Warning: session_start(): open(/var/lib/php/sessions/sess_j707m2k4qve0c8t9hu3lark9d2, O_RDWR) failed: Disk quota exceeded (122) in /var/www/html/wp-content/plugins/wp-clone-template/main.php on line 119
trefor.net - Page 2 of 92 - Insider comments from the world of internet communications

@LONAP sponsors NLNOG meeting in Amsterdam

At NLNOG points mean prizes

LONAP were pleased to be one of the sponsors at NLNOG 2016 last Friday. This is the Amsterdam gathering of Dutch based Network Operators. NLNOG has around 400 subscribers to its mailing list. There were 180+ attendees which puts it on a par with the UKNOF meetings – if I recall right UKNOF 35 in Manchester had around 170 in attendance.

We donated a prize to the very hard network engineering related quiz – a wireless hotspot:

UBIQUITI NETWORKS UBI-UAP-AC-PRO 24/5Ghz 450/1300Mbps 122m

It was won by SinnerG BV sys admin Mark Scholten – https://mscholten.eu/ – for coming fourth in the quiz

We had two guys there and the third prize was won by our very own Richard Irving. As a sponsor he graciously declined the prize but was very pleased to have come third:)

You may wonder what LONAP, a London based Internet Exchange Point, were doing sponsoring a network engineering event in Amsterdam. Well a great many of LONAP’s recent new members are overseas organisations wanting access to UK content and eyeball networks. Even as I write we have just announced @AIS_Thailand (Advanced Wireless Network) – the first network to connect to @LONAP from Thailand.

Things have moved on from the early days where LONAP was a small UK centric IXP serving UK customers. We still are UK centric actually but as internet traffic grows the rest of the world wants in on the act.

There are great benefits from including Peering in your internet access strategy. Performance is one and cost is another although it is fair to say that a network has to include their own cost of managing peering on top of the relatively low IXP port prices.

If anyone is interested in chatting about joining LONAP, a not for profit members organisation of which I am honoured to be chair, please do get in touch.

A ton of internet peering related posts on this blog.

A Solution to The Fixed Mobile Convergence Dilemma.

A simple FMC redirect server could be the answer

Classically a FMC solution that works with mainstream Hosted Platforms employs SIP soft clients running on smartphones and relies on either wifi or the mobile data network for connectivity. The Netaxis solution uses the mobile voice channel offering more reliable connectivity with less drain on the handset battery.

Intro

I’ve been in the VoIP game for a good 16 years now and for much of that time convergence has been a subject of debate. The initial VoIP pitch was converging onto a single network. Then Communications Providers began converging services onto one bill. Single point of contact. One throat to choke if it goes wrong. Easy enough really.

The whole issue of Fixed Mobile Convergence has been a little thornier. Unless you own a mobile network then this is not a readily achievable goal. It’s easy enough to provide VoIP clients for mobile devices. I use CSIP Simple for example. However this just provides mobility to your fixed line and depends on the availability of good IP network connectivity. Call quality is very hit and miss and whilst I haven’t properly tested it  (probably difficult to do anyway) it certainly feels as if battery life is not as good.

Netaxis PIE redirect server

Recently I’ve been doing some work with Netaxis Solutions of Belgium. These are a neat bunch of engineers with long experience in the telecoms game. As well as having an established systems integration business (string of equipment vendor certs) they have developed a number of essential telco software services as a result of demand from their Benelux based Tier 1 and Tier 2 customers.

The software modules include: ENGO fraud management, DORY cal simulator, PIE provisioning server and NEMO network monitoring and management software.

Netaxis have now moved into Fixed Mobile Convergence by extending the capabilities of their PIE server. When used in conjunction with a softswitch platform such as Broadsoft, Microsoft or Cisco HCS PIE acts as a redirect server between the fixed and mobile networks. Tango of Luxembourg have already launched services with three others in the pilepline.

What does it look like to the end-user?

Companies can easily integrate employees mobile devices with their company phone system (be it a CP provided hosted solution or their own). Employees making calls can choose to have those calls seen as coming from their own mobile number or that of the company. Inbound calls to either fixed or mobile numbers are controlled by the hosted PBX and routed as required.

How it actually works

Mobile user can choose between 2 modes: “business” and “private” (personal).

  • In private mode handset acts just like a “normal” mobile device showing the mobile CLI.
  • In business mode mobile phone becomes a new Broadsoft (or Cisco HCS or Skype for Business) user device aka a PC client or deskphone. Calls initiated by the mobile device will be handled by Broadsoft as if they were a Broadsoft user and will show the fixed CLI associated with their user account.

Inbound calls to a Broadsoft user will initiate parallel calls to all subscribed devices for that account including the mobile device. For calls to voicemail the pertinent mailbox will be used – business voice mail for Broadsoft and mobile voice mail for private usage. For billing, business calls will generate Broadsoft Call Data Records. Private calls will generate mobile network CDRs.

Why is this important?

This proposition has several very positive business benefits for Network Operators.

  • A incentive for existing fixed customers to add mobile minutes
  • An enticement for CPs who are not yet customers

Do you need a mobile network to offer this service?

Yes you do need a mobile network. However it is a lot easier for Network Operators to offer Fixed Mobile Services on a wholesale basis with the Netaxis solution because all that is required is a simple prefix for each reseller that allows calls from their customers to be routed via the PIE server. No messing about in the core of the network

How would CP’s sell this on?

The CP can either resell mobile sims to their customers (easy and fast solution) or setup a MVNO relationship with the Network Operator and resell their own sims. In both cases no network infrastructure needs to be implemented by the CP. It is all implemented by configuring the Redirect server and the Routing of the calls inside the network.

This is a simple service that allows enormous scope for CPs to offer creative packages to their customers.

Conclusion

I think this product has the potential to be of huge interest to Mobile Operators worldwide. It is a simple concept that bypasses the need for heavy fixed and mobile network integration and is easy for the end user to get their brain around. Moreover it makes use of the more reliable cellular network rather than the mobile data connection.

Network Operators will see the service is a way of attracting new CP customers and to grow sales of existing partners. Business customers of CPs will see the benefit because it offers an easy way to separate work and personal use of their employees on a single mobile handset.

Smaller ISPs are key to the UK’s superfast broadband rollout

The small and humorously named hamlet of Crazies Hill in Berkshire may have a population of only 313, yet it could nonetheless prove to be the key to Government plans to equip 95% of the UK with super-fast broadband by December 2017. Earlier this month, its residents agreed a deal to have fibre-optic broadband cables installed under its roads and homes. However, rather than signing with such big internet service providers (ISPs) as BT or Virgin, they signed with the considerably smaller Gigaclear.

This news may have come as surprise to some observers, if only because BT and Virgin had both previously been tipped to connect the long-suffering Crazies Hill to the world of super-fast broadband. Last November, BT employees attended meetings in the hamlet after local residents had complained of sub-2Mbs internet speeds. Meanwhile, in July of this year, Virgin had committed to bringing fibre-optic broadband to the nearby village of Wargrave, raising hopes that they could easily connect its smaller neighbour.

Yet things, as they say, didn’t turn out as planned. It soon emerged that, if residents wanted either BT or Virgin to supply them with super-fast broadband, they’d have to raise a lump sum of anything from £100,000 to £200,000. This would’ve meant that each household would be liable for a payment of between £660 and £1,320. Added to the fact that these households were told by both providers that the rollout wouldn’t be completed in the hamlet until 2018, this steep cost forced them to look elsewhere.

This was how they came across Gigaclear, who in contrast to their bigger rivals didn’t want a large upfront payment in order to install fibre-optic cables in the area. Instead, they affirmed in July that they could perform the necessary work simply on the condition that at least 40% of local residents signed up to the internet service they’d be able to offer once this work was finished. Given that signing up would involve an activation charge of only £100 and a £95 installation fee (which can be avoided if customers install their routers themselves), this minimum target of 40% was soon hit. As a result, Gigaclear won the contract, promising to have the work completed by May 2016.

This is all significant because, contrary to what might be implied when the likes of BT boast that they’ve delivered high-speed broadband to 25 million premises, it shows that smaller providers are also pivotal to the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project. It shows that, when it comes to connecting the remaining 10% of the UK that hasn’t yet been covered by BDUK, Gigaclear and other smaller ISPs like Call Flow and Cotswolds Broadband will be key.

Without Gigaclear’s involvement, Crazies Hill would still be looking for a provider to connect it, since the bigger ISPs all deemed the hamlet too small and under-populated to be worth the expense. However, unlike these bigger providers, Gigaclear’s business model means they don’t have to exploit particularly large economies of scale in order to be profitable. Since they offered residents an ultrafast broadband connection on the condition that these residents subscribe to their service, they’ll be recouping the costs of installation over time, rather than immediately. This allows them to serve even the smallest and most remote of communities, because these communities don’t have to pay for everything all at once.

