broadband datacentre Engineer engineering internet Net peering

Why Does Scotland Need a Broadband Internet Exchange? #peeringweek

Almost a year ago exactly, an ambition I’ve had for a very long time came true.  It’s not a personal ambition (not exactly on my bucket list), but it’s an ambition I wanted the local Scottish Internet and broadband community to achieve.

After years of failed attempts, talking amongst ourselves in the community and generally making very little progress, on the 27th of March 2013, LINX held a meeting in Edinburgh to discuss the possibility of having an Internet Exchange in Scotland.  It was at that meeting that the community agreed to ask LINX to build what would become IXScotland.

One might wonder why Scotland needs an Internet Exchange of its own? 

broadband dns Engineer engineering internet ipv6 media Net peering

Experiences of Launching a Broadband IXP in North America #peeringweek @LINX_Network

LINX Head of Marketing and Business Development Ben Hedges shares his experiences launching a broadband IXP in a Peering Week guest post.

The opportunity to co-host the 24th Euro-IX forum in the UK has come along at what is a very exciting time for LINX. It’s our 20th year and this event comes shortly after us opening two brand new IXPs; IXScotland in Edinburgh and LINX NoVA in North Virginia, USA.

With LINX NoVA being our first overseas exchange there has been a lot of attention worldwide for what we’ve been building in the States. In this blog I will look to explain the background as to why we’re doing what we’re doing and why we believe this is an important development for LINX and its members plus the peering industry as a whole.

4g Engineer engineering mobile connectivity

EE 4G mobile broadband roadmap in UK #LTE-A #mobilebroadband

EE4G4G speeds continue to grow in the UK as EE trial LTE-A 300Mbps.

Sat in an interesting talk at UKNOF27 given by Bob Sleigh of EE. You will know that EE were the first of the mobile operators to sell 4G services in the UK. Bob told us that by the end of 2013 EE 4G services have reached 66% of the UK population with 98% potentially covered by the end of 2014. This represents the fastest rollout of 4G services in any country anywhere and EE now claim that the UK has moved from a mobile backwater to one of the world’s leading implementers.

This claim of world leadership is likely to be on the back of EE’s Techcity LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) trials (November 2013) which saw maximum 4G speeds of 296Mbps. EE expect to roll out LTE-A services in 2014.

Business engineering google social networking

Google Apps update – is now working

trefSince Monday I’ve been trying to set up a Google Apps for Business account for I kept getting rejected with a message saying that “the domain was already in use”.

I was using it via my personal gmail account – picking up emails pulled from my Timico POP3 mailbox. Deleted any reference to in my personal mailbox then when Google continued to reject my efforts to register a new apps account I discovered you have to wait 24 hours for “things to filter through the system”.

Over 24 hours later it still didn’t work and I made a comment to this effect on Twitter. Twitter is a truly powerful networking tool.  @AndyCDoyle offered to help and this lunchtime, having started to raise a ticket with Google, he found that there was already a Google Apps account for Funnily enough it was one I registered meself years ago. I’d totally forgotten about it.

A password reset came through to the recovery email address, my own personal gmail account,  and hey presto I was up and running. Ish. It does take time to learn how to navigate your way around and I can see why a business might want to contract the setup out to an IT consultant.

One thing that flummoxed me was that in all the help guides it says you have to verify that the domain is yours. None of the relevant fields appeared on my screen so either I had already done it (certainly don’t recall that which I’m beginning to find out perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise) or when I signed up for Google Apps you didn’t need to do that step. I suspect the former is true.

Setting up email was easy. I just had to modify the Timico hosted zone files so that the MX records pointed at 5 google servers. Once that was done it worked straight away. Simples. I can now add aliases to my heart’s content and because the account was set up before Google started charging it’s all free. Result!

It would appear that I can have up to ten users in the free account which is going to do me for the forseeable future. Not figured out how much storage I get yet but I have over 100GB in my other account thanks to me buying a Chromebook so that should be fine for a couple of years.

I’ve already set up some aliases including one for use in tradeshow registrations that is automatically filtered and archived 😉

Important to make a bit of progress every day and this is progress.

