Speed is good…

It really is… (no, not speed the drug, but speed as in bandwidth)  This weekend I did a Skype conference call to 2 other local wireless broadband users, I Skyped out to my mom in Belgium for almost an hour (Costing me about R6.50), I checked out previews of some awesome movies, watched some music video’s via Windows Media Player, listened to a whole bunch of radio stations, and downloaded a bunch of DotNetRocks episodes.

Now I just need to get a better mic (my current one buzzes a bit) and a web cam, and I’ll be all set to make video calls…  My step-sister* (Evy) has a web cam, so while I was Skyping out to my mom, I was also watching them on their web cam.  It was actually really cool, watching the web cam just adds an extra level of interaction that you’d not normally get on a phone, and I was pretty suprised as to how quickly I adjusted to it… it just felt natural to be able to see the person you’re talking to.  I guess I also know the layout of my mom’s home, so I could almost picture myself sitting in the room she was in, which kinda made it just that little bit more “real”.

And I also want/need a new TV card in my PC so I can record TV shows, and write them to CD so we can build up a library of movies without having to spend a fortune on tapes for the VCR (which is starting to need a service – its recording quality is getting kinda bad)  My current TV card just hangs my PC… I *KNOW* I had this problem the last time I had it in my PC, and I *KNOW* I fixed it, but I can’t seem to get it right this time… (I think it had something to do with my sound card’s IR remote control and its IR remote control clashing)  My current TV card even has an SDK I can download so that I could write my own software to control it, so it would be great to get it working because then I could write myself a mobile web app that would let me start it recording programs via my cellphone…

*She’s kinda my step sister, but I’m not sure if it would be “legally” correct to call her that.  You see my mom wanted to get married again but both her and her new husband didn’t want the legal side of it. (They’d both been divorced before and really didn’t want the hassles, so they wanted a wedding and wanted to publicly commit to each other, but just didn’t want the legalities)  So relationally she’s my step-sister, but “legally” she’s not. Ok, so I’m just being pedantic… but to someone out there it might just be important. 😉


Ignoring potential customers is BAAAAAAD, m’kay?

I mailed about 5 of the iBurst resellers on Tuesday at about 10am asking them for pricing and other info about getting an iBurst connection from them.  FusionReactor called me back in about 10 minutes… Nobody else responded, until now.  I just got an e-mail from one of the resellers saying that they’re out of stock, etc, etc, and will only be able to help me in March. 

I read it, and couldn’t help thinking “Gee, Mr IT Company… if it takes you 3 days to reply to an e-mail from a potential customer looking to buy your product, how many weeks will I have to wait for you to reply to support queries after I become your customer?”  Its one of those “Get a clue!” moments, when you just have an urge to beat the company’s sales team to a pulp with a clue stick.  If I was their manager that’s certainly what I’d do.  Ok, so maybe they were busy, or maybe they had some IT problems, or maybe they just don’t care.  In all of those cases it doesn’t send a good message to potential clients, in fact I don’t think I’ll be asking them for information in future… when I e-mail a company querying one of their products I expect to hear back from them in at MOST 24 hours. If not, I can only assume that you don’t really care about your product, your customers, or your company’s sales figures.  And if you don’t care, why should I?

Geek food General

Faster!! Faster!!

I just can’t believe the speeds I was downloading at last night at home on my iBurst connection!  Whatever they did to the base station I connect to worked!  Last night I was downloading about 3 things at once with a combined download speed of 80-90kBytes per second – thats 640 to 720 kbits per second!!!  Then this morning I thought I’d quickly check again to see if the speed was still there… again I got 85kBytes per second!

It used to frustrate me no end that it would take me about a week to download the latest DotNetRocks episode on my modem… This morning I downloaded an episodce in about 15 minutes (probably less but I was doing other things).

Imagine if this technology takes off in a big way in South Africa…. I remember working at ISPs doing web development where one of my biggest pains was that you couldn’t use some of the nifty features in .Net because having loads of return trips to the server just was not an option using our bandwidth.  I can just imagine the awesome things that all this extra speed would enable.

Sure, it could enable sloppy coding and encourage bad habits in developers – but I’m choosing not to focus on that… The web could become far richer (far less “thin client”), and so much more useful. 🙂  I can’t wait till I can go home tonight to play with it again. (After I’ve taken my wife out for a little date (dinner and a movie), otherwise she might start to get the impression that I spend more time with the computer than with her… ;-))



A few weeks ago I decided that my bad old dial-up was wasting my time and money… I’d spend 45 minutes downloading 10 emails – mainly because my modem kept disconnecting every 10 minutes, and when it was connected it was kinda slow.

So I looked at my alternatives… ADSL, MyWireless, and iBurst.  My phone bills were about R400 per month, and my ISP costs me about R75 per month.  My wife and I are meant to be trying to call my mom and her gran who live in Belgium and England respectively.  So we could easily add another R100 to that bill, and with VOIP, that R100 would drop to under R5.  The total so far for using the current telkom line and dial-up is R575.  Not having the cash to spend on a modem, I decided to take a 24 month contract which includes a free modem.