This approach will prove highly valuable in plugging the remaining gaps in the UK’s broadband. Indeed, in recent months BDUK has been making slower progress (PDF), as it seeks to expand into more inaccessible rural locations and move from 90% coverage to the target of 95%. It’s here that the project and the Government should bring in the likes of Gigaclear to play a bigger role, since it’s such smaller ISPs who are more able to serve rural areas.

Also, BT has of late been criticised by Ofcom and other parties for its sometimes lacklustre performance in rolling out super- and ultra-fast broadband throughout the UK, which in fact lags behind many other developed nations in its fibre-optic coverage. While Ofcom has attempted to rectify this problem by calling for BT’s Openreach division to be legally separated from BT as a whole, it would also go a long way to helping the situation if Gigaclear and other smaller ISPs like Call Flow and Cotswolds Broadband were given more support by the Government.

With more support and funding, and with more involvement in official projects, the likes of Call Flow and Gigaclear would be better able to afford more of the initial outlays that are then recouped over time via internet subscriptions. They would be able to apply their particular subscription-based models to more rural areas at the same time, and they would therefore go much further in advancing the UK towards its 95% target. What’s more, having just signed a deal in July with CityFibre to use 1,100km of the latter’s fibre-optic network, it really does seem as though Gigaclear are more than ready to assume a greater role in BDUK.

If the Government is serious about meeting this target, then it should seriously consider giving less priority to BT and other big providers, and more to such smaller providers. Not only would it help to reduce the arguable monopoly that BT hold over the UK’s broadband network, but it would also significantly reduce the time which rural communities like Crazies Hill would have to wait before being able to join this network. And that, when all’s said and done, is what Broadband Delivery UK is really all about.

simon chandlerSimon Chandler is the news editor of Choose, a consumer information site covering home media and mobile services including broadband services and digital inclusion topics.

Broadband bandwidth growth driver – BT 4K TV

BT 4K TV

At last week’s very excellent UKNOF35 meeting in Glasgow BT Chief Network Architect Neil Mcrae gave a talk about the BT 4K TV project. 4k has been creeping up on us for a while now and TVs that notionally support it have been in the shops for at least a couple of years (mortgage application pending).

For me the interesting thing about Neil’s talk was the fact that a 4k stream needs 30Mbps bandwidth.  Not all households will therefore be able to receive the service and this I understand. It’s a competitive world and in a marketplace here BT is trying to up its content game then an early launch of 4k services makes a lot of sense. They have stolen a march.

This issue from the Davies perspective though is the fact that we have four kids. Ok they don’t all live at home now but when they did the one noticeable thing about our house was that we had six people all watching streaming media from different rooms in the house.

Extrapolate this to 6 x 4k streams and all of a sudden we would need 180Mbps downstream. Actually we have 200Mbps but I doubt a high proportion of the populace has the same connectivity.

BT 4k TV is clearly a driver for more bandwidth to the home (actually any 4K TV). I’m also shooting a lot of 4k video with my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and uploading this to Google Drive. On occasion I’m also subsequently downloading it to my Macbook for turning into a produced video/vlog and then uploading it again to YouTube. The file size in this case can be huge – several gigs and so my upload speed is also very important to me.

So where is this taking me? We (a majority of us – not all) have come a long way since the first ADSL rollout. We clearly still have a way to go. My prediction is that by 2020 we should be looking for 1Gbps to the home. Why not? By then 8k will be out (whether we will be able to tell the difference or not – the marketing hype will persuade us that we can). If I still had four kids in the house then I imagine the six streams will use up most of that Gigabit.

The question is who is going to deliver?

More 4k tv stuff on this blog.

PS Excellent UKNOF 35 btw – well done Keith, Denesh, Chris and Mike and the growing number of peeps needed to make it happen.

PPS I’ve looked at various Pay TV services and there ain’t much on I want to watch so I’m not a customer!

Why do we bother using the Post Office?

Not very Special Delivery

Last Thursday I posted my passport at the Post Office in Peel, IoM where I am on holiday. I wanted it to get to Richard Irving safely so I paid for it to go Special Delivery, guaranteed to get there before 1pm, the next day ie Friday. Richard is taking it to the Chinese Embassy to sort out visas.

When I spoke to Rich yesterday it hadn’t arrived. It did arrive later that day. I wasn’t impressed so I went back to the Post Office to get my money back. To do this I now need to fill in a form and hand it in with my receipt. I have filled in said form. It’s a lot of hassle for £6.45 but I’m doing it as a point of principle.

Now whenever I want to send something special delivery or signed for I always think of the Post Office first. They have the product and the brand.

Next point. I ordered a printer cartridge from HP some time ago. Turns out they were out of stock so unimpressively gave me a delivery date some time in the future. That some time happened to be yesterday and I received a sms letting me know it was out for delivery.

As you now know I am in the Isle of Man and unable to be there to accept the parcel. I forgot to reschedule it yesterday and received another text saying they, DPD were trying again today. This time I clicked on the link to rearrange delivery for when I am there. The link didn’t work (note HP/DPD) but I lifted the tracking number and went in via the DPD website. I have now arranged to pick the parcel up from a local depot. Job done.

I am generally pretty impressed with DPD. I don’t think my experience with the Post Office matches this. It would have helped had I been able to make the claim online but no, I have to fill out paperwork and send it off.

We need more high street options for Special Delivery services. I will investigate next time I want to send something.

Yours,

Irritated of Tonbridge Wells

32GB micro sd card for £11 from Tesco

32GB micro sd card from Tesco only £11

Needed some memory expansion on the S7 Edge whilst on holiday in Peel. Mine has 32GB and only 5GB left. These vids take up a lot of space.

Moreover whilst here in the IoM I am backing up to Google Drive but not my NAS box. pics and vids stay on the phone for a month after backing up to the NAS and are then automatically deleted. So whilst here I need some Bytes.

I’m just flabbergasted really at how cheap this stuff has become. I was after a 200GB job but Tesco didn’t have one. The electrical accessories section of the Douglas store is about 3 foot wide. The sd card I bought was actually the only one in the store. Not the only type, the only one. Must have ha a run on them:) I bought it. For eleven quid it will do the job.

I now feel a lot more relaxed. It’s how you should be when on holiday. I’ll be posting pics and vids on Facebook and www.philosopherontap.com (where art collides) where you are welcome to check them out.

Now my only issue is my dad’s 50GB broadband data allowance. I’ll smash that. Will have to call Manx Telecom and upgrade to unlimited for the month. May as well wait until it hits the buffers.

Data isn’t something one has to think about these days as I have an unlimited package on my 200Meg down 12 Meg up Virgin media connection. I have broadband only at £43 a month. Who needs a landline these days?

This is one of the things that annoys me about consumer broadband providers with their fantastic offers. They always forget to mention the line rental.

It’s only Anne’s friend Julie who ever calls us on the landline these days (I still have a geo number – it’s just voip based).

That’s all for now. I’m off to take some pics.

Information, Connection and Signposting Services (ICSS) Update

ICSS update

A little while ago I was approached by someone else that shares an interest in the subject of Information, Connection and Signposting Services (the so-called ICSS), about which I have previously written on Trefor.Net.

As a brief reminder, someone will buy up all the Google Ad-words (or, I suppose, the Yahoo equivalent if they’re still a thing) for “British Gas Customer Services” and variants thereof, and show a revenue sharing phone number, such as 0844 (which can be upto 7 pence per minute plus your phone company’s access charge) which they then translate to the actual customer service number and pocket the difference.

Since I last wrote about this, the Consumer Rights Directive was transposed and the Financial Conduct Authority implemented a similar requirement to outlaw the use of “premium rate” calls when contacting a company in connection with a contract.

Firstly, some pedantry from me. The term premium rate is bandied about far too often by everyone. It has a very distinct legal meaning, which is based in the Ofcom Premium Rate Services Definition. Broadly, that means it has to be more than 7 pence per minute in terms of the Service Charge element; and as the National Telephone Numbering Plan (given force by virtue of General Condition of Entitlement 17) prohibits the use of anything above 7 pence per minute to just 087x and 09x ranges, then 084 numbers and 03 numbers are not Premium Rate by definition. Hopefully some sub-Editors for the Daily Mail shall take note. Incidentally, the numbering plan doesn’t prevent 087 being used below 7 pence per minute – in the changes to the non-geographic call services market in the summer of 2015, many operators set a service charge of 1-2 pence per minute for 0870 numbers to maintain the status quo. This means they are not “premium rate” despite the fact the next number block in sequence might be 13 pence per minute.

So, now we are all up to speed, why the renewed interest? Well, PhonepayPlus intervened in the ICSS market where the Service Charge element was over 7 pence per minute (i.e. premium rate where they have jurisdiction). They set a prior permission regime, which denoted ICSS has high risk, but then softened this to Special Conditions along with the rest of the prior permission regime in an update to the PhonepayPlus Code of Conduct. Their intervention wasn’t a smooth one, with some ICSS operators seeking a judicial review of their intervention. That will give you an idea of what the market is worth – a view supported by the growing number of entities apparently offering such a “service”. I have a list broken down by year and it has demonstrably been growing over time.

