I don’t like being ripped off!

Posted by under Electronics, Rants, on 17 November 2013 @ 1:16am.

A few weeks ago I bought some 81650 Lithium Ion batteries off eBay as I wanted to test them in a number of applications for some possible future projects. Before buying I had read some reviews on how poor these batteries often are in yielding the rated capacity, but I found a few sellers on eBay that didn’t have many negative feedback and decided they would probably be OK. I went ahead and bought them, and week later they turned up.

I already have a smart lithium charger that was capable of telling me the capacity of the batteries when they had been charged (basically how much power it had put in them during the charge cycle). This is all I needed to test them but I also recently got a power meter that could do the same when discharging them too. I set to work trying to check them but immediately I knew something was wrong. I started a discharge with a 0.5A load and the voltage dropped very quickly. I first thought this was due to them being flat already so I decided to put them on charge first. I set the charger up for 3000mAh capacity and a maximum 3A charge rate, which is normal for these batteries. I set the charger going but immediately the voltage hit 4.2v and only pushed about 0.4A into the battery. I gave it the benefit of the doubt and let it charge anyway.


My limited experience shows Ultrafire have low capacity compared to Trustfire. Not all scenarios might turn out this way.

15 minute later the charger beeped to say it was fully charged. That was way sooner than I expected. I looked at the charge capacity and it was small. I don’t remember the figure but it was under 150mAh. So anyway I repeated my original test and let it run at 0.5A for a little while. The same voltage drop happened but I let it run. Less than 30 minutes later the batteries were showing 2.5v/cell, which is dead. My discharge meter read 210mAh! This is over 20x less than the rated capacity. I repeated the charge and discharge test a few times to be sure but it wasn’t changing.

As it turns out, these batteries were all duffs. They likely came out of old laptop batteries or similar, got re-labelled and shipped out as new. It’s safe to say I was pretty miffed at being ripped off. I wasn’t going to get stuck with them so I contacted the eBay seller who was happy to help. He asked me how I tested them so I told him and I even gave him the make and model of my charger and power meter. He didn’t argue he simply asked if I’d like a full refund, to which I agreed. He didn’t even want the batteries back. Something tells me he knew they were bad, despite the fact he told me he’d never had returns on them before. All 4 batteries that I had bought came out the same. Had it been one bad one I wouldn’t have been too bothered.

Anyway, I was refunded on the duff batteries so I set about looking for better ones. I decided to look on one of my favourite online shops, dx.com. I’ll be up front and say it’s a Chinese site but with a difference. The stuff they sell is actually half decent and they are much lower priced than other places. I’ve never had a bad purchase from them to date and I’ve bought a dozen things from them.

It didn’t take me long to find some batteries on there with good reviews. They claimed 2400mAh out of the rated 3000mAh. While not perfect it was a lot better, and the reviews were from people who had bought them too so I was inclined to follow them. Knowing the site has been good in the past helped too, so I didn’t hesitate to buy them. They took about 2 weeks to arrive and they came today. I did a quick initial charge, and then set about discharging them with the same 0.4-0.5A load I did with the others. It took a while, but I eventually ended the discharge test with a 2300mAh result. I then charged them and got the same amount put back into the batteries.


In case you’re wondering, I originally bought “Ultrafire” batteries which are cheap knock-offs of the “Trustfire” ones I bought in the end and they worked. My advice here would be to steer clear of Ultrafire and stick with the better brands like Trustfire. Better still, you could buy Sony batteries or another well known brand.



The VW Passat Saga Continues…

Posted by under Life, Rants, on 16 February 2013 @ 11:34pm.

It occurred to me a few days ago that this issue with my car has been going on for almost 10 months now, and that I will have owned the car 1 year in around 1 month from this post… How you’re probably wondering, has this not been resolved yet? The answer is time wasting by several parties.

I originally opted to reject the car 4-5 months after purchase when I found out I had the right to do so under the sales of goods act. From that point, everything has been slow. The finance company admittedly were fairly quick, organising the report within 2 weeks, but their report took a further 2 weeks to come through and was ultimately pointless because the finance company said no to my rejection request.