PS As you may have noticed at the top of this post I’m experimenting with new profile pics. Have managed to change my personal gmail pic but struggling with  one for the new account. Keeps telling me the jpg photo is an invalid file. Google Apps is great for many things but it ain’t perfect and seems to have plenty of bugs that need kluges to work around. Not figured out a kluge for the profile pic yet.

PPS big thanks to Andy Coyle. Was surprised to hear he has a broad Mancunian accent. Shouldn’t have been because he lives in Manchester but that’s Twitter for you. Andy there will be a beer waiting for you when I come up for UKNOF27. Also you might want to think about using his services especially if you are in the Manchester area. His website is here.

Ciao all.

Engineer engineering

Growth in UKNOF attendee registration suggests healthy industry

With a couple of weeks to go the regular UK Network Operators Forum (UKNOF) meeting is seeing very healthy growth in registrations.

Take a look at the chart. Waaay back in the actually not too distant past UKNOF1 in May 2005 had 47 folk in attendance.

If you are in the game you will recognise quite a few names there.

Today, at the time of writing and with a couple of weeks to go, there are 232 people signed up.

A fair bit of this growth has come in the last 12 months which must sure be an emulation of other economic indicators. Although not all companies are doing well the well run ones are. I’d expect the final numbers for UNKNOF27 to exceed 250.

UKNOF meetings are not for the layman but if you are in the business the agenda reads very well – indicators of what’s going on in the internet plumbing world.

This meeting includes talks on:

  • progress with the new generic top level domains by Leo Vegoda ICANN – remember the industry is expanding from the relatively short list of domain suffixes (.com, .net etc) to include hundreds more (/plumbing, .sexy, .photography etc)
  • 100GigE rollout at Janet by Rob Evans (ref yesterday’s post on Janet)
  • DDOS equals pain by Richard Bible

These are all subjects that, if you but knew it, affect everyone on the planet one way or another. We may all want a website that uses the new gtld (.plumbing might become cool:) ).  Faster home broadband means that networks need faster and faster connections to carry the traffic back and forth from the internet (etc). 100GigE which has been in development for years was first mentioned on this blog back in 2010 but still only has 2 organisations using it in the UK (BT & Janet).

You may not notice a DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack but every now and again if you have problems accessing particular websites there is a fair chance that this is because of DDOS. Even an individual broadband connection occasionally gets attacked – usually if the person at the end of that broadband has upset someone else. The internet is certainly still in the wild wild west web stage.

The fact that sponsors line up to support these events is a testament to the quality of the meetings and of the attendees.

That’s it for now. I’m going to UKNOF27 and will perhaps update on final numbers on the day.

PS took me ages to get the chart exported from google spreadsheet. There is a known bug that has been at least 2 years in the fixing (not). In the end I had to take a screenshot!

Engineer engineering H/W

New toys for the boys Cisco ASR1002

Cisco ASR1002

To keep engineers happy you have to give them toys to play with. In our game it is fairly straightforward because the network is always evolving. It’s all about continuous upgrade.

The “problem” at Timico is driven by two factors:

  1. the need to keep moving with the times
  2. the need to add extra capacity

In a world where the broadband market has been fairly stagnant or at best slow moving for a number of years, certainly in terms of total numbers of subscribers, our broadband customer base seems to be growing in step functions. A strong driver for this is that we deal with businesses that often have many sites that need connecting – sometimes thousands. We aren’t therefore driven by the need to continuously bomb the price and and more into the bundle such as TV.

Our customers are of course interested in price but they also want a management wrap.  Network uptime is more important to them than price because downtime means loss of cash.

So the ASR1002 in the pic is one of a number that will be integrated into the network as LNSs (Layer 2 Network Servers). Each can cope with 64k users. We won’t be pushing them hard. We are after reliability and don’t want to cram as many users as possible onto each one.

That’s all. Funny what you pick up when walking around the office innit?

Engineer engineering fun stuff

Milner’s Moisture Matic – technology made simple

john milner - top timico applications engineer

Meet John Milner, crazy genius inventor. He is one of a few. A bit like Nat Morris with his Twitter based dog feeder. You’ve met John before on this blog actually should you care to look.