I cannot think of any direct PhonepayPlus censure of an ICSS provider; however, the Advertising Standards Authority has intervened in a couple of cases. The first brought to my attention was in 2014 whereby the ASA ruled against them on the basis it wasn’t clear it was a connection service. Interestingly, in a case in 2015, they went further, discussing that customers looking for a number for customer services wouldn’t go into detailed small print. This is heartening as it means the ASA is almost going further than PhonepayPlus and is a useful alternative body to make complaints to.

Unsurprisingly, the Fair Telecoms Campaign made a suggestion that all ICSS should be treated as Premium Rate Services (i.e. under Phonepayplus control) in their response to the Ofcom consultation on the latest Phonepayplus Code of Conduct. Ofcom dismissed this in their Statement due to a lack of consumer harm being evidenced, which is a stock Ofcom answer for “not important enough to warrant our resource or attention yet”.

That Ofcom position also correlates with me having made representations on behalf of some financial institutions who were rather aggrieved at being passed off (which is still the advice I give people – treat it as impersonation more than a telecommunications regulation issue).

So, it’s clear there’s still a problem, and potentially one that is growing. Where do we go from here?

Well, it is heartening that a Google search I have performed for a few private sector companies people may wish to call (including those I referenced in my original piece) has them in the top couple/three hits with ICSS at least being less obvious and less baiting then I recall, although they are still there. This of course doesn’t get around the natural human instinct of just dialling the number that’s there at the top, of course. However, I cannot say the same for government departments who appear to be subject to it, and, in terms of Ofcom’s statutory duties, should have them pay more attention as it presents services used by the more vulnerable in society.

I believe that the ASA has broader power and is clearly more disposed to using it in situations where ICSS is misleading. The problem here is two-fold though. First, it is a lot harder for a commercial entity to make a complaint to the ASA (something I found out when ITSPA were going to refer EE for its “shed load of data” advert a couple years ago). Secondly, there is a balance between offering a service at a premium taken willingly by lazy consumers (the economists would say “reducing their search costs”); just like being put through to a number given to you by the guys in moustaches at their 118 rates, ICSS can be argued to have a legitimate role in society.

That means we need to have a debate, which is where Ofcom should come in. They are the subject matter experts and have a wide range of powers available for them to research and intervene as they feel appropriate. So, I think my advice needs to be updated as follows;

  1. Complain to the ASA. It is easier for it to be given attention if the consumer does it as opposed to the passed off company.
  2. Be in control of your search engine results and outspend the ICSS people if needs be. I haven’t experienced it myself as it isn’t my area, but one ITSPA members tells me Google are receptive to  companies complaining they are being passed off, so that should be something done as well.
  3. Complain to Ofcom. Google “Ofcom contact us” and pray I haven’t been mischievous and bought the ad words for it and translated an 0908 number to their 0300 to fund an Aston Martin. In all seriousness, their details are here.

 

My experience from dealing with fraud, net neutrality and other issues that various agencies want to try and ignore is that once there’s a clear weight of evidence, in fairness to those agencies, they do start to act. So let’s get the evidence to them and break the vicious cycle of “no action because no reporting” and “no reporting because no action”.

Storage space growth forecast bang on the money

Storage space in line with forecast

Just realised recently that I get 5GB free cloud storage space with Amazon Drive. I also have two Google drive accounts with over a TeraByte of storage space available plus a small amount of storage space on both Microsoft SkyDrive and Dropbox.

I don’t need all these but they have occasionally been useful, specially the Amazon space where I’ve had to resort to the Kindle Fire for my mobile browsing and photography. It’s a slow device with a poor camera but it’s a port in a storm.

It was whilst figuring out how to export the pics from the Kindle that I realised they were all automatically uploading to Amazon Drive. Not sure I set this up but I’m ok with it on this occasion.

I also have a ReadyNAS which is going to need some attention. I can see the folders but not individual files within them. Hmm. I suspect the folder sizes are getting to be too large. Before I lost my phone I’d used 13GB of mobile data – mostly just in the day I went to Wimbledon. It was 36GB in the first two weeks of May with Coast to Coast.

The backed up images are definitely in the NAS – it just needs more processor oomph and memory to properly manage/display them.

Will spend a little time looking around. Also need to upgrade my very old Fast Ethernet switch. Says something when you can get faster wifi than your fixed ethernet connection although that is more reliable. I have some time over the next couple of weeks before I head for the Isle of Man and other exotic locations.

Before I go I thought I’d take a peek back at a storage growth post wot I wrote almost exactly 3 years ago. In it I forecast the amount of storage I would need by year.

accumulated storage space

Amazingly I was right on the money. In July of 2016 I have used a TeraByte of NAS storage. Will have to start thinking about the upgrade soon. I used 100GB of storage for photos in just the April – July period this year. The NAS box can take 4TB drives so it is either a case of swapping the drives out or going for something with a bit more oomph anyway.

BT speaking clock is 80 years old on Sunday

At the third stroke lets all sing happy birthday

I usually ignore the zillions of press releases I get in my trefor.net inbox. I made the mistake of once agreeing to go on some PR database and I get lots of crap from people I’ve never heard of.

On this occasion however I am going to republish verbatim the whole press release because I find it of interest. I’ll just add that it would make sense to me to provide an octogenarian voice to the clock for the day. Something along the lines of “hello dearie, at the third stroke it will be time for my weak tea and a biscuit”. All spoken in a shaky voice.

No offence intended to the many fit and healthy octogenarians still in possession of all their teeth and faculties.

Whilst feeling nostalgic and warm towards the speaking clock I must say it is probably thirty years since I rang them. Who needs it with the time on your phone and pc being right on the beep.

Anyway here’s the press release – happy birthday to the speaking clock.

AT THE THIRD STROKE… BT’S SPEAKING CLOCK WILL BE 80 YEARS OLD

Speaking Clock celebrates its 80th birthday on July 24, 2016

Audio and images can be found here

Britain’s famous Speaking Clock celebrates its 80th birthday on July 24, 2016. Now a national institution and part of Britain’s heritage, the Speaking Clock was the first of the pre-recorded information services in the UK, provided through telephones.

Created for people who wanted to know the time and did not have a watch or clock to hand, the clock was initially only available in the London directory area, with the first British Speaking Clock introduced on July 24, 1936.

The Speaking Clock was designed and constructed at the Post Office Engineering Research Station at Dollis Hill in North London. The time announcements were automatically co-ordinated on the hour with Greenwich meantime signals.

In order to access the service, subscribers would dial the first three letters of the word ‘time’ as dials at the time included letters as well as numbers to aid automatic calls. Dialling T. I. M. led to its common name ‘TIM’. The service went national six years later.

David Hay, head of BT Heritage, said: “The BT Speaking Clock is a national treasure. Even though we live in the digital age, more than 12 million calls are made each year to the BT Speaking Clock to get an accurate time check.

“Eighty years ago BT’s technology created the Speaking Clock which remains a much loved part of British life today. The Speaking Clock has reached octogenarian status and celebrating its birthday demonstrates BT’s determination to preserve the heritage of the world’s oldest communications company.”

Jane Cain was the first voice, winner of a Post Office ‘Golden Voice’ competition, and used from 1936 until 1963. Pat Simmons, a London telephone exchange supervisor, became the second voice from 1963 until 1985. The third voice belonged to Brian Cobby who became the first male voice at 11am on April 2, 1985. An actor by profession before he joined BT as an assistant supervisor at a Brighton exchange, Brian was selected from 12 finalists in BT’s competition on December 5, 1984. Users who were around in the 1960s who listen hard enough might detect a familiarity – Brian was also the voice of “5-4-3-2-1 Thunderbirds are go!” in the famous Gerry Anderson TV series.

The fourth and current voice is Sara Mendes da Costa from Brighton & Hove. She became Speaking Clock voice at 8am on April 2, 2007. Sara won a BT competition during 2006 to find a new voice from the public, which had almost 18,500 entrants, simultaneously raising more than £200,000 for BBC Children in Need.

Sara Mendes da Costa, said: “I am very proud to be the fourth permanent voice for the Speaking Clock and have been since April 2, 2007, nearly ten years ago.”

Originally the accuracy of the BT Speaking Clock was one-tenth of a second, but it is now accurate to within 30 microseconds.

