Month: September 2008 (page 1 of 2)

O2 Broadband

A week last Friday I ordered O2 broadband. I’ve now spent the first weekend on the service and so far so good. This is just a quick write up of impressions and performance of O2 so far.

The O2 router was shipped and arrived in plenty time for line activation. Activation also took place on time (last Thursday) and I got an e-mail and text from O2 saying I was good to go. I didn’t have chance until Friday to try it out and unfortunately I hit problems. No broadband detected and after trying the router plugged into the master socket it was exactly the same. I phoned O2 (freephone support) and after 30 min’s of trying various options and O2 conducting line tests they decided I had a duff router and shipped me a new one. It was an hour later before I discovered what was the real reason for the failure. I had no dial tone. I contacted O2, they said it was a BT issue so I contacted them. Cue lot’s of hassle in actually getting to speak to someone. Automated tests telling me I had/hadn’t a fault and twice I got cut off while holding to speak to someone. Eventually I got a human being. Woo hoo! After another 20 min’s they insisted I had no fault but would send an engineer out on Saturday. if it’s your equipment at fault we’ll charge around £200 at the very least. Nice. They also put a redirect onto my home phone number and it was this step that finally revealed the problem.

A friend had been trying to get through since Wednesday night and on Friday morning the phone was answered….by a sandwich shop. On connecting my broadband a mistake had been made and my home phone number was being directed to the local sandwich shop instead. Nasty. With this info the BT engineer fixed the issue on Saturday afternoon and I could connect to O2. First test – what speed am I getting?

Using speedtest.net I was getting download speeds of between 8.5 and 9meg. Upload was consistently over 1meg. Never really trusting the speedtests it was time to do some real world downloading. Newsgroup downloading always maxed out my Virgin connection and is a good indication of true speed. On O2 I’m getting around half the speed I was getting on Virgin. Baring in mind that’s for just over a quarter of the price (£10 for O2 against £37 for Virgin). Uploading is also faster with O2 than Virgin which should help with video uploading and also 360 and PS3 game hosting. The problem I’ve had before with ADSL though is consistency. So far (since Saturday afternoon) the speed has been very consistent, certainly more so than Virgin which at nights (without throttling being applied) could easily drop down to 5-7meg. There’s also been no disconnects so far but it’s early day’s and it will be interesting to see how the connection copes with the busy week night periods which is where I’ve had issues before.

I did expect to have issues with the router O2 supplied. It’s wireless G only and I was expecting to have to buy a new ADSL router. It’s a rebadged Thomson TG585 and forum posts had put me off the router. However wireless performance in my house is excellent – on a par if not better than the D-Link N router I used with Virgin. The router is set-up to run WEP from first switch on which is good. WPA and WPA-II are also supported. It should be noted though that the router admin user doesn’t come with a password but that’s easily rectified.

Out the box the 360 and PS3 set-up with open NAT and NAT Type 2 respectively which should be perfect for online games. No faffing around with DMZ’s or opening ports. I’ve tried both consoles online and it’s been excellent. Halo 3 and Wipeout both need good connections to perform well and I saw no abnormal lag issues in either. Happy days.

The router is accessed via a web front end which isn’t particularly user friendly. Many settings that I’m used to tweaking on the D-Link are missing. Many stat’s that you would expect to see in the interface are missing. Cue terminal and command line interface (CLI). This reminds me of the Speedtouch I used years ago – very reliable router but changes were made via a CLI and this Thomson isn’t much different. I guess this makes support for O2 easier as there’s less for home users to tinker with. To see current line stats, essential for troubleshooting ADSL issues, you type the following from terminal:

telnet 192.168.1.254
Login name: SuperUser
Password: O2Br0ad64nd
adsl info expand=1

Not hard but not user friendly either. I also wanted to change to OpenDNS rather than O2’s DNS servers and again this isn’t available via a web page but is instead:

dns server route flush
dns server route add dns=208.67.222.222 metric=0 intf=O2_ADSL2plus
dns server route add dns=208.67.220.220 metric=0 intf=O2_ADSL2plus
dns server route list
saveall

Overall, very impressed so far. O2 support (as Gordon has highlighted before) has also been excellent, even texting and e-mailing this morning to say they can now see I’m connected at a good speed and also that they will now start taking payments. I’ve really liked the whole ordering process that O2 use – far slicker than I’ve seen from anyone else. However I’m still prepared for issues over the coming days. I’ve been burned before with good solid speeds and then loads of disconnects. So far I’ve had none and if the rest of the week is as stable as the weekend it really will be bye bye Virgin. Here’s hoping.

WipEout HD

Wipeout on the PS1 heralded a generational leap in home consoles. It was the essential launch game for Sony and it left a long and satisfying impression on me. Updates over the years have ranged from middling to good with the two games on the PSP being particularly good. WipEout HD has now finally arrived for the PS3 as a downloadable PSN game. Does this mean it’s a cut down game? Far from it.

