BT Broadband finally fixed… maybe BT does care after all

BT speed test results: 16.8 Mb connection to exchange

It has taken me a couple of weeks to write this post. I didn’t want to be overly hasty; I didn’t want to make claims that I couldn’t substantiate. But our broadband connection, which has been a bit flaky since early December, and downright annoying since late January has finally been fixed, after five visits from BT Openreach engineers (one in December, two in February, two in March).

The story so far…

During that time we had the following work done:

  • BT Home Hub 3 replaced for a newer Home Hub 4.
  • Line faults (over 3,000 of them, apparently) cleared from the networking equipment in our street.
  • Master socket changed.
  • Master socket moved from hallway to living room.
  • Changed which pair of wires connects our master socket to the exchange.
  • Powerline adapter changed.

None of this fixed the issue of our broadband connection dropping randomly throughout the day; at most over 100 times a day.

Engineer #5

When the fifth BT Openreach engineer rolled up my spirits lifted a little. This chap—Andy Smith, I think his name is—had visited us about a year ago to resolve a similar issue and he had gone beyond the call of duty to fix our connection by disconnecting all the unused extensions around the house which resulted in a 2Mb increase in download speed.

Like any good physician, he listened to my tale of woe before getting to work checking connections, running line speeds, investigating the BT box in the street. But he returned looking quite glum, reporting that all the tests returned fine: there is definitely not a line fault BUT he could see from his results that there was a problem, he just couldn’t put his finger on it. There was nothing else he could do.

PPP LCP Send Termination Request [User request]

I ran upstairs to fetch a piece of paper that I wanted him to see. It was a print out of the error log the last time it went down. I had noticed that preceding each drop out the error log reported “PPP LCP Send Termination Request [User request]”.

He read the error log and stroked his chin (metaphorically if not literally). “Hmmm…. PPP? Point-to-point protocol. That’s to do with connection not sync speed.”

Then he looked up at me. “That’s all a bit beyond me, to be honest. I don’t understand what it all means…”

My heart sank.

“… but I do know someone who does!” He got out his mobile phone, called a colleague, and then spoke gobbledegook for ten minutes before calling me down the stairs again.

The plan was to “move [me] to new broadband equipment at the exchange”. The engineer at the other end of the phone had already done it from his end, but Andy needed to drive to the exchange and physically swap our network cable from one piece of kit to another. It would take about 10 minutes.

Fixed

And that was it. Fixed! We had a steady, solid, fast connection for over 7 days before it performed another reboot, but it looks like this was just to re-sync the speed; it did it again this afternoon.

And as for @BTCare…

A few weeks ago, in the midst of our most frustrating experience of BT broadband I wrote a very disappointed blog post. I’m sorry I felt that I had to write that post, because as I had said before and as I have waxed lyrical to many people over the years on the whole I’ve found @BTCare to be a world-class customer service experience.

It did the job, however. Twenty minutes after posting that mild diatribe, I took a call from Niall at BTCare. “How are you today?” he asked.

“I’m really disappointed,” I said, quite honestly.

Niall was very apologetic about not getting in touch when he said he would. He never missed another call again. He called each time he said he would, and he faithfully kept up to date with the progress of my support incident.

In short, Niall actually did restore my confidence in BTCare—it just goes to show the difference that one person can make on behalf of the company they represent in changing attitudes. By the end of it I certainly felt that Niall from BT cared, and Andy Smith from BT Openreach cared, even if BT itself was still maybe a little ambivalent about me, so long as I kept paying my monthly bills.

Which reminds me, they offered me a refund on my broadband connection back to the date in January that this portion of the incident was first reported.

A very enthusiastic and heartfelt thank you to Niall at BTCare, and Andy Smith (?) at BT Openreach.

Listen to the radio over the internet

20110710-screamer-radio

A few weeks ago I received an email from a friend asking for help to look for a Windows application that would allow her to listen to and, more importantly, record programmes broadcast on the radio and streamed to the internet.

In my investigations I discovered Screamer Radio, a freeware application that… well, allows you to listen to and record programmes (to MP3 or OGG Vorbis) broadcast on the radio and streamed to the internet.

Features

It’s really simple to use, is small (not bloated with features), doesn’t have adverts (unless you’re listening to a commercial radio station!) and supports a number of stream types:

  • Shoutcast and Icecast MP3 streaming
  • Icecast OGG Vorbis streaming
  • WMA streaming
  • AAC streaming

One feature that it doesn’t have, which would be really useful and which can be found on similar commercial software, is to schedule recordings so you don’t have to hover over the record button. But that’s a minor criticism, for the most part I just want to use it to listen to the radio.

Updating the presets

Screamer Radio comes with a lot of built-in presets. Hundreds, in fact, organised into category, country, language and network. I listen mostly to Planet Rock, BBC Radio 4 FM and BBC Radio 4 Extra.

The Screamer Radio presets come up trumps for the first, but seems quite out-of-date for the latter two; it does offer BBC Radio 4 LW. The preset for Classic FM also appears to be broken.

After a little detective work I discovered the following URLs work:

  • BBC Radio 4 FM
    http://wmlive-acl.bbc.co.uk/wms/bbc_ami/radio4/radio4_bb_live_eq1_sl0/.wma
  • BBC Radio 4 Extra
    mms://wmlive-acl.bbc.co.uk/wms/bbc_ami/radio4xtra/radio4xtra_bb_live_ep1_sl0
  • Classic FM
    http://mediasrv-sov.musicradio.com/ClassicFM

I added them to my favourite channels by going to File > Open URL, pasting in the URL, click on OK to connect and then going to Favorites > Add current channel to Favorites.

Overall it’s a really simple piece of software to use, almost as simple as my DAB radio.

http://wmlive-acl.bbc.co.uk/wms/bbc_ami/radio4/radio4_bb_live_eq1_sl0/.wma

ZoneAlarm + KB951748 = no connection

Update #2

I meant to update this earlier.  There is now a fix, which you should download from the ZoneAlarm website.

Original post

For those of you that didn’t see this at the other place: Microsoft Update KB951748 and ZoneAlarm woes

In short: ZoneAlarm + Security update for Windows (KB951748) = no internet connection.

Update 1

For those folks who don’t bother clicking through to my other blog post: the advice from ZoneAlarm is to uninstall the KB951748 hotfix until there is a more robust solution from either Microsoft or ZoneAlarm.

Setting your Internet Security level to Medium isn’t advised for long-term use — it opens your PC up to more risks than it’s worth.

Or just uninstall ZoneAlarm and use the Windows XP built-in firewall.

Collusion dream

Fancy starting a new campaign with me? It’s a campaign of collusion for Web designers and it’s really pretty simple, I can’t believe that we’ve not thought of it sooner.

Here’s how it goes: we all agree to completely ignore the existence of Internet Explorer!

That’s it!  As simple as that.

It will, of course, lead to conversations like this:

Client: That new site you’ve just designed, it doesn’t work in Internet Explorer

Web designer: Inter.. what?

Client: Internet Explorer.  My web browser.  Internet Explorer 7.  IE7?

Web designer: IE7? Never heard of it.

Client: You must have heard of it.  Internet Explorer!  It comes installed on every Windows PC.

Web designer: It’s not on mine.  Seriously? It’s called IE7? … nope! Really doesn’t ring a bell, I’m afraid. It must be one of those really tiny, unpopular browsers.  We don’t support those, there’s no point.

That’s my dream anyway, and has absolutely nothing to do with my spending a week debugging some code in IE6 and IE7 … whatever they are.