 

Permanent voices

 

First voice             Jane Cain                                1936 – 1963

Second voice        Pat Simmons                          1963 – 1985

Third voice                        Brian Cobby                            1985 – 2007

Fourth voice          Sara Mendes da Costa           2007 – to present

 

Quick facts

 

  • The BT Speaking Clock has been ticking 24-hours a day, seven days a week since 24 July 1936 – which is 80 years, more than 29,000 days, more than 700,000 hours or more than 42 million minutes, more than 2.5 billion seconds
  • Big Ben checks its time with the Speaking Clock
  • The Speaking Clock is accurate to within 30 microseconds
  • In its first year the service registered nearly 13 million calls
  • Initially only available in the London area and went nationwide in 1942
  • The Speaking Clock is also known as TIM and Timeline

 

Temporary voices

 

There have been a number of temporary Speaking Clock voices, recorded for charity:

Lenny Henry: March 10 to March 23, 2003 (Sport Relief)

Alicia Roland (12-year-old schoolgirl): October 13 to October 23, 2003 (Childline)

Mae Whitman: October 26, 2008 until February 9, 2009 (to promote Disney’s Tinker Bell)

Kimberley Walsh, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, Gary Barlow, Chris Moyles and Fearne Cotton: February 3 to March 23, 2009 (Sport Relief)

David Walliams, Gary Barlow, Chris Moyles, Kimberley Walsh and Fearne Cotton: March 7 to April 9, 2012 (Sport Relief)

Clare Balding: February 12 to March 15, 2013 (Comic Relief)

Davina McCall: January 27 to March 23 2014 (Sport Relief)

Sir Ian McKellen: February 24 to March 13, 2015 (Comic Relief)

Jo Brand: January 20 to March 20, 2016 (Sport Relief)

@LONAP reaches for Sky

Sky has joined Internet Exchange Point LONAP –immediately boosts traffic

Pleased to announce that UK eyeball network Sky has joined Internet Exchange Point LONAP. Sky, as most of you will know are one of the largest ISPs in the UK and this move is really an endorsement that the London based IXP has come of age.

LONAP, which was established 19 years ago, has moved on from being seen as just a peering point for smaller networks in the UK. The membership list now includes the vast majority of the world’s giant content providers: Google, Apple, Akamai, Amazon etc. Now with Sky onboard we are seeing the connection of millions of UK broadband subscribers.

This news comes after LONAP’s recent announcement of their investment in a brand new 100GigE core based on equipment from California networking company Arista. We now have a healthy number of 100Gig connections in the pipeline.

LONAP is a not for profit membership organisation operated with two and a half full time employees with occasional contributions from members and the board of directors.

Check out other internet peering posts on trefor.net.

If you re interested in hearing more about what LONAP can do for your network please do get in touch. I am trefordavies on Facebook and have had the privilege of having served on the LONAP board for three years or so now.

btw in case you didn’t get it the featured image is of sky. Blue sky. It is summer after all. There’s a bit of tree in there too:)

Amusing LinkedIn congratulatory messages

Amusing LinkedIn congratulatory messages

Started getting  load of LinkedIn congrats this week. I couldn’t understand why. It was happy anniversary in the job type stuff. I asked someone what it was for and turns out I’ve been on the ITSPA council for ten years.

Actually that is wrong. ITSPA is now, in its current form, 11 years old and I was there at the start. What’s more there was an ITSPA before ITSPA. After a year we relaunched it formally with a professional secretariat.

I must at some stage have guessed the start date and stuck that down in LinkedIn at some point. None of it really matters.

ITSPA itself has changed significantly in that ten (eleven (twelve?)) years. When we first began there were probably fewer than 10 ITSPs in the UK. I had an instance of a SIP Express Router with a free service but next to no one on it. Now we have 80 or 90 members and hold big (ish) events at posh spots in town.

In the meantime don’t stop the congrats a coming. It must be said that LinkedIn makes it really easy for people to push these messages to people by shoving them in your face every time you login to the site. This is especially the case when it come to endorsements.

I often get endorsements for skills from people who I know darn well will have no idea what that skill represents. Either thats or for such generic knowledge bases such as “Trefor really knows his stuff when it comes to telecommunications”.

Gordon Bennet.

PS I think I will give a prize for the funkiest endorsement on LinkedIn. Bring em on 🙂

UK and Ireland Peering Forum in Dublin – with @dantartic

UK and Ireland Peering Forum success

Terrific UK and Ireland Peering Forum in Dublin. Mostly attendees from the republic but plenty of people made the trip over from the UK. It was followed by the regular INEX meeting which had a superset of attendees – bit of a pun – they were all v nice – geddit.

The day was closed by Danny McFadden (@dantartic) who spoke about his two year stint as IT manager of the British Antartic Survey base in Rothera which is on the sticking out bit. An interesting life experience.

Rothera has recently upgraded its satellite internet connection to 1.5Mbps which costs them £150k pa. Next time you think of changing broadband suppliers and whinge about pricing just think of that.

It is currently winter in Antartica and the bases are either closed or trimmed down to a skeleton staff of 18 or so persons. It was interesting to get an insight into the difficult nature of the live in wintertime and perpetual darkness. For example there was at the time of his talk, a medical emergency happening at the South Pole base. An American scientist was ill and needed emergency evacuation to hospital.

This is harder than you think. Two planes had to fly in to Rothera. One then switched to skis and flew on to the pole. This is a ten hour flight in darkness. It was also a very expensive job. One barrel of fuel costs $1,000 by the time it has been transported to Rothera. To get it to the South Pole costs another $9,000. That’s a ten thousand dollar barrel of fuel. And the plane needs 5 of them to get from Rothera to the pole.

So the return flight for one plane from the edge of Antartica to the pole cost $100,000 in fuel alone. Science is an expensive business. Governments support it because the Antartic treaty comes to an end in 2050 and countries want to maintain their presence as an investment towards the land grab/bun fight that is expected to happen at that time.

It could spell disaster for Antartica because they are all interested in the mineral rights.

As a footnote my sister Sue went to Antartica on a cruise a few years ago. Aside from the fantastic wildlife the high point was the 10 thousand year old ice cubes they used in their gin and tonics – hacked from a nearby ice shelf 🙂

A big thanks to INEX and especially Eileen for such a well organised event. The UK and Ireland Peering Forum is run by LONAP, INEX, LINX and IXLeeds (in no particular order of preference).

Other peering posts here.

Stay or Leave – the results of the trefor.net poll

EU Referendum Poll result

At last tomorrow is the big day and I thought I’d share my own EU referendum poll result.

Stay in the EU 170 51.8 %
Leave the EU 158 48.2 %

It’s very close. Quite gratifying in one respect as this would appear to match many bigger and no doubt more expensive polls to run.

328 votes is quite a nice level of participation. There were a few duplicate IP addresses – they have been weeded out but by and large there were as many in each camp and I think they don’t represent attempts to skew the result. People probably expected to see the results of their vote and this plugin doesn’t seem to support that. At least the way I had it set up

It matters not. I’m hoping that the real poll tomorrow will be a far more definite result – to stay in the EU. It will be a lot easier to put the subject to bed if this is the case. A close result would do as long as it was the right one although I sense there will be trouble if it is close. There will probably be trouble whatever happens.

I’m not sure I’ve seen anything bring out the bad side of people in this country as much as this referendum. The leave campaign has been run with very misleading messaging that I have found extremely objectionable. I don’t trust the politicians involved.

The remain campaign, which we must remember is supported by a large majority of MPs and most global businesses, institutions and political figures, has been forced into playing the same game.

In the meantime tomorrow I’ll be heading for my usual morning swim before going around the corner to vote. I’m then in London for the ITSPA council meeting so if you are around maybe catch a beer? Friday is going to be an interesting day…

PS you will still be able to vote in this poll but I’m going to consider this post as drawing a line underneath it. Remain wins.

Follow the referendum here on the BBC.

House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee report on Cyber Security

House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee report on Cyber Security and all that jazz

Email came through from ITSPA this morning regarding the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee report on  Cyber Security: Protection of Personal Data Online Contents

In general, the report focused on the need for increased consumer awareness of cyber security breaches and recommended that the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) should have a robust system of escalating fines to sanction those who fail to report, prepare for, or learn from data breaches. It also stated that Government need to urgently address the huge amount of data that will be created by the Investigatory Powers Bill and how this will be secured from data breaches.

I’ve listed the key recommendations together with my own comments below:

  • Companies should report their cyber security and data protection strategies to the ICO

This is somewhat naive. How many companies are there in the UK? The ICO would be swamped and in anycase to have the resources to do anything with the information.

  • The ICO should have additional powers of non-consensual audit, notably for health, local government and potentially for other sectors

More red tape and you have to question the efficacy of this. I can understand auditing the public sector but private industry???

  • The Government should initiate a public awareness-raising campaign on cyber security
  1. Waste of time though. For a campaign to be effective it would have to be prolonged, permanent even, and cost a fortune.
  • It should be easier for victims of a data breach to claim compensation

Seems like a good idea if likely to be somewhat complicated and difficult to do.

  • All relevant companies should provide well-publicised guidance to customers on how they will contact customers and how to make contact to verify that communications from the company are genuine

What makes a company relevant? In principle this sounds sensible but it is red tape.