Today John brings you Milner’s Moisture Matic. Arduino powered with a recycled power brick the Milner Moisture Matic puts a 5V field between two bolts buried in the soil of a plant pot. The resistance is measured between the two bolts. The more moist the soil the lower the resistance. When resistance hits a threshold, ie when the current hits a certain low point,  it tells the system that more water is required.

moisture maticA 10bit sensor is converted to 8bit for the processor to read. A 3 way LED tells us the state of the soil – green is good, amber is ok and red says it needs water at which point a pump kicks in for 7 seconds.

Separate sensors tell us the level of water in the reservoir (reused milk jug) and whether there is water in the outside pot. The pump will only work if the moisture sensor and the pot water sensor indicate dryness.

sensorThe Arduino processor comes with pre built twitter elements so we could extend the functionality to log reports on twitter – frequency of watering, whether the reservoir needs topping up etc.

Check out the images clicking either gets you a larger image or a different view.

milners moisture detector

Business engineering

Cisco London Partner Forum, apprentices, graduates, growth and investment

Sat with a lot of grey suits at the Cisco London Partner Forum. @richorob is speaking. Cisco always have lots of interesting stats to talk about. They are a rich source of data about the high tech world we live in and make a living out of. You can look on their website for specific stuff, I’m not writing about it here.

What did interest me was the audience response to a couple of questions.

@richorob asked how many in the audience were expecting their businesses to grow this year. My gut feel is that only maybe 25% of people raised their hands. Extending this to 10% or more growth quite a few with their hands up dropped them. I’d say that less than 10% of the audience were expecting double digit sales growth. My hand stayed up btw.

Interesting. Times are clearly hard out there even in a market sector that has always been high growth driven by technological change.

Later he asked how many companies took on apprentices or graduates in their business. The response was astonishing. Maybe 10 or 15 hands went up out of at least 200 people in the room. The businesses in the room are all in the high tech game. They may well be sales orientated but in this world a highly skilled and highly educated workforce is absolutely essential. The quality of the person that you put in front of your customers is the difference between sinking and making that 10% progress. The stream is fast moving.

I’m not just talking about sales people. Our most recent apprentices have been in our reception team and in the IT department and graduate recruits get trained around different departments before deciding on the type of job they would like, except perhaps for the developers who prefer to go into a dark room with other geeks and do their stuff” :).

Times may well be hard out there but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. That’ll do for now – I need to listen to the talks.

Engineer engineering internet

Fearghas nods off

Many of you will know Fearghas McKay as a solid hard working lad who is thoroughly dependable and very knowledgeable about his subject. Such is his commitment to his job that he often works through the night at home and then turns up for a full day in the office the next day.

All this hard work does eventually take its toll.  I mischievously filmed the lad sleeping like a baby at UKNOF24 held at Timico yesterday.  Poor old Fearghas completely missed Jesse Sowell of MIT’s retrospective on the WCIT meeting. Ah well. Lucky for him he wasn’t snoring when I was filming.

I gave out some wonderful Timico Megamugs at UKNOF but I do have a few left and seeing as it’s Friday afternoon I’m going to have a caption competition. Lets have some suggestions for captions to accompany this video.

Engineer engineering

Travel guidance for attendees of #UKNOF24 on Thursday 17th Jan #LAMMA

UKNOF24UKNOF24 is being held at Timico in Newark on Thursday 17th January. People trying to book accommodation will already have found out that there is an agricultural equipment show called LAMMA on at the Newark Showground. Great if you like tractors (which I do) but a nuisance if you are coming to UKNOF24.

If you are coming by car you need some local advice re how to avoid the traffic which will be heavy with farmers heading to the showground.

Coming from Lincoln Heading for Newark turn off the A46 at the Brough turning around 2 or three miles before Newark. You can find your way the back way through Stapleford Wood and Coddington to our offices that way.

Coming up or down the A1 turn off at the Coddington exit and turn right towards Newark. Lamma traffic will be turning left. This is one exit after the main Newark turning (the one with the railway station signposted) heading South – so the one before it heading North (obv).