I like the idea of a wireless connection because then I could use it at work and home…  and my impression of iBurst’s coverage is that its pretty good.   A friend of mine has iBurst and he’s had some amazing download speeds so I was pretty sold on the idea of using them, but I did a quick spreadsheet totalling how much I’d spend over two years on each of the options.  The cheapest was Sentech’s MyWireless 128kbps, next was iBurst (R1100 more expensive than Sentech), and since my friend had gotten > 128kbps on iBurst pretty regularly (in fact he was doing 384kbps regularly), I thought I’d try them.

I looked into various resellers, and compared them to getting the deal directly from iBurst.  Most of the resellers have SHOCKING websites, and non-existant response to queries.  However, I found out that FusionReactor offered it with only R100 startup, as opposed to iBurst’s R465 startup cost.  I also noticed that they seem to be one of the biggest Cold Fusion development houses in South Africa, and that iBurst’s online ordering system was done in Cold Fusion (or at least in Macromedia based technologies).  So I e-mailed them a query through their site and they responded in under 10 minutes with a phone call to answer my questions.  I eventually found out that they’d been involved with iBurst for a while and had developed/implemented some of their support systems, so they’re pretty tightly linked into the iBurst backend systems.  So that was enough to reassure me that they’re not some fly-by-night crowd.

I filled out my forms and faxed them off, and in just over 24 hours the iBurst terminal was delivered to my office (in Centurion).  I was REALLY impressed, very few companies that I’ve dealt with are that fast with ANYTHING, and very few are as kind, friendly and quick to respond to customer queries.  I was very happy. 😀

With only partial coverage in our office (30-50% signal), I got about 12-15kByte per second downloads, which is WAAAAAY faster than my usual work connection.  Since using it at work wasn’t my main priority, I’m ok with that… But using it at home was another story… I have 95-100% signal strength, but only 6-8kBytes per second download speed.  Unfortunately for me, I’m connecting to a base station which is “faulty” and is being repaired (should be fixed by Saturday)…

Today I read that Telkom has now suddenly dropped the price of their ADSL lines, so if the speed is not fixed by Monday I might have to reconsider my decision to go with iBurst – the Telkom HomeDSL 194 might be a better option, but I’ll miss the mobility.  I really hope iBurst fixes the speed on the base stations I connect to at home, because I’d hate to lose the nice connection I can get at work…


Lessons Learned

Today I did some learning, and it wasn’t a fun learning… You might remember a while ago (like about a year ago) I was rather peeved because a certain person who I had done some freelance work for was not paying me.  I mentioned one of his excuses (that he’d paid another developer with the same first name as me by mistake and later he made the excuse that he was still waiting for them to pay him back so he could pay me).  In that excuse I mentioned the other developer’s full name.  I didn’t say that he was “bad”, I but I did say that he was involved because of the client’s mistake, and I also mentioned that the client had let me know that he was aparently waiting for my namesake to pay him back.

Someone recently found that entry on my blog (only about 30 people have viewed that entry in the year) and he e-mailed me to say that I should not have mentioned someone’s name in such a bad way.  When I wrote the entry, I did not intend for it to appear as though my namesake had been at fault in any way… I was fairly sure that it was just a feeble excuse on behalf of the client.  But clearly my namesake interpreted it differently… I’m guessing (although I can’t prove it) that the person who e-mailed me knew my namesake and passed on the URL to him, because soon afterwards (while I was in the middle of updating the blog entry), I saw an e-mail from my namesake ordering me to remove his name from the site or else he’d follow up with legal action.

Anyway, I learned that mentioning peoples names is not a good idea in a blog, even if you don’t intend the mention to put them in a bad light.  Of course, only people who knew this developer and his previous work history could have made a positive match that this guy was the guy that I was talking about in the blog… But still, I’m pretty sure that I was legally in the wrong to mention his name in any context, especially when I was using his name based on what one person’s testimony who, as it turned out, lied a whole bunch to me.  So I guess I should have gone back to the entry later and updated it to reflect the fact that the client was most likely lying, and to remove the other developer’s full name… (I probably should never have put in his full name to start with…)

But it got me thinking that I mentioned the client’s full name and his company name, and I (unfortunately) have no physical document proving my claims that he owes me money. (I have e-mails from him about most of the sites that I worked on, I have a friend who works there who can verify that I did work for them, and I have the source for the websites and the databases that they run off on my computer, but nothing from the client that actually accepts the costs/quotes I gave before I started working on the sites – most of the approvals happened over the phone, since he seemed to be out of the office regularly, and didn’t seem to always be able to e-mail me)  So I’ve now removed the client’s name and his company name from the blog too, just incase… 

I’d love to know what my rights are with regard to postings I make on the internet… In both cases I couldn’t prove that everything I had said was true – its not like I had an e-mail from the client claiming that my namesake had been mistakenly paid… I was told that when I went to the client’s offices to try and sort it out in person, and its not like I carry a tape recorder around with me to record every conversation I have incase I have to prove it later.  The whole “proving that I did do the work” thing was just stupidity on my behalf… I trusted the guy because a friend of mine knew him well and asked me to help the client out.  So I trusted that he would be honest – if my friend trusted him, so would I.  I guess I was a bit naive, but I’d like to think that it had less to do with my naiveté and more to do with the bad nature of the client.  Anyway, I guess I better check my blog for any other name references that should be removed… just in case … but I wish I could know for certain if I needed to worry.