I then went to the finance ombudsman and this took weeks to even get rolling. Every time they contacted the finance company it was at least a week before they got a reply from them. When they did finally get the reply it was up to me to wait for the ombudsman’s decision. They kept asking for more details, which is good, because I want them to know the whole story. But the information they had was, in my opinion, more than enough to conclude in my favour (though I would say that, but you should see the evidence for yourself).

So here we are months later and I think we’re finally getting somewhere, and then they ask for another report to be done on the car. In my eyes this will prove nothing because what they want to know is the faults that existed at purchase, but all they can prove now with this test is what faults it has now. In any case, they won’t proceed without it so I have no choice. Thankfully for me, they’re making the finance company pay for it.

That brings me to yet more set backs. I contacted my local garage who got back to me quickly saying they couldn’t help. Fair enough, it was worth a try. They directed me to a local company who could do the reports so I got in touch. That’s where more problems started. They were far from professional. I had to keep chasing e-mails because they weren’t replying, I had to call them to give more details only to be told “oh, well, I’m not sure we can help, let me review the information again…” etc. 3 weeks down the line I’m growing impatient and my last 2 e-mails have gone ignored for over a week. I sent one last e-mail asking them to make a decision or I would go elsewhere. Later that day they said they’d spoken to their MD and they were not able to help me. 3 weeks to be told they couldn’t help me!!! Gah!!!

So now I have to find another local company I did a search and quickly found one. They are just down the road from where I work making it ideal. I sent them an e-mail and an hour later they said they were able to help me. I sent all the information I had and they said they were definitely able to help as they deal with such things all the time. Fantastic! I’ve got a quote off them and it’s been forwarded to the ombudsman who will forward it to the finance company next week for approval. Once I have their approval I can finally get it booked and done. At this rate I might actually have a decision by the end of the month or early March. Fingers crossed!

So what’s to learn from this experience? Well, don’t be so patient if you want things to move quickly. If you’re not getting the answers you’re looking for, move on to someone who will give you them. Oh and don’t buy a VW Passat either…



I have joined the dark side and purchased an iPhone, plus a rant about O2

Posted by under Electronics, Rants, on 8 July 2012 @ 7:06pm.

I have finally joined the world of Apple lovers and bought an iPhone 4S! For those who don’t know why, you should probably read my last blog.

Getting the iPhone was no where near as easy as it sounds, as I will explain now. But before I start, I advise anyone who wants to get one to go to a 3rd party store and not your network to get one…

Anyhow it all started after I was sick of the issues with my last phone, the LG Optimus 2X. I thought it was time to get myself a phone I knew I could rely on to work when the time came and to hold a signal when there was actually one present.

I’m with O2 and have been for 6+ years. I’m quite loyal to them as they’ve been very good to me and signal is generally good everywhere, so I thought I’d try my hand at a contract. I’ve never had one before as I couldn’t justify the cost. I’m on pay and go and I spend less than £10 a month on credit. What can I say, I’m not a heavy user.

The cheapest contract with a decent allowance and phone payment was £36 a month. Over 2 years that’s around £850 or so (off the top of my head). That was fair to me, so I decided to go ahead and order it. I got to the last page of the order and it said there was a problem and to try again or phone the supplied number. I thought I may have entered some details for my bank card incorrectly, so I tried again. Same response. I wanted the phone so I decided to call them. On the phone I said I had tried twice already. The rep checked this and she could see 2 failed orders but there was no reason provided for the failure. We tried it over the phone instead, and 20 minutes later we got the same outcome.

The O2 rep suggested that my card was being declined so I should contact my bank. I went along with it and called my bank and she would call me back in 20 minutes. My bank said that 3 payments for £117 had left my account and there was no issue their end!!! 3x £117!!! I was very annoyed. I waited for the rep to call back. 30 minutes later she did and I explained the situation. She was confused at what had happened so she went to get her supervisor. After a short time on hold she returned and said that it failed because I failed the credit check!

By this point I was very VERY annoyed. How can I fail the credit check? My credit score is flawless. Hell, I’m paying for a car on finance and I had no problem getting credit for that! I’ve never missed a payment and I’m full time employed. Unfortunately the data protection act means she doesn’t have any information as to why I was declined and there was nothing she could do about it. She was very apologetic but it wasn’t her fault. Anyway I said thanks and hung up.