  • All telecommunications companies should take steps to ensure that compliance with data protection rules and Cyber Essentials are key criteria when selecting third party suppliers

The more I think about this is its interference in private industry.

  • Cyber security should sit with someone able to take full day-to-day responsibility and who can be fully sanctioned if the company has not taken sufficient steps to protect itself from a cyber-attack

Cost. Overhead.

  • To ensure this issue receives sufficient CEO attention before a crisis strikes, a portion of CEO compensation should be linked to effective cyber security

Uhuh

  • The vulnerability of the massive new data pools that will be created by the Investigatory Powers Bill needs to be urgently addressed by Government

I’ve been saying this for years but all you will get is lip service.

There you go. The UK approach to cybersecurity. I’m not saying it isn’t an important subject and that we all need to be cyber secure. I’m not sure that more rolls of red tape is the way to do it.

My thanks to the ITSPA secretariat for their contributions to this post (which is most of the post apart from my comments)

The great wiring challenge

Cables r us

poor wiringThe great thing about working with LONAP is that I get to meet interesting people in interesting places. Yesterday my daughter Hannah and I met with Barry O’Donovan (INEX) and Mara Novakovic (LinkedIn) for early door at Slattery’s pub in Dublin. It’s a big rugby pub that is heaving when there is a match on.

Apart from the Guinness and the considerable choice of beers the one thing that stood out about Slattery’s was the wiring. I challenge anyone to produce a picture with a worse tangle of wires that in the featured image.

It’s so bad it’s a wonder anything gets fixed when it breaks – how would you find the right cable?

Over in Dublin with LONAP for the UK and Ireland Peering Forum. It’s been a very good morning – a morning of talks and opportunities to chat with colleagues, members and potential members.

Other peering posts on this blog. Pic courtesy of Barry using my phone.

UK telecoms revenues plummet because of England v Wales game

punters hang on to their seats not their phones

voipgThe number of calls being made by people in UK small businesses plummets during the England v Wales European footy match, according to highly respected telecoms chief Colin Duffy. In an exclusive revelation to trefor.net Duffy reveals that his customers spent more time watching the game than using their phones.

The graph shows top VoIP service provider Voipfone’s call levels on a normal day compared with today.The green line is last Thursday compared with today.

Duffy goes on to say “They need to stop scheduling these games during the working day – it’s bad for business.”

If this pattern has been seen by every phone company out there, and there is no reason to believe this is not the case then some of them, incumbent BT included, will be issuing profit warnings.

trefor.net editor in chief Trefor Davies personally spent the whole game in the Peacock pub in Lincoln and didn’t make a single phone call which corroborates Duffy’s claim. “I didn’t see a single person make a phone call during the game” says Davies. The fact that Davies had several pints of Tribute Pale Ale had no effect on his observations, he went on to claim.

Davies has since tried calling his wife on her mobile to see when she will be returning from her girly day out at a spa. He has warmed up the chilli con carne and the rice is now on the go. He has not been able to contact the first Mrs Davies since she presumably began celebrating the England victory in the football.

Davies, who is Welsh has been unavailable for further comment and is now contemplating opening a bottle of red wine while he waits. It will be down to whether he wants to risk the wrath of Mrs Davies when she returns from her day out. What the heck…

First @LONAP 100GigE port connected

Akamai hook up with LONAP 100GigE port

Excited to tell you that Content Distribution Networks and LONAP member Akamai have connected at Equinix HEX with our first 100GigE port. This is a testament to the great work done by our engineering team Will, Rob and Tom.

If you aren’t in the business this might not mean that much to you. 100Gigabits per second of connectivity seems difficult to get your brain around. However if you consider that when streaming HD video from the internet you could be using several Mbits per second and that millions of people are also doing this all at the same time then the core of the internet needs to be able to handle a lot of traffic.

When it comes to shifting internet data around the bigger the pipe the better and 100GigE is the current state of production art. The project at LONAP is still only part way through. We are replacing our old Extreme switches with a brand new LAN using Arista.

This is a big investment for LONAP but one that has to be repeated every few years as internet traffic grows and capacity requirements increase. This time around we have been under some pressure from our content provider members to get the 100Gig ports installed. The timing on this occasion is good as the Euro2016 football tournament gets into full sway and folk start watching the matches on the internet. The 100Gig port adds instant capacity. We like to have plenty of headroom on our network at LOANP.

The member and port count at LONAP continues to grow up and to the right. It is a good place to be right now. We are very lucky to have a great community of members. If you haven’t yet registered but plan on coming to the UK and Ireland Peering Forum in Dublin next Monday I’d get your name down. See you there.

PS For what it’s worth I’ll be helping to reduce the pressure on the internet by watching the Wales v England game on the TV in the beer garden at the Strugglers pub in Lincoln. C’mon Wales.

More peering posts on trefor.net.

Takeaway messages from telecoms fraud workshop

Telecoms fraud workshop learnings

We covered a lot of ground in yesterday’s telecoms fraud workshop. A big thanks to everyone who made it and to sponsors Netaxis and Gamma. I don’t think there was a singe person in the room who didn’t contribute in some way and I’m sure everyone got something out of it.

A special thanks to the speakers Colin Duffy of Voipfone, Ben O’Leary from Gamma, DS Nick Kemsley of the City of London Police, independent fraud expert Dave Morrow and Manuel Basilavecchia of Netaxis.

Much was discussed in the three hours but the key points can easily be summarised here:

  1. If carriers were able to stop international settlement payments for known fraudulent traffic to premium rate numbers the problem would disappear overnight. “Apparently this is not possible”. Nobody could really say why.
  2. Fraud mitigation systems need to be automated and work in real time or as near to real time as possible. Most fraudulent “attacks are over in a short period of time. Manual systems that rely on human intervention take too long. This may result in “false positives” where genuine traffic is blocked but it is better this way than for end users to be hit with big bills.
  3. There has been plenty of work done that would help people model their automated (and non automated for that matter) systems. Get in touch if you want me to point you in the right direction.
  4. Criminals use automated processes that work their way through number ranges until they find an unblocked series to use as targets for their fraudulent calls. An automated system should be able to anticipate fraudulent activity by seeing calls from one destination working their way through such number ranges. \

 

I’m not going to go through the types of fraud involved. Much has been written before on this blog if you want a read. I’ve made it easy for you by providing a link to telecoms fraud posts.

Click on the link for Dave Morrow’s white paper on Missing Trader Intra Community Fraud.

VoIP monitoring tools for a world where SIP trunks outnumber ISDN

VoIP monitoring tools for the 21st century.

I’m doing some work with a company called Netaxis Solutions who amongst other things provide a suite of VoIP monitoring tools for network operators/Internet Telephony Service Providers. This post highlights how the operational requirements of ITSPs change as they grow. Customers get more demanding and it becomes increasingly important to up the game when it comes to support.

Communications providers use all sorts of tools to run their networks these days. Many of them are open source, particularly in the ISP game. ISPs almost run their business on free software.

The downside of this is that you have to have enough engineering resource support and manage these tools. This is fine when a business is small and the small team of network engineers is both netops, dev and support.

When a business grows and evolves into distinct functional departments, as we all hope ours will, the game changes. Not only does the larger organisation tend to have fewer generalists who can do everything and hence support every bit of open source software they have grown up with. The growing business tends to have demands put upon it by its customer base that applies stress to an organisation and forces it to change. Customers of such businesses want less downtime/increased reliability, better quality and more responsive technical support.

If a business copes with this stress it has a chance to succeed and part of this success is its ability to evolve its systems to cope.  They can’t afford to have someone spending half his time trying to fix his own software build whilst at the same time helping a customer.

This evolution not only means more integrated help desk, ticketing, scheduling, provisioning and billing functions (etc). It also means a move towards automation in the network wherever possible. We are already seeing this with the advent of Software Defined Networks (notionally – do you know anyone who has implemented one?) and the automated provisioning of Wide Area Network connectivity.

The integration of voice and data networks adds to the pressures. Why is that connection poor? Is it congested? Is the link down? Is it using a low quality voice termination partner? Is there something going on in the LAN?

One key area in this new world of engineering operations is the toolset that is needed. You want to be able to tell at a glance whether there is a problem, or even when a problem is about to happen. Being able to see what is going on and respond quickly is not only going to be a way of keeping customers happy and growing your business from your existing base but it is also going to entice new customers.

In the voice world the tools required are very specific. We need to be able to properly understand what is happening to voice in a network. Whilst the technology involved is more complicated in one sense in another it helps to make life easier. We now have tools that are far more flexible than just being able to see whether a specific link is up or down as might have been the case in the old circuit switched world.

Now we can drill into problem areas in a network in a very granular way because all connections are IP enabled. Problems can be isolated to specific phone calls and specific network connections or trunks. We can employ tools that give us a very clear picture of what is happening.

Is a trunk hitting it’s headroom for simultaneous call capacity? Is the call quality deteriorating and why? What is the MOS score? Is the trunk down? We can even see whether a connection has been deteriorating over time.