WipEout HD

The screen above is from the actual game. Jaw droppingly good. Screens however can mask how a game actually moves but in WipEout’s case (why the uppercase E???) the game is so smooth, fluid and best of all fast that it’s a joy to behold. I’ve been playing it since Thursday and I’ve yet to see a drop in frame rate or a graphic effect that seems out of place. The menu’s and overall graphic design is excellent. Each new mode or track offers something new and fresh. Coupled with that is a great soundtrack. The original Wipeout changed how game music was used. Established bands like Leftfield and Chemical Brothers provided some of the tracks and it was so fresh and different from other game at the time. WipEout HD doesn’t have the same impact but it’s still quite good. You can also use your own music by creating playlists on the PS3. Unlike the Xbox though you can’t listen to music streamed from from Mac’s or PC’s but at least there is an option. More important than any audio or visual concerns is the handling and feel of the craft. Mess that up and the game is a waste.

WipEout HD

For me the handling is spot on. The craft have a real weight to them. As the game speeds up it can get difficult and there is a pilot assist mode to help but don’t use it – once you get used to the handling it just feels so right and getting it right without any assists is so satisfying.

There are a few game modes but strangely less than on the PSP versions. You have the normal race and tournament modes and fastest lap, time trial modes. Thankfully the zone modes from the PSP games are included. The graphics are stripped down (see above screen) and you have to try and clear as many zones as you can, your craft getting faster and faster as you clear the zones. It’s a real challenge and is very hypnotic. You unlock more tracks and challenges via the Campaign mode. As you progress in this mode there are more options unlocked in the Racebox mode. You can basically set up any style of game for any track and then race it. Great flexibility which also applies to the online mode.

I’ve only had a few online games but they have all been excellent. Still very quiet compared to the Xbox due to a lack of headsets but online felt very smooth with little signs of lag. It’s also a lot more competitive than the offline modes.

So, any negatives? Well there is a reported bug that the game locks up if you have a friends list of more than 50. There’s also people reporting general lock-ups but I’ve not seen any. There’s also only eight tracks, which can be reversed, which feels a bit tight especially as they are lifted from the PSP games.

WipEout HD

However the tracks have been totally remodelled and look superb. Eight tracks also doesn’t sound so bad when you hear the game costs £12. It’s available as a download only but this is an absolute bargain. Don’t let the fact it’s available on PSN put you off. This is a high quality game full of customisation and unlockables to keep you playing all the while adding a superb online mode. There’s also a photo mode which allows you to take pic’s and save them to the PS3’s hard disk and I’m sure there will be future track packs available to extend the game even further.

This is an essential purchase for the PS3. Cheap, great gameplay and some sublime graphics makes for a really good package. The PS3 would have got off to a much better start if, like the PS1, this had been available as a launch title. Looking like a strong period for PS3 with Little Big Planet coming in October. About time. I’m off to create a Wipeout playlist or two. Hopefully see some of you online soon for a race or two.

WPtouch

The iPhone allows you to view all the internet. It must do, the adverts say so. While the Safari browser is excellent you can’t view Flash content and some websites will load slower than you’d like due to the resources available on the iPhone. I stumbled on an excellent WordPress plugin called WPtouch which will render an iPhone specific version of your WordPress blog.

WPtouch
WPtouch

As you can see in the screens above the plugin renders the site so it fits perfectly on the iPhone. It also shows the comment count and selecting a post and then one more click and I can see the comments and make a reply. The plugin comes with lot’s of configuration options that allow you to change colours, icon’s used etc and also supports other plugins rendering a photo’s page if FlickRSS is setup correctly for example. I’m impressed with the plugin and it certainly makes my site more usable on the iPhone.

Bye bye Virgin?

Tired of Virgin’s throttling and high prices I’ve signed up for O2 broadband. I currently pay £37 a month for 20Meg broadband from Virgin and while the service has been reliable the throttling is getting in the way. It’s also hard to justify that price when O2, Sky and others are offering equivalent services for just £10. I do however have some concerns.

Back in October 05 I moved to Freedom2Surf’s 8Meg. Initially it looked a good move but after only 3 months I left the service and moved to Virgin (NTL at the time). Since then Virgin have been very good. There’s been the odd bit of downtime and a month of my IP address showing as being routed in Ireland but in general there’s not a lot to complain about apart form the price. Looking back I still have a fear that the ADSL service for my house will not be as reliable as Virgin’s cable service.

That’s why I ultimately chose O2 over Sky. They are currently offering a 50 day money back guarantee which will be plenty time for me to set-up and try their service and ensure that it’s reliable…as well as fast. Speed is up to 16Meg download and up to 1.25Meg upload. So slightly slower download and a much improved upload. Real world speeds, I expect, will be a lot less than that due to distance from exchange and also the cabling to and in the house but only time will tell.

I ordered the service yesterday and the first impressions are good. O2 keep in touch with you via website, e-mail and text messages. The service should be enabled by next Thursday and the O2 modem and router have already been shipped. Hopefully it works out well as the cost saving is pretty massive over Virgin. One snag – the router is only a G so if it initially looks a good move I’ll need to pick up a new router. Anyone have a good recommendation?

Who wins?

What a 72 hours on the stock market. Despite the turmoil and despite the year long decline I never though HBOS would be hammered as it was since Monday morning.

HBOS Day

The chart above shows today’s activity alone. How many people made a killing on HBOS today? How many made a killing that helped to manufacture the situation. Something stinks about this really.

So it looks like a Lloyds TSB takeover of HBOS. It will no doubt be dressed as a merger but it’s anything but, no? Be interesting to see what affect it has on HBOS services as I use it for some of my accounts. Which bank next? Are mergers the way forward for the next six months?

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