Coming from Nottingham turn off at the first roundabout at the end of the new dualled bit of the A46 and head in on the B6166 to Newark (this is the old Roman Fosse Way fwiw). Avoiding the A46 bypass will save you a lot of time.

Cars should come and park at the actual data centre which is secure and where there will be more space. The address is

Timico Data Centre

Brunel Business Park

Jessop Close

Newark NG24 2AG

It has a different access road to the HQ building though you can access both buildings on foot from each other. The gate is a secure one but someone should be keeping an eye open to let you in.

For those catching the train the data centre is about a 10 min walk South from Newark Northgate – there is a footpath along the side of the track. The walk from Newark Castle is a bit longer. If I were you I’d call a taxi.

Newark Taxi 01636 705200 – book in advance when you know what time your train gets in.

Any questions just ask. See you for the curry.


I’d plan to get in early if I were you as some of our staff members got caught up in horrendous traffic on hte way in this morning.


Engineer engineering internet

#UKNOF24 is at Timico in Newark next week

UKNOF24It’s a day for writing posts about being excited. This time I’m excited to tell you that next Thursday Timico is playing host to UKNOF24. Many of you will know what I’m taking about but more will not.

The UK Network Operators Forum acts as an open forum for operational, technical and engineering information exchange related to networking technologies and practices. On Thursday we will have 120 or so of the UK’s top network engineers in our Newark Conference Centre.

Its a very packed agenda including a curry the night before sponsored by LINX and beers afterwards. UKNOF is open to anyone involved in the networking game. It isn’t just ISPs and commercial network operators. You could be running the network of your own business.  Next week we will hear about subjects as diverse as 100Gbps optical networks and the market for VoIP/SIP.

If you want to come you can register here.

End User engineering

Introducing the Nook Simple Touch Glow Light – billstickers will be prosecuted

This post isn’t really about the Nook Simple Touch Glow Light, worthy subject though it may be. This is a very simple post about a man putting up a poster on Platform 4 of Lincoln Central railway station. That is it!

Sometimes you have to keep things simple:)

The video is 3’44” long. It’s longer than I’d normally post, knowing the attention span of the modern internet user. On that basis it is almost a book in blog post terms, or a full length feature film in YouTube parlance.

I have taken this ambitious step because this video is a work of art. It takes a second or two for the Galaxy S3 to properly focus so you need to bear with me there. It’s a bit shaky too, partly because it was windy (that’s my excuse anyway) and I didn’t wait until the job in hand was totally finished because my arm was getting tired and it was taking too long.  About two thirds of the way through I zoom in so you do eventually get a closer look.

Just like the ride on the Number 205 bus you could call this video an historic representation of a moment in time, on this occasion in Lincoln. It is also a study in poster technology and the craftsmanship by which the said advertising medium is skilfully erected. I say erected for this is no mere “slap on a bit of glue and shove it up” job.

There is very little dialogue in this video and whilst the main actor has his back to us most of the time1we do get a glimpse of his character when he smiles briefly at the camera just after the three minute mark.

Let me delay no further. I present to you “how to put up a poster” Act one, Scene one:

Stick no bills, billstickers will be prosecuted etc etc etc.

Oh and finally if anyone wants to send me a Nook ereader I will happily do a review. Up the revolution!

1 the cognoscenti will understand that this is unavoidable in the poster erecting trade

Engineer engineering internet

the leaving of #UKNOF23 TfL bus number 205 to Paddington

Never let it be said that this blog fails to deliver. This time I present for your delectation a journey on the TfL number 205 bus which left Old Street for Paddington yesterday afternoon.

I had been at UKNOF23 at the Google Campus near Old Street and was headed for a rendezvous at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel with Paul Schwartz. Paul is an interesting bloke. He is CEO of Danish router manufacturer Icotera and member of the board of the Fibre to the Home Council (Europe).

Now some of you might wonder what on earth I am doing showing a video of a bus ride. This video is actually of a single hop between two stops: Old Street and Moorfields Eye Hospital on the City Road (of “in and out of the Eagle” fame). It represents a short window on the life of London and will potentially, when considered in conjunction with millions of other snapshots, contribute to the historical record of our great capital city.