Think of the peace of mind you would give a  customer if he knew that you could foresee problems and fix them before they happened. It is even a revenue opportunity. Have you thought about upgrading from xDSL to Ethernet Mr Customer. Or do you need some more SIP trunks?

You would certainly be able to make him happy by fixing his problems quickly when he calls in to complain.

There are tools available for this type of service. Vendors of Session Border Controllers provide them for example. They ain’t cheap though and an SBC user interface isn’t particularly easy to use.

Really you need to find something that does the job in a cost effective way. I’ve been doing some work with a gem of a company called Netaxis Solutions. Out of 25 people 23 or so are engineers which is one of the reasons I got interested in them. Netaxis have sponsored a number of trefor.net events in the past 12 months (declaration of interest).

Netaxis are not only all nice guys but they are also a multi talented group of people who work with Tier 1 and 2 operators to provide VoIP solutions primarily for corporates such as banks and insurance companies. They have a string of VoIP vendor accreditations as long as your arm with terrific experience of deploying and managing multi site VoIP rollouts. They are kings of the SBC and the softswitch.

Over the last few years in performing this sort of work Netaxis have seen the need to develop a set of tools that help them support their customers’ networks. These tools support functions such as monitoring and reporting, call simulators and traffic generator, fraud detection and a self care and provisioning portal.

I’ve just done a quick screenshot of one of the tabs of Nemo, the monitoring tool. The picture is just sample data but you can immediately see how you could make use of the facility. A customer’s call traffic patterns will show whether they have enough capacity to service their peak needs. It would be an easy way to upsell additional SIP trunks or to help a customer see where their problem lies.

voip monitoring tools

Nemo allows you to drill into specific customer accounts, even to individual telephone extensions and check out the relevant statistics. Imaging being able to track the MOS scores over time – an easy way to anticipate problems or to see when a specific problem happened.

voip monitoring tools - mos scores

I’m not going to spend too much time itemising everything that can be done but it gives you the idea. Drop me a line if you want to know more or come and see me at the trefor.net Telecoms Fraud Workshop tomorrow in London.

I break my silence on the Snooper’s Charter

my latest observations on the snooper’s charter

I have in the past been very vocal when it comes to the snooper’s charter. Especially when I was more active in the ISP industry. Having throttled back a bit I let others, the professionals, have their say and stuck to my own counsel.

Just received a summary of the comments from MPs in respect of the latest incarnation of the Bill from the ITSPA Secretariat. I’ve pasted it below with a few of my own observations.

Internet Connection Records

  • Burnham said that whilst the Government’s position in the draft code of practice makes it clear that URLs are not communications data and therefore, by definition, cannot be included in ICRs, it would be more useful to have a single, clear definition of ICRs in one place in the Bill.
  • Burnham stated that communications data should not be capable of being accessed to investigate any crime, regardless of how serious the offence is and the impact on victims.
  • Member of the Public Bill Committee, Gavin Newlands MP, said that the measures in the Bill are not limited to internet access, email or telephony and include, explicitly, communication without human intervention. He added that the industry has indicated a willingness to work with the Government to help implement ICRs, but the trouble is that the industry does not know what ICRs are, and it seems Government still do not know either. He said that these powers were intrusive and needed to be properly defined.
  • Member of three Committees which scrutinised the Bill, Matt Warman MP, said that people needed to be reminded that it was CSPs and not govt who would hold ICRs and govt would not be dipping into this information for any other purpose than to stop serious crime.
  • Alistair Carmichael MP said that it was unacceptable at this stage of proceedings that there is still no proper clear definition of ICRs.

 

Tref writes: Government has no idea what it is talking about in respect of ICRs and is probably keeping things deliberately vague so that they can apply the “definition” to anything that suits them.

Matt Warman is also missing the point. It doesn’t matter who keeps the data – it will be hacked into and leaked. Also we hear all sorts of stories about RIPA requests from councils wanting evidence on relatively trivial “crimes”. The concern is that once the data was available all sorts of people would come out of the woodwork wanting to look at it.

Encryption

  • Member of the Public Bill and Joint Committee, Suella Fernandes MP, said that the UK wants world-class encryption and privacy, but also wants world-class security and citizens should trust the skill and restraint of the analysts, the cryptographers, the mathematicians and the codebreakers who safeguard security and have maintained confidence and discretion in relation to the secrets they have seen.
  • Stephen Hammond MP said that encryption was hugely important to the digital economy and said it should not be undermined, however, he said he had faith in the security services that they would use restraint.

 

Tref writes: they are totally missing the point here. If encryption methods are designed to be hackable by government codebreakers then criminals and hostile foreign powers can do the same. You can’t have “world-class” encryption if it can be hacked.

Cost Recovery

  • Newlands highlighted that owing to uncertainty about the extent and definition of ICRs and the extension of CSPs that will be affected by the proposed provision, the cost is difficult to estimate, but industry figures have said that they expect it to be anywhere between £1 billion and £3 billion. He said that it was not good enough that govt had not produced robust figures which could be examined whilst the Bill was being scrutinised.

 

Tref writes: they have no idea what the implementation of the Bill is likely to cost and are keeping quiet about it because the eventual figure is likely to be unpalatable.

Should I stay or should I go?

In out shake it all about

The EU Referendum poll on this blog is picking up momentum thanks to all the background publicity the BBC et al have been giving it. The referendum not my poll 🙂 I realise it’s an important decision but personally I’ve been turned off by al the hype and switch off anytime it appears on radio or TV.

I’m not going to tell you the numbers until shortly before the 23rd. Also I will need to sanitise it as one or two people have tried gaming the system. Thought I had the controls in place to stop it but those votes won’t count in any case.

The community in which i live and work is largely an international one. The talk is as often as not how many more tier points you need to make gold, or even the couple of steps you can make it above that. Personally I’m not prepared to spend most of my life on a plane to do that. I digress.

My point is that I’d expect most people in the internet industry to vote remain because the nature of their lives is international and not parochial to the UK. You will have to wait and see the results.

You can still vote – see the sidebar underneath the camper van hire ad (still some slots available if you want to go to a festival this summer).

The one thing that has annoyed me more than any regarding this referendum is the total bullshit brought out by some of the politicians. They are only interested in getting simple one line messages out designed to sway the waverers. This is normal politics but this politics is getting dirty. Outright deception.

All I can say is that the UK is going to be littered with the bodies of dead political careers after this summer is out. The conservative party is likely to never be the same again. The knives that over the last few years have been gripped tightly but have hitherto remained in their sheaths are now being brandished. Their steely blue blades will be bathed in blood before the druids have returned to their homes from the solstice (thought i’d get a poetic bit in:)

I don’t think you can ever get a perfect politician. They are by definition imperfect animals. They can only really attain such a status in the eyes of other politicians. Probably the best a politician can do is not be seen to have cocked up too much. Tony Blair for example will be admired by his peers for his staying power and political skills but not by many of the general public.

It’s looking like a huge cockup on the part of David Cameron. The referendum is only being held because of internal Conservative Party strife. Let hope the polls got it as wrong as they did in the last General Election and we have an emphatic win, one way or another.

If we vote for a clear remain then at least we can kill off a few political careers and get on with life. If we vote to go god knows what’s going to happen.

1080p versus 4k video

How much space have you got – 1080p versus 4k video?

Simple post really. Kid 3 is home briefly from uni as he has a gig on Sunday. At the same time I took delivery this morning of my new Weber rotisserie. There is no correlation between these two facts.

The link is that as regular Facebook pals know I have a habit of sticking videos online of me talking about everyday things. Today I took a video of the new rotisserie in action. The main difference is that in stead of me being in shot I used my higher quality forward facing camera. This uses 4k video format.

Kid 3, or Joe as he is more commonly known, sat with me and gave me a lesson in iMovie production, fair play. Having played around with the footage, added intro and credits I proceeded to the rendering stage. iMovie gave me options. I initially chose 4k but was quite surprised to see that this would consume 6.5GB of storage for 1min 24 seconds of video. Wow.

1080p was expected to be around 1.6GB. Still hefty but more manageable. I rendered it using 1080p, ended up with 1.4GB of movie and uploaded to Facebook. Now doing the same to YouTube. It’s going to be interesting to see how Virgin Media react to this because I’m fairly sure I’ll be breaking their “fair usage” policy even though I am on their top package.

It doesn’t seem that uploading two lots of 1.4GB is anything out of the ordinary today though does it?

Just checked. The 1 hour threshold for uploading (at which point they throttle you) is 2.25GB but it doesn’t start until 4pm so I might be ok:). They only throttle you by 50% though which seems a bit daft. I’m still going to upload the same amount of data. It will just take twice as long. I accept that it is reducing peak usage but hey…

Its a 15 minute upload but tbh that is pretty acceptable for a 1.4GB file. The limitation might even be the server limiting hte upload – can’t be bothered to work it out. Ok I will

1.4GB is 11,200,000,000 bits ish. I’m uploading at 12Mbps or 12,000,000 bps (lets assume no packet overhead) so it should take 933 seconds or 15 .55 mins – hey bang on.