I decided to screw the contract and decided to buy it out-right. Yup, the full £500 up front. I didn’t have much of a choice since I wanted to stay on the same network, but not knowing at this point it would have been better to go to a 3rd party store like carphone warehouse, I went ahead with the order.

What I should have said was I TRIED to go ahead with the order. I got to the last page of the order process and it failed to go through. Now I was pissed off with O2, so screw them. I’ll take my money directly to Apple instead. I went through the order process for the 5th time that evening and I was granted with another failed message. GAH!!! Then it clicked. My card was probably blocked by the bank because of the nature of the purchase. On the phone I went again to find out. 10 minutes on hold and I confirmed with the rep that it was indeed blocked. 5 minutes of security checks and it was unblocked and the order finally went through.

2 days later, the phone arrives and I’m once again a happy person (for the most part, there were some little niggles but I got those sorted by yesterday).

Anyway, I’m still not happy with O2 for those things. It’s strange how people with a perfect credit history can’t get finance, yet somebody with no history (lets take for example some 18-19 year old friends of mine) because they’ve never had credit before, can get one without a problem! The whole credit score idea is crap if there is no consistency to the way they accept orders.

Anyhow, the ordeal is now over and I have a phone that works properly for once. Lets see how long this one lasts, since I’ve had 3 phones in 12 months now (Blackberry, then the LG Optimus 2X, now the iPhone!).



A rant about Android and device manufacturers

Posted by under Electronics, Rants, on 8 July 2012 @ 6:38pm.

Well, this is one most of you knowing me wouldn’t have seen coming. Ever since I first tried Android I have loved it as a phone operating system. It’s such a powerful OS for a phone and allows you to do things you never thought possible on a small device like a phone. However, there are several flaws with Android that make it a very bad OS. Let me explain what I mean.

Take Apple. iOS on the iPhone is tailored to the iPhone devices very closely. It was specifically written for those devices and because of this it doesn’t have compatibility issues. This makes it very stable and less prone to bugs because Apple control the software for a limited number of devices and they maintain it continually.

Now take Android. It’s got to be built for hundreds of different devices by different companies. Each of these companies must modify it to work with their phones at the driver level for their devices. The problem behind this is that it’s not just drivers that need modifying. They also insist on bloating Android out with their own crap bloatware and apps that most people probably don’t want or need. This makes it very prone to bugs and makes it unstable in some cases. Android device manufacturers however, do not appear to maintain the operating systems and drivers for their devices. They release one version and that’s it, job’s a done one, wham bam thank you very much for your money. Then they move onto a new phone and do it al over again.

The problem with Android’s approach is that there is no maintaining in this system. Once the phone is releases, it will probably never see any updates in it’s entire life because it’s such a short lived device the manufacturer does not think it needs maintaining. This sort of thinking needs to stop! Android is never going to be a good phone operating system unless Google themselves take some form of charge over it. They need to think like Microsoft does with their Windows operating system. Provide a base operating system and let people install drivers for specific devices instead. That way any bugs in operating system are Google’s responsibility and any drivers are the responsibility of the device manufacturer (or the chipset manufacturer).

If you’re going to make a device like a PC, it needs to work the same way. Windows itself is 100% stable, it’s the drivers and 3rd party hardware that makes it unstable. The same generally applies for Linux too. If Android worked this way as well, I think it would make the perfect operating system for phones.

Lets take my old LG GT540 and my LG Optimus 2X as a prime example for my basis. These phones both have very nice hardware (at least they did when they were released). I thought both phones were very solid (both still work despite the GT540 being a few years old). However they both had bugs that made me decide to get rid of them.

The GT540 had a bug in the stock ROM software that prevented data from working properly. When data connected, phone calls and text messages were prevented from coming through. Of course this is useless when it’s supposed to be a phone. Besides that the phone is not bad at all. A little laggy at times, but again this is a software issue as a reboot solves it as it gets a fresh reload.

