Zen and the art of the Internet


It was back in 2002 when I first got ADSL. Back then it was all the rage to have an Alcatel USB ADSL modem that ran under Windows. And it ran at 512k/sec and we were happy with that, coming from a time when dialup Internet was normal. Although I also used to use GSM 9600BPS dialup at one point too…

Then I got an upgrade to a 2Mbit line when stuff just naturally improved with the technology. There was then the improvement of ADSL2+ which gave me about 8Meg. Then I moved house and got 10Meg, apart from the incident where my phoneline fell off the house.

And now, thanks to Fibre To The Cabinet, VDSL and a suspiciously cheap looking OpenReach branded router downstairs I get the rather silly figures you see above. Oh hello future me, what are we on now? Gigabit? Through our mobile phones?

I know there’s faster, but that involves either having cable Internet and no static IP, or living in a place where you can have fibre to your house. I don’t, the fibre stops at the green cabinet at the end of the street. I can see it from my front door and don’t think my line is the limiting factor in my speed any more.

It’s unlimited too, just like I used to have with Be Internet.

Damit IT, stop being pretend-ironic


So I had to get a new ISP after my last one was bought by satan telecoms Sky (thanks O2 for going off to pursue 4G mobile data instead of maintaining one of the best British ISPs out there). I chose one that seemed the best, given the current situation. OK so they cost more and I have a pitiful 100Gig bandwidth limit… but at least I get a static IP and am generally left alone to do what I like online.

Unless it’s 6pm on a Friday or – as seems to currently be the case – 9pm on a Tuesday. In which case it’s like the bad old days of modems and bad phonelines. For those of you that don’t understand… when I was with Be Internet I was on an exchange with LLU. This meant my Internet traffic flowed down other cabling separate from the regular ADSL service most ISPs in this country use.

Imagine your own private motorway with no speed limits and barely any other traffic. It was like that. All the time. You could drive at 12Mb/Sec for 24H and gobble as much data as you liked and nobody cared. Clock up 200 gig in a month? Well done. It was, to put it simply amazingly good.

At this point I decided maybe living in a shed again in the Lake District would be a good move.
At this point I decided maybe living in a shed again in the Lake District would be a good move.

Now imagine the middle of town in rush hour, and you’ve got one of those cars that is only insured during daylight hours. That’s what my new Internet experience is like now that I’m back on regular smelly BT managed ADSL2+. I actually think I could use IP-over-avian-carrier and it’d be faster than my connection sometimes.

I was going to have a moan about this on Google+, but while typing it out my Internet died. Then Chrome died and wouldn’t come back again. Chrome had died, and so had the Chrome crash handler.

I am now obsessively hoarding data again. Every zipfile or update that comes down the connection gets stashed on my server for future usage. At some point I will buy some large hard drives and a NAS and begin the tedium of archiving my Steam collection so that I can reinstall that without having to download about 400 gig (most of which will be Team Fortress 2 updates and spare DoTa 2 invites 😉 )

No, I won’t be buying a modern console, I don’t want to download 10 gig games if I’m limited to 100 gig per month. I like retro stuff and all, but having to meter out my Internet is a bit too retro for my liking.

I’m Be-ing invaded from the Sky

Oh bugger.

Hello james,

As you may well know, we’ve now bought O2 and BE home broadband and home phone businesses, and we’re really excited to welcome you to Sky.

We’ll be bringing your services over to Sky’s network starting later this year. Until then, you’ll continue to get exactly the same home broadband and phone service (if you have it with O2 or BE) as you do now. Right now, you don’t need to do a thing.

If you have any questions, you can find more information and details on how to contact Sky here

We’ll shortly be sending you a welcome pack in the post, which will explain what’s happening in more detail. But for now we just wanted to say hello.

Kind Regards,
Sky Home Communications Team

[pullquote align=”left|center|right” textalign=”left|center|right” width=”30%”]we’re really excited to welcome you to Sky[/pullquote] I’ve known about this for a few months now and have done a bit of research. My choices seem limited to either giving some major TV & Telecoms company my money in exchange for “Unlimited” Internet but congested, proxied connections that don’t let me have a static IP address, or a small independent company who imposes bandwidth limits on me, but otherwise leaves me a lone.

