Tag Archives: bt infinity

The BT / above.net thing, part 2

So the issue with routing between BT and above.net made The Register, and finally got a mention on the BT Status page.  Lo and behold, this evening, everything seems a lot better.

If only BT had taken the issue seriously on Friday, or maybe, you know, perhaps have even detected it on their own network with their own monitoring, and resolved it themselves, they would have had a bunch of people feeling much happier.

BT & Above.net broken

So the network routing between BT and Above.net has been broken since Friday.  The problem only really manifests at around 7pm when packet loss through that route climbs to unacceptable levels (like 80%+).  It varies all the way through to about midnight by which time it’s down to 1-10% loss and services are usable.

It’s affecting access to Twitter, EA games, Eve Online and anything else which goes via that route.  Access to other web services are entirely unaffected.  To anyone who knows how to use traceroute it’s obvious where the problem lies.

Yet it’s been impossible to get BT to accept there is an issue or demonstrate they’re really investigating.  The @BTCare account on Twitter tells us they are, but no evidence.  The status page says something about ‘upgrades to the network’ but that only showed up at 8pm last night.  My fault report last night has been marked as ‘cleared’ probably because the problem went away, as normal, at around midnight.

Come on BT, take some notice – do something.  These two threads show the extent of the problem,

There’s plenty of traceroutes in them showing the issue between BT and Above.net – speak to each other, work it out, fix it permanently.   Everyone in those threads is fully expecting the issue to come back tonight.

Infinity update

BT Infinity has dropped down to 32Mbps download / 8Mbps upload, but it’s not disconnected now for about 4 days.  I assume therefore it’s been settling to a speed the line quality can handle, and has landed at pretty close to the original BT estimate (34Mbps / 10Mbps).

I’m still happy with that speed, and I’m glad the line has stabilised and stopped disconnecting once a day!

BT Infinity – a few days in

Firstly, let’s make this very, very clear.  I pretty much knew what I was getting into when I decided to move to BT Infinity.  When I first picked an ADSL provider I chose Nildram.  I did so because they had a reputation for not touching your traffic.  They were a data carrier, they didn’t try and intercept traffic or ‘offer value add services’.

Over the years, I got moved to other more ‘consumer grade’ ADSL services.  I knew when I chose to move to BT with BT Infinity that I would be at the mercy of BT policy.  I don’t like it, but I wanted to move from TalkTalk (who are no better) and at least Infinity is better, faster technology.

So how’s the move been?

Installation

Installation was a dream, literally.  This is our house, and it’s my network and I’m not happy with people coming in and messing with it, so I always get a bit bristly. My existing ADSL service stayed live until the BT Engineer called from the cabinet.  He said, “I’m going to disconnect you and them come round”, the cabinet is a street away.  The line dropped, the phone line was working within 5 minutes and he turned up 5 minutes after that.

My ADSL router was a fair distance from the master socket, connected via an rj11 cable.  Normally, ADSL providers hate you doing that claiming shocking performance reduction and instability, but it had been fine for years.  I knew that Infinity needed a cable modem (essentially), and the BT Home Hub.  I thought the cable modem had to be near the master socket, but the Home Hub could be further away, and I was ready for a ‘discussion’ with the engineer to make that happen.

Turns out, the cable modem sits on an rj11 cable to the socket – and the engineer was more than happy to place it exactly where my old ADSL router had been.  Win!  No cable changes required.  The Home Hub sits just in front of the modem.  This was a huge relief for me, I had visions of trying to run cabling everywhere and I was really pleased the engineer took the time to look at what I had and work with it.

Total time from engineer call to BT Infinity installed and working – 27 minutes.

He said it sometimes takes longer if there’s a lot of cabling to do – but I was pretty impressed.

Performance

I have to say, performance exceeds all my expectations, at present.  The line runs around 34-37Mbps download and 8-9Mbps upload consistently.  There’s some variation and I’m not sure if that’s the line negotiating a different speed, contention or just network throughput.  Either way – I’m super happy.

Reliability

I have a minor issue at the moment with reliability.  The connection is dropping once a day at the moment, late at night or early in the morning, for about a minute.  This might seem trivial, but it bugs the hell out of me, and it’s obvious it’s happened for two reasons.  Firstly, I don’t run a ‘normal’ consumer style network config here, I’ve got a lot of stuff going on with permanent ‘net connections so I can see it’s dropped.  Secondly, because the IP address is also changing on each reset, TweetDeck is getting its knickers in a twist with SSL certificates and moaning.  This might be a bug in TweetDeck being exposed by the IP change, but it’s annoying none-the-less.

Issues

These were issues I was expecting, I’m listing them here in case you might not, or in case you run the kind of stuff I do.