Google need to adopt the same development method as Windows and Linux for Android

The Optimus 2X also had a bug that was present on the stock ROM. If you lost signal, sometimes it would not come back (even in a perfect signal area) until you rebooted the phone. It happened more often when you were in a low signal area, such as my work place, that meant it struggled to get signal. It also had another bug where the wifi would not stay connected when the screen was off, despite the option being set to “never turn off wifi”. Again this prevented the phone from being used properly. I tried another ROM on it (Cyanogen) and the same issue occurred. I narrowed it down to the baseband software (the firmware that allows the phone and radio to communicate with one another). If this were a hardware issue a reboot would not solve it. I am also not the only one to experience this issue as it’s all over the Cyanogen forums and nobody has a fix thus far.

So as you can see, Android has some serious bugs that simply should not be present. Other phones also have issues. Take my friend Tom as an example. He went out yesterday and bought a HTC One S. A brand spanking new Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) phone that is a full 2 versions up from my Optimus 2X. Within hours he had issues with it. The wifi was glitchy and would not stay connected properly, and he could not delete synced contacts from Facebook. The wifi bug was documented online after a quick search with a “fix due in a future release”. Great, so until then he has to use expensive 3G data to go on the Internet on his device.

These bugs would not exist if Android took more control over the operating system, releasing patches and bug fixes when issues were found. Anything out of their control such as drivers can be dealt with more seriously by the manufacturers. This setup would make for a much more stable operating system. It’s proven to work, just look at Microsoft Windows and well supported distributions of Linux.

So I call out to Google (if anyone is listening) to employ this development method for Android. It’s a fantastic operating system, but if my phone won’t work as a phone, then it’s useless to me. For that reason I have moved away from an Android device as my phone and over to a phone I know I can rely on – an iPhone 4S.

Read my next blog for more on my iPhone purchase and the stories behind it.



Road works and fuel strikes!

Posted by under Life, Rants, on 27 March 2012 @ 10:06pm.
Fuel Strikes - No Fuel
Image credit: mirror.co.uk

You probably saw the news today, fuel tanker drivers are going on strike again! Yay! Not… You see the problem with this is it disrupts the entire country when it happens. So you might be thinking why they’re striking anyway? To get back at the government for the stupid fuel prices? Oh no it’s because they want more money for themselves! They already earn an average of £45,000 a year, what bloody more do they want?! I know lots of people who would happily do their job for half that wage and not complain. If they don’t want their job they should give it to someone else, plain and simple, otherwise shut up and get on with it!

If this strike was over the newly proposed and accepted 3p increase in fuel cost coming in August this year, I’d be all for it. The government simply won’t learn. The UK fuel cost is over 150% tax on the price of the fuel itself. That’s how greedy our government is. They just tax things they know the UK economy just can’t be without. No fuel, nobody drives to work, so people MUST buy it no matter the price. Panic buyers have been out everywhere today filling their tanks. I was no different, I need my car for work too so I filled it up to the top at a ridiculous cost of £88, and it wasn’t even empty!

That £88 should last me about 600 miles at worst. I do 150mi/week to/from work plus a bit of leisure so we’re looking at 3 weeks tops I can last from that tank. Not a lot really but hopefully after 3 weeks the strike should be over and everything back to normal. The army is apparently going to step in and take over these lazy arse selfish self centred drivers jobs at a fraction of the pay so the disruption should be minimal.

Anyway, what can we do? Besides threatening to bomb the petrol stations or something stupid to get their attention, they’ll never listen. Tens of thousands of people take to the petitions etc. every time this happens and they get nowhere when they get to the people that can make a difference. They just slap another few pence on instead!!!

So yeah, we’re going to have to learn to live with it unfortunately. Our government are a bunch of idiots (and that’s the polite name for them). The sooner we get rid of them the better. We need Clarkson on our side, he’ll sort the bunch of idiots out!!!

Road works

Right, my 2nd rant is about road works and how much they annoy the f**k out of me! I’m not talking about all road works, some I agree are required to keep the maintenance of the road, but the ones that annoy me the most are the ones where nobody appears to be working on it… EVER!

Take this example. Yesterday evening around the junction I come off at for work on the motorway, they’d laid cones out for some work they would be starting that day. Fair enough, but why was there ZERO notice that any work would be carried out? It didn’t affect traffic much that day thankfully but the issue still stood.

