doing it of their own free will. Come on-the Brits are so paranoid  do you think they are going to let their neighbours onto their wi-fi? No chance. Not a Scooby Doo in hell's chance.

But I mentioned exploit in the header-now, the way BT FON works is it takes the "pie" that is your broadband connection and slices it up-with you keeping about 90% (based on a 8Mb/secs connection-lol) and the other 10% goes to Joe Bloggs looking for porn or some torrents under the radar, parked outside or next door. It is secure (WPA/WPA2), but secure comes with a caveat-WPA will be broken in the next few years, its only matter of time. As discussed in a previous post, there are now cloud services willing to do the job for you of finding that elusive password.Anyway I digress.Somebody will find a hole in this system and crack it wide open-if its not been been done already and the blackhats are just keeping Mum about it. And yes, you do need to sign in with your BT FON username and password-you know, that same one you ask your Mum and Dad for when you want to get your email......

The biggest shame about this is that in these day where we talk about the broadband poor, that BT havent worked out a way to build a super mesh network for the whole country-think about it-thousands,millions of wi-fi access points being combined together for the greater and common good.Now that's a good idea.
Looks like WPA as a step up from WEP for protecting your wireless home network will soon be dead in the water. Cloud computing is now being offered (for a small fee) by not one, but two, operators. This technology offers to take a WPA capture file (which can easily be obtained by the likes of Aircrack) and combined with your SSID (the advertisement that you see when you fire up your laptop). The clever thing is that it takes this SSID and tailors the "attack" on the password. Unlike WEP, the attack is still brute force in nature, in that it uses a dictionary attack. Granted, the dictionary is an eye-watering 540 million long list of words, so if your password is long enough and random enough, then your safe. Unfortunately, most people don't use long and random passwords-duh.
Its only a matter of time before others get in on this market and/or someone gives it away for free. WPA2 is an option but either people wont/dont know about this option or their hardware wont support it. Or cant be bothered to change it.

Time to look out that cabling tool.
There is a lot on the Net about using DD-WRT with Linksys routers. I've got about 5 of these routers, running all the way form v1 to v5. If you've found this blog via Google, looking for information on this firmware, then your probably looking for some answers on is it right to use it or is it right to keep it. I've thought about using Tomato but what disturbed me was the lack of defence for DD-WRT
Now don't get me wrong-I'm not a DD-WRT fanboy, or any of the firmware variants. I nearly got kicked off the Sveasoft forums for questioning the great man-if you want to really feel the pain of non-delivery, crap GUI, broken promises then go over there-he excels in that.I waited 2 years for a hotspot solution-never got one and found DD-WRT. To charge $20 is an affront to commercial business sense but that's another story
Anyway, I digress-DD-WRT is a firmware that exploits the various versions of the Linksys router set (and a few more). It is feature rich (some would say too much but you can never have enough of a good thing).The very first thing that struck me about the DD-WRT stuff was the GUI-it was so much cleaner than anything I had seen before-and you can have it in different colours!
Here my thoughts on some of the crtitcal comments I have seen:
  • You have to reboot when you apply new settings-well, if your setting it up, you shouldn't have live traffic on it anyway-and once it is set up, why would you be constantly having to fiddle with it? Not a big problem in my case.
  • Its become commercialised and its against the GPL-so what? I'm not into the Linux thing (ohhh-that's going to upset a few people!), I just want something that works.I made a donation through Paypal as it did the job.Pay somebody for a good product if it works-every router I've flashed has worked a treat, even the micro version.Its miles better than the Linksys.
  • It is great for extending wireless networks-through WDS, repeater function, whatever-works a treat
  • It can be a bit slow when getting an IP address-but as long as you know to wait a while, your sorted
In short, its not for the faint hearted in upgrading it but if you can get one for £20 off Ebay, what have you got to lose? Stick a few 9dB omni aerials on it and you have a cracking SOHO router.Hopefully this counteracts some of the comments on the web-it's only my opinion but as is the way these days, if your top of the pile, the only way is down!

With the launch of ever increasing broadband speeds, I thought I’d do an anecdotal test on how fast your wireless connection is, when compared to wired.When I say wired, I mean using an Ethernet (CAT5) cable plugged into the wireless router.When I say wireless, sitting with the same laptop to the same router but connected by the wireless side of the router.On the same “side” of the router, a server, running some FTP download software that allows me to  download, and upload, files.
The reason for all this is that with the increasing use of wireless, attached to higher speeds courtesy of your ISP, people expect the same speeds for their bucks.They don’t care, or don’t know, why it would be different. To be fair, wireless has never been punted as a Very High Speed Medium (VHSM).Personally, I would only use it for general browsing and downloading and if you look at most companies, wireless is an add-on to the network, not a core function. So now we know how the test was performed, what were the results like? See below:

As you can see, the difference is enormous-now a few caveats before I get slaughtered by the technophiles. This is a 54G network, it is not a N network. G networks can only do theoretical speeds of 54Mb/sec but you can see it’s well down even on that.My laptop was only 2 foot from the wireless router and I had no competing signals. Also, and this I found surprising, was that there was no difference between using encryption and no encryption. The connections on the wired side are 100Mb/sec but some are half duplex so you wont get 100Mb/sec anyway. The point was not to see how fast I could go on wired but the difference between an average wired and wireless network.

I’m going to get a N router (and N adaptor) and do the same tests but I bet I get nowhere near the advertised 300-600Mb/sec. Think about it-you can make such outlandish claims but until you get a home connection that can supply you with VHSM , how do you test it? And even within the home environment, 15-20Mb/sec will quite happily stream HD video (this seems to be the litmus test at the moment) so why do you need N type? Sorry, I digress, the whole point is if you want a high speed home LAN network that doesn’t suffer from interference, that does what it says and gives you a constant and reliable service, don’t choose wireless.Get Ethernet.