Movie below – volume is a bit low – I’m a novice.


couple of pics here

rotisserie4k rotisserie1080

UK & Ireland Peering Forum – Monday 20th June

A chance to talk peering in Dublin

Peering in Dublin. If you haven’t already got your name down and work for an organisation that is a member of one of the UK Internet Exchange Points you should seriously consider coming along to the UK and Ireland Peering Forum. This is being held in Dublin on Monday 20th April.

Members and prospective members of INEX, IX Leeds, LINX and LONAP will be gathering for a day of talks and discussions on subjects of real interest to the network engineer.

The UK&I Peering Forum takes place in the morning and participants are invite to the INEX meeting in the afternoon. Regular participant at UKNOF meetings will be familiar with some of the regulars who come across for the events. This is a chance to meet and talk with the rest of the Irish networking community.

We are going to be covering peering tools, take a peek at what is happening on the regulatory front and how this might affect they way you have to run your network, together with a couple of technical sessions.

The biggest benefit you will get from this meeting is the opportunity to set up new peering relationships. Attending will also allow you to meet your peers (pun intended) at other networks and catch up on what are the issues of the day.

I will be announcing the full peering in Dublin line up in the next few days.

Peering in Dublin – UK & Ireland Peering Forum Hosts

There are four host exchanges of the UK & Ireland Peering Forum. These are INEX in Dublin, Ireland, IXLeeds in Yorkshire and LINX and LONAP who are both based in London.

INEX

INEX is a neutral, industry-owned Association, founded in 1996, that provides IP peering facilities for its members. INEX membership is open to all organisations that can benefit from peering their IP traffic. There are currently 96 members. Our objective is to provide high-speed, reliable and resilient IP traffic exchange facilities for both Irish and International organisations, allowing them to route IP traffic efficiently thereby providing faster, more reliable and lower-latency internet access for their customers. The INEX switching centres are located in six secure data centres around Dublin; Telecity Group in Kilcarbery Park, Citywest Business Campus and Northwest Business Park, Interxion DUB1 and Interxion DUB2 in Park West, and the Vodafone data centre in Clonshaugh. The infrastructure is connected by dedicated resilient fibre links.

For more information, please visit www.inex.ie

IXLeeds

IXLeeds is one of three internet exchange operators in the UK and the only operator based outside of London. It’s aims are to promote regional cooperation between network operators and to raise awareness of the purpose and importance of a solid internet exchange fabric in the UK. IXLeeds is a limited company with a board of four directors and a company secretary. IXLeeds’ first board was elected on 21st September 2011 by its founding members and comprises of Andy Davidson, Allegro Networks (Chair), Mark Fordyce, York Data Services (Finance Director), Tom Bird, Portfast (Director), Thomas Mangin, Exa Networks (Technical Director) and Adam Beaumont, aql (Company Secretary)..

For more information, please visit www.ixleeds.net

LINX

The London Internet Exchange (LINX) is a global leader of Internet Exchange Points (IXP). Our company ethos and aspirations result in constant growth and improvement in our services and as a result, members have access to the most attractive peers at the lowest cost. With over 690 members connecting from over 66 different countries worldwide, LINX members have access to direct routes from a large number of diverse international peering partners. In addition to its dual LAN topology in London using equipment from Juniper Networks and Extreme Networks, LINX has three UK regional exchanges (IXManchester, IXScotland and IXCardiff) and another in North Virginia, USA (LINX NoVA). Using LINX allows a reliable exchange of traffic with increased routing control and improved performance. As a not-for-profit organisation, we focus on investing our service and membership fees into strengthening LINX network services. This ensures that our infrastructure is as up to date as possible and that we remain at the forefront of the IXP industry. By doing so, we can confidently provide our members with improved network performance, low latency and more control.

For more information, please visit www.linx.net

LONAP

The London Access Point [LONAP] was first established in 1997 as a ‘not for profit’ Internet Exchange Point for London. Today, our list of active members includes global brands, London businesses and FTSE100 companies, all of which are joint stakeholders in the organisation. As members, they all have exclusive interconnectivity and direct input into the configuration of the network and enjoy the commercial, operational and social benefits of working with a vibrant and dynamic exchange. Our growing membership includes ISPs, network operators and content providers with their own data networks. LONAP members exchange traffic using a network of interconnected switches hosted in our data centres across the City of London and Docklands.

For more information, please visit www.lonap.net

LONAP @ RIPE72

LONAP is at RIPE72

Wearing my LONAP hat again today. Actually that is a figure of speech. You can see from the featured image that I’m really wearing my LONAP shirt. Facebook friends will know that I’m at the RIPE72 conference in Copenhagen.

We, LONAP, get a lot out of these conferences. Not only is there a lot of good content but it is a fantastic place to meet existing and prospective members. The LONAP community is growing.

LONAP are also slap bang in the middle of a total core network upgrade. Our new network is going to be based on Arista 100GigE kit. 100GigE has been around for perhaps four years but the first generation of equipment was very expensive. The introduction of cheaper more powerful silicon has brought the pricing down with the timing being just right for our roll out. It feels as if 100Gig is only now reaching the same stage of commoditisation that 10Gig was at 7 years ago.

Other benefits that Arista bring include programmability (API) and VXLAN for loop free layer-two. It’s worth noting that the Internet Exchange Point market has specific technical needs that aren’t addressed by all vendors.  The fact that Arista has an industry category specifically for identifying IXPs in its customer sign up page is very telling. I’ve not seen this in any other vendor (am prepared to be corrected here).

Check out the image

ixp-ind

It’s an exciting time to be at LONAP. Our IXP in the middle of a transition from being “just a small exchange run by people with other day jobs” to a professional outfit that is attracting big players from both the content provider and eyeball network communities.

We still like to think of it as a family business though. We are a community that does things on behalf of the community. Our low overhead base means we are amongst the most cost effective IXPs in the game.

More in due course. In the meantime if you are  at RIPE72 and want to chat to us look out for our LONAP branded shirts.

Check out all peering posts here.

Possibly my last word on the Coast to Coast walk

Coast to coast wrapup

We finished the Coast to coast walk 5 days ago. My feet are starting to recover and I am now away on a business trip for a couple of weeks – Brussels, Barcelona and Copenhagen. It’s the way to roll.

In packing for the trip I put away some of my winter wardrobe – thick pullovers etc – and retrieved some of my summer stuff –  loud but tasteful Hawaiian shirts – you know me. Whilst I didn’t lose any weight on the walk due to the high intake of compensatory calories I’ve found that my shirts are a more comfortable fit and I am almost comfortable with the next notch in on the belt. All good stuff.

I have had time to reflect on the two weeks on the trail. How do I feel having finished? I feel good about it. Sometimes I glow. 190 miles from coast to coast. Wow. 🙂 Would I do it again. Not a hope in hell.

I caveat that last remark. I would consider such a challenge but it would have to have better planning. We took on too much on a daily basis. Shorter distances giving us time to enjoy ourselves should be the order of the day. This can be a problem for people with limited holidays. Two weeks is usually the maximum sensible time off work. Every additional night also adds to the cost. It comes as no surprise that the people we met taking the easier, longer option were retired gentlefolk (I just added that gentlefolk bit in for effect).

There would also have to be a solution to my sore feet. This could be an experimentation with different insoles, anti bruising agents such as Arnica cream and Voltarol gel for the reduction of pain.

I have noticed since finishing and since the tiredness has worn off (I was completely knackered for a couple of days afterwards) that I am now quite relaxed. This must be the byproduct of lots of exercise, being extremely focussed on the task in hand,  not thinking about work and the absence of TV, internet and telephony from my life. OK I did have some connectivity but this was sporadic and limited. Possibly a lesson there.

I am also happy with the cash we raised for Cancer research UK. It could always have been a lot more but actually considering it was mostly done through Facebook and with very little proactive effort once the walk had started it’s a goodly sum. Remember I was doing it in memory of my Mam who died a year ago to the day we started walking. She was in my mind as I walked along and I think it appropriate that I smile as I now think of her.

Having completed the challenge I now feel up to taking on others. Not this year but I will be giving it some thought. Ideas are welcomed.

I guess I will finish by thanking everyone who supported us on the walk and especially to my gorgeous wife Anne who has to put up with a lot and who came to meet us on her birthday. She was greeted by a husband writhing in agony on the bed because of his sore feet and treated to a sit down fish and chip supper in the Shap Chippy. Very salubrious but it did the job.

To those of you who have been kind and generous enough to donate cash to Cancer Research UK I will be in touch with you individually whenever i can fit it in over the coming fortnight. I am away on business until a week on Friday.