The next day (this morning) we were met by a 2 1/2 mile tail back from that junction because of these road works. All it was is a closed off lane, but nobody was doing anything on it! The actual work in fact was on an adjacent junction and they just wanted to “clear the traffic” for work they were doing. I’m sorry but the work that was being done was 400 yards further down that adjacent junction and it was on the pavement!!! What sort of crazy people think it’s acceptable to block off a full lane of a motorway slip road for that work?! They did the same on the roundabout by the way, one of the three lanes was blocked off.

This caused huge disruptions for a lot of people. No thought went into it at all. With any luck tomorrow will be different and they will have realised the disruption caused today, but I’m not holding my breath…

Rant over. I needed to get those ones off my chest as I can’t stand either of them!



Broken new car!

Posted by under Life, Rants, on 27 March 2012 @ 9:49pm.
The AA Breakdown Cover

OK so I didn’t have the best of luck with my new car and just 5 days after getting it I broke down (this was last Thursday by the way, it’s Tuesday now). In some ways it was good that it broke now and not further in the future. Let me describe what happened.

I was travelling to work as I do every weekday morning and everything was as normal. But as I was a mile or so from my junction off the motorway the car suddenly lost all power, it made a bong sound from it’s instrument panel and “engine fault” appeared on the display. That was it, car dead. I had just a few seconds to move from the outside lane to the hard shoulder before I lost too much speed (I was going up a slight incline too).

After pulling over I shut everything off and after a minute or so I tried to start it again hoping it would have reset the ECU. It didn’t, and it just cranked and cranked until I pulled the key. Great! First time in 4 1/2 years of driving that I’ve broken down. Thankfully I had AA cover, so a quick call and 25 minutes later they were there to rescue me. I got them to take me to the garage I bought the car from (phoning ahead so they knew) and get them to sort it under the warranty.

This got me thinking it might be the fuel injectors as it was on recall and was one of the things that can cause the engine to point blank refuse to start. I got the garage to diagnose it and they said it was an injector. They recommended I get in touch with VW, which I did, as the injectors would all be done under their recall warranty scheme. £3000 of work for free! I’m certainly not complaining. However the only down side was it would be 4 days before they could fit me in.

I hate being without a car, it’s like a lifeline to me. It gets me everywhere from work and home, to friends houses, etc. 4 days would be a long time! Anyway it passed and today I got the car back with brand new injectors and she runs really smoothly again.

Now the rant. Why can the car not run without a single injector having failed? Well I know it’s a safety feature to protect the engine and/or catalytic converter from damage from excess fuel being shoved into it etc, but at the end of the day I’m the driver! I should be the one to make that decision! The worst part is that it fails in the blink of an eye, no warning. You could be anywhere, I just happened to be moving at a speed that allowed me time to pull over safely.

So yeah, safety systems might be saving the engine but they could put you in one hell of a situation if it fails in the middle of a street! End of rant on that one anyway… Lets see if my luck changes and I don’t have any serious problems from now on!



Replacement SIM and being cut off early – bad practice?

Posted by under Rants, on 14 February 2012 @ 10:18pm.
No Signal

I started having signal issues a few weeks ago where my Optimus 2X would randomly lose signal in a seemingly good signal area. It wouldn’t get it back until I either rebooted the phone or I set airplane mode on and then off again. Obviously this is a real pain and shouldn’t need to be done.

After a little bit of investigation work I determined it wasn’t likely to be the phone itself. It’s either a SIM card issue or a software issue (more likely since I run a custom ROM on it). The easiest thing would be to order a new SIM card to I went ahead and did this through O2’s live chat. That went smooth as you could ever imagine so no complaints there. And kudos to O2 for offering such a service, it saves time and money.

Anyway the rep I spoke to assured me everything was automatic for the switch over, which I was happy about. I was told it would arrive in a few days.

On Sunday I got a message saying I’d get it on Monday. Great! Fast service! Come Sunday evening I was browsing Facebook just before I went to bed and suddenly I noticed the phone had no signal again. Great, so I rebooted but the signal didn’t come back. I tried a second time with the same result. Thinking nothing of it I put it into my old Sony Ericsson which reported “SIM INACTIVE”. What the hell?