The bus enthusiasts among you will also complain that a single stop is not enough. Give me more, more – I hear the clamour. Well there were two factors that prevented me from filming more. Firstly most people will not even watch the 52 seconds of this single hop. Then there was the fact  that my battery was running low and I needed to conserve it in anticipation of the need to call Paul because I had no idea what he looked like.

So there you have it. Those wondering why I left UKNOF23 during the afternoon coffee break now know and those who simply like to ride at the front of the top deck of double decker busses (which could well be the vast majority of the UK population) should also be happy.

And so to the video…

PS these videos are becoming increasingly popular. The one of “How to make steak tartare” has hit 60 views on YouTube! Life is good:)

Engineer engineering

Notes from UKNOF23 – Cinnamon, Brick Lane & Google Campus

blackboard at Google Campus near Old StreetThe title is somewhat disingenuous because the notes are from the night before UKNOF23. Before UKNOF everyone pops out for a curry sponsored by one of the fine networking companies that support the organisation. In last night’s case it was IX Reach and we all went to Cinnamon on Brick Lane.

Fair play to Cinnamon the food was great and included dishes called Naga containing the world’s hottest chilli pepper. Not for the faint of heart and certainly not for me though Adrian kennard of AAISP seemed not to break into sweat as he tucked in to his. More of a man than I’ll ever be.

Fair play also to IX Reach who took the decision to cover all the cost of the booze as well as the food which meant I could indulge in that second half of lager. I was in bed by ten though as I have a speaking slot today, albeit after lunch.

The photos are a random selection from the Cinnamon curry house, Brick Lane, the Google Campus where the meeting is being held and of Bonhill Street where the Google Campus is located. I took the picture of the urns because it is unusual to see two urns for hot water and only one for coffee. Clearly engineers drink more tea than coffee.

Photos below.

That’s all folks…

Cloud Engineer engineering

Meet Stuart Clark CCNA CCNA (security) CCNP CCIP (service provider) JNCIA #Timico

Stuart Clark - Timico 3rd line engineer gets first Juniper certification

Meet Stuart Clark CCNA, CCNA (security), CCNP, CCIP (service provider), JNCIA and Timico 3rd line engineer extraordinaire. Stuart is one of the tough guys that gets going when the going gets tough 🙂 He is clearly camera struck in the photo but don’t let that put you off – not everybody is a media hussy 🙂

Stuart is into continuous self improvement – as you can see from the list of engineering qualifications he has started to amass. The entry level Juniper cert is his latest examination success and  just a starter for ten in the Junos world. His Cisco certs will have made it relatively easy – more a question of adjusting to how Juniper does things versus Cisco rather than a whole new world to pick up.

Congrats to Stuart for his latest exam pass and actually for being a general good bloke who shows an interest.

Question for you. Stuart didn’t start life as an engineer. His first career was totally different. A fine bottle of La Grille, Sauvignon Blanc 2010 by Franck Chatelain1 goes to the first person who can guess what that first career was – sorry no Timico staff or family members allowed to enter this one 🙂

1 happened to have one in my desk drawer – as you do.

Engineer engineering

Today Friday 30th July is System Administrator Appreciation Day

Sys Admins all around the world will this morning come in to their office to be greeted with a standing ovation by the rest of the business – all of whom will have got in early especially to make some nice fresh coffee, bake some croissants and place their tokens of appreciation in a heap on the desk of the said Sys Admin.

You can picture the scene of joy. The broad grin on the face. The feeling of deepest satisfaction knowing that despite

Engineer engineering internet ipv6

IPv6 to IPv4 tracert showing NAT

tracert showing IPv6 to IPv4 NAT with end destination - click to enlarge
tracert showing IPv6 to IPv4 NAT – click to enlarge


Adrian Kennard of AAISP gave a talk on their implementation of IPv6  at yesterday’s UK Network Operators Forum (UKNOF).  Whilst it may not be of huge interest to most readers it is worth taking a look at how the old IPv4 and new IPv6 networked worlds will talk to each other.

The picture below represents a tracert to the website.  The BBC sits on an IPv4 network.  AK is moving  AAISP exclusively to IPv6. His customers still need to be able to reach everywhere on the internet and this is done by Network Address Translation (NAT), something that most people will associate with private internal IP addresses.