  • Non-fixed IP address: I knew it would change, and I’m pleased to say the Home Hub has built in support for dyndns.com which helps, but I hoped it would remain reasonably static for long periods.  That’s not the case at the moment because of the daily dropouts.  I’m surprised it changes every time it reconnects, but wonder if there’s something else at play since the subnet is changing completely.  We’ll see how it works over time.
  • Outbound Mail: BT provide SMTP servers for your local mail clients, but you can only use them to relay mail with a from field set to your BT Internet e-mail address.  You can ‘pre-register’ a number of additional addresses via the BT Web Mail page if you want.  I knew that BT’s SMTP servers wouldn’t be as forgiving as the Nildram ones, so I’d already been planning options for this.  I send mail from a number of UNIX boxes here, only 3 or 4 a day, but the from address can vary quite a bit.  I’ve solved this by using my own mail relay on a VPS I run.  It might impact you if you want to keep using an old non-BT e-mail address with Outlook or Thunderbird, because you’ll need to pre-register that address before it’ll work.
  • DNS Hijacking: I wasn’t expecting this, but I’m not surprised it’s there.  It seems the BT DNS servers return ‘helpful’ addresses if the URL you type in can’t be found.  This can be opted out of, but I’m not sure if that’s per browser (is it a cookie?) or per connection?  I’ll just avoid this by not using the DNS servers presented from the BT Home Hub and instead using Google DNS.
  • Deep Packet Inspect / Traffic Shaping / Traffic Inspection: I expect that BT will implement one or all of these technologies over time, and that I will have to do something about them, but I’ll cross those bridges when I get to them.  Internet service to the home is changing all the time, and as more organisations deliver fibre to the home, I’ll be able to choose an ISP who just offers to carry my data and not mess with it.

Overall

I’m really pleased overall with BT Infinity.  The speed is higher presently than the estimate, it’s consistent at present, and the installation was significantly less complex than I thought it would be.  The issues aren’t unexpected, and for most home users won’t be a problem (the e-mail one is the one that will get most folk who don’t use webmail).

ADSL All Change

In our previous house, we had a cable modem, but despite there being a green Cable box right outside the wall of the new house, there’s no cable service in our street.  I checked with Virgin Cable but it wasn’t commercially viable to do the street any more.  So we signed up for ADSL.  At the time, I wanted a reliable service, and I’d heard good things about Nildram, so I signed up with them.

It wasn’t the cheapest option, by a long chalk, but it was reliable, in four years we had no noticeable outage.  Nildram was eventually purchased by Pipex but nothing really changed.  Then Pipex were bought up by Tiscali, and not much changed.  Then Tiscali were bought up by Opal. who may have been part of TalkTalk or were later renamed to TalkTalk business or something like that.  Once that happened, the service went downhill.

Overnight disconnects, variable performance, disconnects during the day, etc.  However, if you’ve met me you know that I am super resistant to change.  Not because I don’t think change can be good, but because I’m basically lazy.  I’ll tolerate ‘good enough’ vs ‘much better’ if good enough involves no effort.  Eventually though, there’s a tipping point and I’ll initiate change.

I’ve been looking at BT Infinity since it was first announced – cable-like speeds using VDSL.  It’s still variable speed, because your distance from the cabinet has an impact but it’s significantly better than most ADSL.  My ADSL connection is 6-7Mbps, BT Infinity suggested I might get 34Mbps.

So anyway – about 3 weeks ago we noticed the ‘net connection was being a bit odd.  Sending tweets wouldn’t work, web pages would half load, some stuff wouldn’t connect first time.  Throughput was okay once you got a connection, I could still get 5-600KB/s, but it would sometimes reqiure two or three page refreshes to load a full web page.

It came to a head when I worked at home one day, and my VPN connection to the office was atrocious.  I couldn’t send or receive any mail and got about 2KB/s transfer when trying to send and receive files.  Clearly, the underlying VPN connection suffered more from whatever was causing the connection issues in general.

Did I call TalkTalk?  No.  For two reasons.  Firstly, someone else at work mentioned exactly the same behaviour on their TalkTalk connection, and they knew of 1 other person with the same issue as well.  At the same point, I found someone living in a completely different part of the country on TalkTalk who had the same problem.  The second reason, and you can lambaste me if you like, is that I knew how the conversation would go.

Me: I’m having an issue – description of problem.
Customer Service Rep: Okay, I have a checklist of things you’ve already done, such as rebooting your ADSL router, taking all other devices out of the equation, etc., etc.
Me: But I know other people with the exact same issue around the country, and I’ve tried those things, and it feels to me like packet loss or traffic shaping gone bad, and my line quality values haven’t changed because I track them.
Customer Service Rep: Okay, but can you please work through this checklist of things.
Me: Sigh.

I spend my job fixing technical issues, and advising other people how to fix them, and I know very well how critical it is that you follow a logical investigative process and make no assumptions.  But when I ring a call centre I don’t want to hear that shit, I want to speak to someone technical so we can talk about it.  I know I can’t, I know it’s wrong, but I can’t help it.

It’s like being a retired garage mechanic and taking your car to your local garage, and having to try and explain why you know what the problem is while they ask you what colour the paintwork is.

So no, I didn’t call TalkTalk, but I did decide to move to BT Infinity.  Ten minutes through the Infinity signup and I remembered I needed my MAC.  To give them their due, TalkTalk provided it well within the 5 working day estimate.  On Tuesday of this week I ordered BT Infinity and they gave me a delivery and installation date of next Wednesday!

So I’m excited but of course, because of who I am, I’m also planning!  I used to have a fixed IP address with Nildram but that’s going to go, so I’ll need to re-work the security on my VPS and web sites.  I’ll need to either run a long cat5 cable between the VDSL modem and the BT Home Hub, or get a new network switch, or maybe both.  Is there going to be room for both boxes near the phone?  Will the engineer be helpful and put the Home Hub in a different room?  Argh!

So, all change to something many people consider a luxury, but for many reasons, something we consider vital.  I’ll let you know how it goes, over 3G if it goes badly.