So here I am wondering why this has happened, it turns out that O2 have turned off my current SIM in anticipation of the new arrival the next day. Well done O2, you’ve now cut me off for the next 18 hours. How? Let me explain. I work a 9-5 job like most others, and as everyone knows post doesn’t magically arrive at 7am in the morning so there was no chance I was going to have my new SIM until the evening of the next day. This makes no sense because it means I’m without a phone for 18 hours.

Now what they should have done is activated the new SIM the next evening and told me to put it in on Tuesday morning. That would have made more sense and would have prevented daytime disconnection. I have sent O2 an e-mail regarding their replacement SIM activation process but I’ve not heard back from them yet (not surprising, they’ll probably take a few days). I’ve suggested the above to them for their activation process for replacement SIM’s, so I hope they take it.

Had I been a business customer I could have potentially lost a full days business. Even being a regular consumer I could have missed important phone calls. What if I needed to get in contact with someone or them contact me? I was completely out of reach for the whole time. Had O2 told me this would be the case I would have been OK with it, but the fact I was not told and it happened out of the blue is what annoyed me most.

Anyway what’s done is done, and I’ve made the complaint to O2. Lets hope they follow it. And let this be a lesson to anyone who is thinking of a replacement SIM following similar issues, make sure you confirm with them what the procedure it. It will probably vary between providers.



MB, MiB, GB, GiB, what the differences are and why it causes confusion

Posted by under Rants, Servers, on 5 February 2012 @ 7:50pm.

OK so you’ve probably heard of MB and GB (MegaBytes and GigaBytes), they’re used on all sorts of devices from phones to computers. But what are they? Better still, what are MiB and GiB (MibiBytes and GibiBytes)? Well both are units for measuring memory size but they have differences. The difference is that one is calculated using base 2 and one is calculated using base 10.

For these examples we’ll stick to GigaBytes and GibiBytes for our sizes.

A GigaByte that we’re all so used to is base 10 (1,000,000,000 bytes to 1 Gigabyte).
A GibiByte that you may have heard of is in base 2 (1,073,741,824 bytes to 1 GibiByte).

Table taken from http://www.pcguide.com/intro/fun/bindec.htm

So why does it cause confusion? Several reasons. Most sizes are referred to in Mega or Giga bytes so many people have been accustomed to this. For example in magazines or advertisements selling electronic equipment (tablet’s, digital cameras, etc.) and computers running Windows they’re referred to as this, but that’s where the confusion comes in, and a bit of a rant because of it.

The difference between 1GiB and 1GB is marginal, but when you increase this to several tens or thousands, it throws the scale way off. Not only that, Windows runs in base 2, but actually displays it using the prefix for base 10. So when you think it’s 1 GigaByte it’s actually showing 1 GibiByte instead but with the wrong unit! I have no idea why Microsoft decided to do this but it’s confusing as hell when you’re trying to work out the differences in file size on a program that really does show it properly. Gah!

The problem I had recently was on one of my sites, BetaArchive. I was trying to find discrepancies in the total archive size counter. It wasn’t showing the right size but we were adamant we had it right. In the end it turned out to be in the units.

Now I believe Mac and Linux use GigaBytes correctly and are also switchable from what I have read, you just have to find the option for it so Windows should have no excuse getting it right. Many people have complained to Microsoft but they’ve never done anything about it for some reason, so this problem continues to plague developers and people like myself trying to work out these discrepancies.

Suffice to say I wasted 2 hours trying to figure out where the missing data was. As a result of this cock-up I’ve even had to put a message next on the display on BetaArchive so people know it’s actually showing the right unit on the site but Windows shows the wrong unit!

I don’t doubt this will plague people for years to come as I doubt it will be fixed in Windows 8 either. I just find it hard to believe Microsoft have got away with it for this long.



What is “Unlimited” data and why do ISP’s ignore the true meaning?

Posted by under Rants, on 19 November 2011 @ 7:24pm.
infinityWhat is “unlimited” when it comes to broadband?

This is a rant that has been going on for some time now and not just by me. You can see it all over broadband support forums, both static and mobile.