The tracert clearly shows the long originating IPv6 address 2001:8b0:0:31::51bb:1ffa and the point in the network at which NAT is used to convert to IPv4, in this instance when connecting to the LONAP peering exchange. The shorter address is the more familiar IPv4 format.

Thanks for Adrian for permission to use this.  His presentation can be found here.

Business engineering internet ofcom piracy Regs

Digital Economy Bill – printer accused of illegal downloads

The cogs of Government continue to grind. I know many of you yawn at some of these regulatory posts but man cannot live on network diagrams alone. The 5th day of the Digital Economy Bill House of Lords Committee stage was held yesterday.

No non-Government amendments made it through but a number of important concessions were made.

Clause 11 in particular concerns “Obligations to limit internet access”. The brakes are being put on this in that no order to cut off someone’s internet access could be made until 12 months after Ofcom has looked at this issue and come up with a Code of Practice.

It is now also proposed that it becomes a requirement, as opposed to an option, for the Secretary of State to request a report from Ofcom on the “suitability of a technical obligation”, ie whether a consumer gets cut off in a particular instance (I assume).

There will also be full appeals process which could be heard by a tribunal before any technical measure is imposed. It will still lead to a pretty messy situation downstream even if it delays the day of reckoning.

Note this is still not backed up by any sign of copyright licensing reform that will make it easier to download music in a legal manner.

There is a lot more to read about but you can do that yourselves here – if you have a few hours to spare and don’t mind finishing up with a headache. Despite all the glamour and the luxury expense fuelled living  🙂 a lot of what MPs do is deadly boring and is reported in such technical legalese as to make it often undecipherable to the “man on the street”.

It is worth noting something else. ISPs regularly receive “abuse” reports from Rights Holders. These letters informing an ISP of supposed illegal downloading activity from one of their customers’ IP Addresses

At last week’s UKNetwork Operators Forum (UKNOF) meeting a representative of Janet, the UK Education network, said that of the ‘abuse’ reports they received last year, 10% turned out to be for the IP addresses of printers, 15% were address space that wasn’t actually being used and 50% only had a 0 second interval for the time that material was being offered for download.

By this token, and I admit only in this anecdotal case, 75% of the supposed illegal activity would never pass scrutiny. This suggests that it is going to be very difficult for anyone to determine the validity of such an assertion by a Rights Holder, be they a judge, ISP or anyone else. There is no way an ISP would want to get involved with this without someone picking up the costs and being fully indemnified.

End User engineering

“error 30”

I was doing some interviewing this afternoon and one candidate came up with “error 30” – a great Tech Support Ticketing error resolution code that is used at one company he had worked at.

Error 30 is down to the entity 30cms from the PC screen. Basically if you don’t understand you are probably part of the problem 🙂 . I thought it was good enough to write down. I got back to the NOC and related this to the team and got a few others thrown my way:

PEBKAC – Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair

PICNIC – Problem In Chair Not In Computer.

I’m obviously easily entertained!

End User engineering

"error 30"

I was doing some interviewing this afternoon and one candidate came up with “error 30” – a great Tech Support Ticketing error resolution code that is used at one company he had worked at.

Error 30 is down to the entity 30cms from the PC screen. Basically if you don’t understand you are probably part of the problem 🙂 . I thought it was good enough to write down. I got back to the NOC and related this to the team and got a few others thrown my way:

PEBKAC – Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair

PICNIC – Problem In Chair Not In Computer.

I’m obviously easily entertained!

End User engineering

Engineering at Bangor University

Attended a meeting of Bangor University Industrial Panel today. I am pleased to say that undergraduate intake is up on the previous year which was itself up on 2007. Moreover all places were filled well in advance. This is I’m sure helped by two factors.

The first is that Bangor’s School of Engineering is ranked second in the UK according to the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise.

Secondly when students are graduating with debts of £20,000 they are increasingly looking for value for money in the degrees that they take, particularly during these recessionary hard times. An Engineering Degree from Bangor is not an easy option but a valuable one once attained.