Surely there’s a way to buy “real” Internet from someone without having to pay hundreds of pounds per month doing so? We don’t have fibre in our street, but I bet in 10 years time when we do I’ll be able to buy wholesale fibre off some reseller. I mean, 10 years ago I had a 2Mbit ADSL connection that had severe problems at 5pm and other people used to handle my mail and web services. Now I have a 12Mbit ADSL connection and receive incoming HTTP and SMTP.

Web and domain move complete

This is mostly a test post to check things like file uploads, image linking and mod_rewrite are functioning correctly. After a bit of research and discussion I’m using a place called Gandi.net to host my domain and have configured Apache on my own server to handle this site.

Setting up my domain was straight forward. It took about an hour for the domain to be transferred and me to recreate the host names. DNS then slowly propagated the changes over the next few hours.

Configuring Apache was also reasonably straight forward once I’d worked out how to do wildcard domains properly – the order Apache reads the virtual host configurations is important. What caused me a few hours confusion was that no images on my sites would load, but the http rewrite was working. This turned out to be a file permission problem within WordPress, and as soon as the webserver user was granted access the site sprang to life.

The next thing I am trying is SSL. I have a free SSL certificate for 1 year (after that it’s €24 a year) and once that has been generated I can create a private SSL site for a few services I want to use.

11 Years of excellent service

Way back in 2001 I wrote a short note on here about my website moving. Back then the company I worked for had a colocated Linux server with a company called UKShells (they started off as a CAD company and did colo on the side). We found maintaining the colocated machine difficult when it lived in a warehouse in Birmingham. This was 2001 Linux and not some clustered cloud instance so messing with LILO and vmlinuz images was required.

UKShells started a Linux shell account service which offered domain hosting, mail and web space for a reasonable price per year. We moved to that service and I gained my own domain to play with.

11 years later and unfortunately they’re ‘retiring’ the service I use and I need to find a new home. Bit of a bugger really, they’ve provided faultless hosting and caused me zero problems.

Currently I’ve asked them to update the tag on my domain so another host can claim it, Google Apps are configured to do my mail and once I reconfigure Apache I’ll host my site from my own machine.

Quite interesting how technology changes in 10 years. I could buy a cloud instance and use that (that’s the backup plan if hosting my own website becomes unusable), and my home broadband connection is fast enough to cope with doing this to it. Also Google appeared.

So yeah, I’ve kind of gone in a circle with my hosting.

Time becomes a loop

I just noticed my blog/website has been running for just over 10 years which is a reasonable achievement. During that time I’ve written about various things and it’s kind of fun to go back and read through the entries.

This month, ten years ago I’d been playing around with my Palm IIIx and had managed to connect it to the Internet. A task that I do several times daily with my iPad and iPhone – technologies that were unheard of at the time. If you flick through older entries there’s a recurring theme of me owning some sort of portable device that connects to the Internet. I’ve had a Palm IIIx, a Nokia N800, Nokia N810 and then a selection of Apple devices. Gradually over the years I’ve seen Wifi going from a nerd’s toy to something as common as a lightswitch.

Broadband’s been fun to watch develop too, I first got a “Wires only” ADSL account (this simply meant you bought the service with no hardware, so had to buy an ADSL router yourself – this was when ADSL was originally delivered into your Windows PC via the “Squashed Frog” USB modem) and was utterly gobsmacked at being able to download a gigabyte of data in a few days. Then I was totally surprised when I had the speed bumped up to 2 meg.

Now I can easily download data at a rate faster than the home network my first ADSL router used to be connected to! How technology marches on. Hello future me! How do we connect to the Internet now?

I’ve also been to lots of places over the years, and had a few interesting little adventures along the way. I’ve also discovered whole new realms of boredom!

Anyway, it’s gone midnight and I need to get up tomorrow so I can visit Ikea and buy a new desk, go to the rubbish dump and also wait for a Tesco delivery. Yes, I’ve gone from jumping into water and climbing up rocks to shopping for desks and buying food. If I have time left I might continue my coding adventures in C++ and OpenGL on my iPad – some things never change 😉

I just did a whois on my domain. I registered the domain on the 31st May 2000, and it seems we filled in the form incorrectly since the address is no longer valid, and the registrant was never at that address. Oh well, I doubt anyone cares. I’ve had my shell provider for the past 10 years too, and in that time can’t recall any noticeable downtime.