Before we begin, lets just outline the definition of “unlimited”:

1. not limited; unrestricted; unconfined: unlimited trade.
2. boundless; infinite; vast: the unlimited skies.
3. without any qualification or exception; unconditional.
From http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/unlimited

Now that we know what it really means, lets outline what ISP’s think it means.

You will have found it hard to escape the small print and the all common use of “up to” in broadband advertisements. ISP’s think they can get away with selling a product as “unlimited” when really it’s just such a high limit that 99% of it’s users will probably never hit it. However as broadband becomes a more widely and higher used commodity those limits are being reached by more and more people.

Mobile Broadband

A common example would be from a mobile phone provider who offers a tariff with “unlimited data”. If you look at the small print there will commonly be something to the tune of “Fair usage policy applies” or “Fair usage of 3GB”. So on one hand they offer it as “unlimited” and the other it’s really 3GB. Now to me that’s fraudulent advertisement as they’re saying two completely different things. However it doesn’t matter as it’s “in the small print” and as long as it exists there Ofcom will do nothing about it. That’s the part of this that really annoys me. To top it off, if you go over that allowance they have the cheek to charge you £3/MB for the data when in reality the cost for that 1MB of data is not even 1 pence. It’s just a money making scam and it has to be stopped.

Regular Broadband

Another example comes from your regular broadband at home. They again sell it as “unlimited downloads” but then in the small print it says “fair usage applies” or, and this is where it’s a bit different, “we may manage your line if your download usage adversely affects others”. The difference here is that there is no given limit on how much you can use, but rather they tell you “if we feel you’re using too much we’ll slow you down”. Again that annoys me and I don’t think it should be allowed.

Traffic Management

Traffic management is the most common way of ISP’s to get out of the unlimited data problem as they are still technically offering unlimited data, albeit at a slower speed than before which artificially reduces the amount you can download in a given time. Virgin Media have been doing this for years (and so do others but I’ll pick on VM because I’m more aware of their practices).

Virgin Media employ what is called “STM” or “Subscriber Traffic Management”. This only operates between peak hours of the day (which surprisingly is 10am-9pm every day). It’s split into two so you have two limits per day. Depending on your speed you get a different allowance between these times. If you hit your STM limit, you will be traffic managed and suffer a 75% drop in download and upload speed. So instead (for example) having a 10Mbps unlimited connection, you now have a 2.5Mbps unlimited connection, which really IS unlimited now since they won’t slow you down any more.

Although Virgin Media openly give these limits out to their customers, I still feel it’s not something that should be allowed. You’re paying for a 10Mbps unlimited connection, which means you should be getting 10Mbps when you want to use it. In this day and age to watch any form of video online in HD you need more than 2.5Mbps to do it, and more when you have multiple users on the same connection (which is increasingly more common too).

The one thing I did notice with Virgin Media was with the higher speeds being introduced, more and more traffic management was being introduced – a sign that their network was simply not ready for it.

BeThere – The UK’s only truly unlimited ISP?

bethereBeThere may well be the only
truly unlimited ISP in the UK.

Now personally I am with BeThere broadband and I have been 100% satisfied by this ISP purely for the reason that they really are unlimited. I have downloaded at 8Mbps solid for 2 weeks and not had any slow down or had a letter from them complaining about my usage. That is how an unlimited ISP should be. However with only 600,000 or so customers and little coverage compared to BT/Virgin Media, not everyone will have the privilege of going with such a great ISP.

The question is though, why do these other ISP’s limit the data allowance at all? I’ll tell you why. To save costs. Plain and simple. The only other reason to do it is if they don’t have enough bandwidth to go around and that’s what Virgin Media has been doing. They can offer 100Mbps speeds sure, but they don’t have the bandwidth to offer it to everyone ALL of the time, so they have to restrict it. It’s all about penis size with ISP’s and who has the fastest speeds. They may have the speed but they can’t deliver the actual data allowance. So there’s me with my lousy 8Mbps BeThere connection and someone else with their 10Mbps Virgin Media connection. They might have 2 more Megabits of bandwidth that me, but I can easily download more than they can because of traffic management.

Complaints to Ofcom

There have been tens of thousands of complaints to Ofcom over the years regarding this issue but all they can do is turn around with “guidelines” that the ISP’s are not even obliged to follow. It is my opinion that the word “unlimited” should not be allowed to be used in any advertising sense unless it can be proven it is unlimited.