An University faces challenges remarkably similar to industry. One of these is to provide products, in this case course material, relevant to the employment market place that their graduates will face. This is of course where the Industrial Panel can add value and I feel honoured to be invited to contribute.

The irony is that the meeting today was held in the library of the Engineering building. Somewhere I hardly visited as a reprobate undergraduate 🙂 (Only kidding…?)

Business engineering

Cisco on acquisition trail

I see that Cisco is notionally on the acquisition trail which doesn’t come as a surprise.  It is a good time to be cash rich.

It wouldn’t surprise me either to find out that Cisco has been sniffing around the Nortel Carrier Division.  It would be a great fit.  I don’t think it will be too long before we find out.

We haven’t really seen consolidation happen on the big scale in the tech world yet this turndown.  Timico has picked up some ADSL customers from defunct ISPs and may yet pick up a business or two.

Tiscali has been trying to be “consolidated” for a while now but is struggling to make it happen!  It should only be a matter of time one way or another.

Business engineering

Timico Introduces Intelligent Ceiling Tiles at Ipswich NOC

Innovation is in the blood of every engineer at Timico . 

When I told the netops team that one day Timico will be a global organisation and the Network Operations Centre will have to operate a “follow the sun” timetable they went away to think about it. 

Turns out they were all very happy working in the UK and the prospect of moving to new Timico NOCs in California, Hawaii and the Maldives held no attraction.

The outcome was the intelligent ceiling tile. This (pat pending) idea allows engineers to replicate conditions in these sunny locations by chosing the weather for display on the ceiling above their desks. They normally chose a sunny cloudless day, in line with the follow the sun support policy.

Sometimes clouds get added, just for a bit of variation, with the occasional hot air balloon floating gently by. You can even have seagulls, without of course the droppings which can be a problem in the outside world.

Turns out this has benefits not anticipated in advance. Because the ceiling is always sunny, staff don’t notice when the heating has been switched off – even in the middle of winter. This has saved Timico thousands in heating bills.

The Timico NOC now also has the most highly qualified set of engineers of any company in the world. As well as the weather the ceiling tiles can display text such as crib notes for professional development courses.

After only one week at the NOC a graduate engineer is guaranteed to pass a Cisco CCNA exam. The CCIE only takes 6 weeks. The developer, Ian Christian, received his PhD during during the pre-rollout testing phase of the project.

All good reasons to work for Timico 🙂 .

Engineer engineering

How can you make exams exciting?!

I never thought I would get excited by the prospect of an exam. I am at the moment though but I have to confess it is not me taking the exams. When my 16 year old took his GCSEs last summer I think I was more nervous than he was.

This time my nerves are rock steady as 12 Timico engineers are lining up to sit their Cisco Certified Networking Associate (CCNAs) exams. It is exciting because I can see the guys’ knowledge and skillset  improving almost daily as they put in the effort to prepare for the exams.

At the end of it all I’m hoping that we will end up with 12 more members of staff with their foot on the first rung of the professional engineering career ladder. I’m determined to be able to take regular afternoons off to play golf and this is all part of the process of getting  me there. I don’t expect these engineers to have time to play any golf though.

PS congratulations to Mark Chennell of Timico subsidiary KeConnect who passed his CCNA last week. He is a good guy.

PPS good luck to the others.

Engineer engineering

CCNA Bootcamp

A good way to finish the week. I discussed the importance of training last week. Well this week the lucky members of the team did the CCNA Bootcamp training provided by Global Knowledge. I have to say the quality of the training was top notch and we couldn’t have asked for a better tutor in Brad Bradeepan. 

It wasn’t an easy ride. We are talking 8.30 am to around 7pm most days with studying to do back in their rooms afterwards and only 30 minutes break for lunch. Today, Friday they finished at 4pm. I’m a generous boss 🙂 .

I was impressed with the amount of information that they had to cover in the week. There was also a lot of subnet theory that had to be worked out manually. In the real world nowadays this is done by machines but it is a good discipline to have to properly understand the basics of networking. The Cisco CCNA, although it is the first step on the Cisco networking ladder, is not intended to be an easy qualification to achieve.