If the ISP can’t provide the bandwidth they state on their advertisements 24/7 then they should not be allowed to sell that package as unlimited, and a GB cap should be introduced in it’s place (providing that cap can actually be reached so they don’t oversell that as well). 10Mbps is capable of 3300GB in a single month if used at full speed for 30 days so they couldn’t give a cap of 5TB if you can’t reach it. 2TB would be suitable as that would require just 6.4Mbps of bandwidth 24/7.

But anyway I think you can gather the point I’m trying to make. Hardly any ISP’s exist that are truly unlimited, and BeThere is the only one I know that stick to that policy because it’s what they’re best known for. Unlimited is a word that should be banned in the selling of broadband and phone tariffs, etc, because unlimited in these cases nearly always have a limit. The technology is becoming more popular and used more widely that these caps just don’t work any more. Jump back 5 years ago and unlimited was almost completely unheard of. Go back another 5 and nobody knew what a cap was because nobody used that much data.

Times change, and the language and meanings that come with it also needs to change to meet new expectations.



Traffic Jams! You Can Control And Prevent Them You Know!

Posted by under Rants, on 2 November 2011 @ 7:33pm.

My next little rant is about traffic jams and how they’re so easy to control and even prevent if you know how.

Just this morning I was on the motorway for work, and there are ongoing roadworks which have been there for close to a month now if not a little longer. Many mornings there are traffic jams where the number of lanes changes from 3 to 2 as the contraflow begins. If drivers know how to manage such a change on the road there would not be traffic jams! There is still plenty of road for all of the drivers, but it’s knowing how to use it that is important.

Picture this: You’re in the middle lane and you get signs to say the 3rd lane is closing in 800 yards and the speed limit is now 50mph. What do you do? Most drivers will take no notice until it’s too late, where they’ll employ heavy braking and try to force their way into another lane that is not closed. Not only can this be dangerous but it also causes traffic jams. The drivers behind you in both lanes have to put their brakes on too. This causes drivers behind them to panic and put their brakes on even harder, and the effect cascades all the way back through the traffic. Eventually you’re all going so slow because of forcing your way into a free lane that traffic almost grinds to a halt. Congratulations, you’ve all caused a traffic jam.

So how can you prevent it?

Picture this instead: You’re in the 3rd lane of the motorway and you see the 800 yards and 50mph sign. Pull in and slow your speed down gently to the 50mph without brakes, just use engine braking. Everyone else around you also does the same thing in plenty of time so that you’re all pulled in and doing the correct speed limit in time. No fuss! Everyone is doing the right speed. there was no panicking. That wasn’t so hard was it?

OK, so things don’t always go to plan, we all know that.

If you’re in a traffic jam, what can you do to avoid it?

It’s actually easier than you think. It all comes down to two basic rules.

1. Keep your distance – By keeping your distance, if the traffic in front has to slow down, the gap you leave makes up for this until the traffic in front picks up again which often happens quite quickly. Leave about 10 car lengths and you should always have plenty of space.

2. Let people in! – If someone wants to pull in because of a closed lane, or they simply want to change lanes, then let them! Don’t force them to slow down to make the move, help them out. That way you reduce the amount traffic behind you has to slow down and you prevent the jam becoming worse. You may not be feeling nice during a traffic jam, especially if you’re late, but it pays to help other people. And remember, being nice puts everyone in a good mood!

Why does it work?

It’s all due to the stop-start cascade effect. If one car stops, the car behind has to stop. By the time the first car is moving again, the second car can move a few seconds later. But it’s already too late, the cascade has started. If you employ point 1 (keep your distance) you can avoid starting a cascade effect but you can also stop one too. Easy! This also applies to point 2 as well but in a lesser way.

So there you go, a comprehensive guide to controlling a traffic jam. What’s better, is it only takes 1 or 2 people doing this for it to start working. If everyone did it, there would be a hell of a lot less traffic jams on the roads today. I firmly believe it should be taught and tested (somehow) as part of the driving test/exam, especially now that we are seeing more and more vehicles on the road each year.



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