The exams now have to be taken before 14th February and there will be a lot of revision, and indeed hands on practice, to be done between now and then. We have a lab set up in each Timico Group location to help with this.

Photo below is the team with trainer Brad in the middle and me to his right.


This next photo shows them hard at work.


Business engineering


This is an interview with feargal done for radio by my son tom (then aged 17) last summer. the first file sees feargal talking about the problem of illegal downloading.  the second one has his response to tom’s question re the nusic industry’s approach to cutting off broadband connections.

Feargal 2

Feargal 3

Business engineering

Train your way out of a recession

I forget whether the UK is officially in an economic recession yet. There is so much talk in the news that it is difficult to see the wood from the trees. What is true is that recession or not the market in which we operate is fast moving and whilst we are currently getting bombarded with hard luck stories this must be looked upon as a real opportunity.

This is why next week one third of Timico’s engineering resource will be going on training courses. A dozen of them will be at it for five full days on a Cisco bootcamp held at Timico’s HQ in Newark. Others will be attending SMB specialisation courses. 

This is a serious investment which we are making early in the year to get the biggest bang for our bucks in 2009. Moreover it is a statement of intent.

It tells our staff that we believe in them enough to invest in their future. It tells our technology partners that we are a business worth investing their time into and finally, it sends out a signal to our customers and potential customers that our workforce is prepared in the best way possible to serve their needs.

I can’t forecast what is going to happen in 2009 but I can say that we are planning to succeed.

Business engineering

Technology department is in the soup

When we say “in a bit of a stew” we typically mean we have a problem. Well I’m sat here having lunch with the Timico Solutions Team and I have to say we are “in a bit of a soup”.

The mood of the day is, of course, lean and mean and the team is now paying for its pre-Christmas excesses which typically involved biscuits, chocolate, KFCs and Big Macs. We still have umpteen empty Quality Street and Roses  tins lying around the office.

Just for completeness, Julie is on tomato cupasoup, Dean is on chicken and vegetable cupasoup, Gareth is on an indeterminate chicken, Wayne has gone posh and is on Covent Garden Wild Mushroom (on offer for £1 we understand and containing a small trace (0.6%) of wild funghi), Will hasn’t made his mind up depending on what they have on in the canteen and I am very pleased to say that I have had an excellent spinach and lentil with chillies, made by the fair hand of Mrs Anne Davies.  

I’m sure that you all get the vibe here. Engineering at Timico is going to be running superfit in 2009.

PS no product endorsment is intended. Other fattening  junk  food is available and soup is not guaranteed to offset the effects 🙂 .

Business engineering

IT Housekeeping Over The Christmas Break

If you happen to be working over the Christmas Holiday period, as am I, it is a fairly quiet time. Not many phones ringing. It might be stating the blatantly obvious but there are a few housekeeping type jobs you can get on with.

  1. Tidy up your directory structures – all the rubbish that has been accumulating on your desktop – bin it or file it. You might even want to change your PC’s wallpaper 🙂 .
  2. Following on from that, if you haven’t got one get your backup strategy sorted out and do some backing up.
  3. Get your firmware upgrades done – any Microsoft security patches, if they aren’t done automatically & rolling firmware upgrades on your Cisco routers.
  4. Finish off all the biscuits and chocolates left around the office from before Christmas.
  5. Renew your gym membership.

The last point is optional and the one before that inevitable, I know. Also I wouldn’t bother with any New Year Resolutions. They have never worked for me.

Business engineering

Royal Treatement For Netops Team

The Timico Network Operations Team is up at HQ today in preparation for the big Christmas Party. We apply the same principles for them as we do for the Royal Family. They aren’t all allowed to come up in the same car (apart from the fact that it would have been a tight squeeze).

We did it in shifts which meant that the NOC was manned at all times. I do believe that these guys deserve special treatment in any case. We are talking serious commitment to the job. They are online every waking hour of the day and one of them, I’m told, religiously develops code on his laptop in bed on a Sunday morning. It does take a special type of nutcase to want to do this but the job satisfaction is very high and I certainly appreciate the efforts they put in. If they didn’t know that before they do now.

My thanks also go out to Chris Nicholls who is manfully on call tonight and will miss the show.