Worralife eh? 🙂

Oh and one final word on A Wainwright, the designer of the coast to coast walk, national treasure, icon to walkers everywhere and a complete and utter b&^%$£d swine for being the architect of my suffering over two extremely tough weeks that I can now look back on and smile.

PS look out for the movie – remember I have 36GB of pics and vids to sort…

Coast to Coast walk Bed and Breakfast review

Coast to coast walk Bed and Breakfast review – the best and the worst

Coast to coast walk bed and breakfast reviews – you heard it first on trefor.net.

We stayed at 13 bed and breakfasts whilst doing the coast to coast walk. Suffice to say that we were all sick of the sight of a “full English” by the end of it although I did finish off with one thinking it might be my last for some time.

By and large all the places we stayed at were of a good standard – Ajax and Luke had a couple of duffers. We weren’t always in the same place. The one exception was the Arncliffe Arms on the penultimate night which was pretty low quality pub accommodation with no outstanding features. The only other slight disappointemnt was the New Ing Lodge in Shap. It was run by a nice young couple who seemed to me to lack experience. For example the heating wasn’t on and some of the rooms (Ajax’s) didn’t have kettles. They were running the place on a shoestring it seemed.

I’m not going to mention all the places we stayed. You can check out the post for each specific day of the walk for this information. It is fair to say that a few of them did stand out from the rest for a variety of reasons.

The number one for quality was the Manse at Reeth on day 7. This won for the general high standard of the room and en suite (touch control temperature shower) and the overall quality of the breakfast. Although the bacon was slightly overdone they provided fried bread when asked even though it wasn’t on the menu. Breakfast overall was v good. They had soda bread on the menu!.

The Manse was right next to the green in Reeth which was very convenient for the pubs and on the coast to coast walk route. It is worth noting that these rural areas of the North aren’t totally geared up for tourists. Pub kitchens often closed early. Some friends came to meet us for that day’s walk and their pub/hotel stopped serving food at 7pm on a Saturday night. The only place in town still serving was the Buck Inn which was pretty low quality freezer fare. My rare steak came medium. My family insists that I’m not allowed to order steak in pubs for this very reason but hey…

The other places worth a mention are the Keld Lodge Hotel, West Cote near Chop Gate/Clay Bank Top, the Glaisdale Lodge near Patterdale and the Willance House in Richmond.

Keld Lodge was a former Youth Hostel. It wasn’t salubrious but the staff there were terrific and was the first place to automatically include fried bread on the menu. Keld is a million miles from anywhere so we also ate there and had a terrific evening meal. You felt as if you were in an oasis. I asked Dave the waiter whether the sauvignon blanc was local and he replied it was made in Wensleydale:). Keld Lodge btw is in Swaledale which was my fave bit of the walk.

Grisedale Lodge (day 3) was run by Christine and John and the food was of the highest quality. The bread was homemade and the Cumberland sausage at breakfast was the meatiest I’d ever seen. Bought from the butcher in Shap. Tom had a high quality home mixed muesli. We had had a really hard day when we arrived at Patterdale so Tom hit the hay whilst I staggered to the pub (Lion? I’ll look it up) with Ajax and Luke where we had a good solid meal and met the Canadians.

West Cote (day 10) was different to the mainstream. The landlady Judy was a serious star. We had to call West Cote in advance to let them know when to pick us up as there was no phone signal at the top. In conversation I asked her if she minded me arranging an Amazon delivery the next day – my feet had been getting very sore and my GP sister Ann had advised Arnica cream (is this a social call or a medical call says Ann? :).

Judy said she would pop into town and get me the cream and I added more tape and blister plasters to the list. We eventually ended up walking tp West Cote rather than getting a lift and when we arrived I was not only proffered the Arnica cream but Judy fixed me up an ice bath for my feet.

We also had tea and scones on arrival. That night Stuart ran us down tp the pub, another Buck Inn, owned by a German chef named Wolfgang. We had a German meal rather than the normal pub fare (hunter’s schnitzel)  and afterwards had a beer with both Stu and Wolfgang.

Breakfast was very different. You could choose the usual cooked stuff but I elected for cheese with homemade toasted bread. Our second and final home made bread experience. There was a terrific selection of local cheeses including three from a 180 year old dairy from Wensleydale.

The story goes that the dairy had been sold to a large conglomerate that had decided to shift production to Lancashire. Wensleydale, a Yorkshire cheese made in Lancashire! The prospect was unthinkable. A management buyout ensued and the cheese stayed local. In a nice touch, Nick Park of Wallace & Grommit (more cheese Gromit) fame gave the dairy the rights to use the Wallace and Gromit branding for ten years. I didn’t used to like Wensleydale but this was terrific and I am now a convert. As well as homemade bread Judy presented us with homemade jams and marmalades.

She was very knowledgeable about the area and threw herself into the B&B job with enthusiasm. She was also on the committee of the Riding for The Disabled Charity – a top girl all round.

Willance House (day 8) in Richmond was a real pro outfit. The rooms were of high quality. Colin the proprietor was very attentive and was perfectly happy to provide us with a bacon sandwich at 6.30 am so that we could make an early start on what was the longest day’s walk of the trip.

I would return to all the aforementioned B&Bs again. I can recommend a three nighter in Keld, Reeth and Richmond which have fairly easy walks between each stop.

Complete list of our coast to coast walk bed and breakfast accommodation. There are pictures of all the locations mentioned (I think – maybe not all the actual B&Bs but certainly the locations) if you go to the relevant day’s blog entry. Click on the album links to see the pics and vids.

So there you go – coast to coast walk bed and breakfast reviews. Only a few coast to coast posts left in me plus a video which might take some time to produce as I have so much material. It will be worth the wait:)

Coast to Coast walk gadget review

Coast to Coast walk gadget review

Coast to Coast walk gadget review includes Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, Runkeeper, OS Maps online, Fitbit, Pangea Tracker and the Leatherman multitool.  I carried with me a number of gadgets and used 2 main Apps on the coast to coast walk. Here’s what I thought of them.

Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge

The Edge was bought several weeks prior to the coast to coast walk as my Oneplus2 had failed miserably in the rain during the Llanberis training week. In fact it died on me. The edge claims to be waterproof and can withstand being under 5 feet of water for up to 30 minutes.

I tried it out in the rain before going o the walk and had no problems. The camera is brilliant and the phone feels great to hold.

Under true field conditions the problems showed themselves. Firstly the rain was so heavy that every time a raindrop hit the screen the phone thought I was pressing a button. It went haywire. This was particularly inconvenient when I needed to use the GPS.

At our lunch stop under a soaking wet railway bridge I dropped the phone and subsequently found I’d cracked the back. At least the screen survived for me to be able to use it on the rest of the walk.

The phone was kept in my waterproof coat pocket. This pocket filled with water because I left the zip open to access phone/gloves/stuff. This didn’t particularly seem to affect the phone but the battery did run out during the afternoon and my external charger wouldn’t work because the phone detected “moisture in the USB port”. The next day I left the phone in a dry bag in the rucksack and used my GoPro in it’s waterproof case.

The GoPro worked fine but needed the images and videos manually backing up which was a faff.

After day two the weather was near perfect so I reverted to the use of the phone which I kept wrapped in my merino buff, really just to prevent condensation (from my profusely sweating body) getting to the screen and affecting its responsiveness to my finger. I needed fast responsiveness to be able to quickly take pics.

At around the middle of the afternoon I’d retrieve the external charger from the dry bag and plug it into the phone. One charger with 7800mAh was enough but not over the top. After a couple of days I left the second spare power pack in my main bag that was transported between B&Bs.

Apart from the camera, which with 36GB of pics and vids taken was the most used app, the most useful app was Runkeeper. Runkeeper told us how many miles we had come and therefore how many we had yet to go. It also told us how long we had taken and the miles per hour walking rate. This was all important info especially as we needed to try and keep up the pace over the long days and distances. My overall pace was hampered by heel blisters that slowed Tom and I down over the 12 days.

I was also able to broadcast our progress live using Runkeeper. Once the activity had been started, son Joe at Newcastle University would log in, take the link and insert it in the day’s pre-written blog post. Images and videos, uploaded in real time where there was connectivity, would also be transferred into the pre-created album of the day.

Connectivity was very poor along most of the route. Bear in mind Wainwright (forever labeled Wainwright the sadist in my mind) took you away from roads and up steep sided mountains wherever possible. The Lake District connectivity was especially poor, both mobile and fixed. In the interest of survival and resting my knee, hammered on the day 2 descent from Honister, Tom and I sometimes took an alternative route by road, avoiding rocky descents.

Poor connectivity didn’t stop the Runkeeper tracking from working. It would just wait for some bandwidth availability before updating the online database.

The other great app I used was the Ordnance Survey online mapping tool. Before the trip I created the exact replica of Wainwright’s route for each day using the tool. This was then downloaded onto the phone for offline use. Essential for a route with little connectivity. The absence of mobile data connectivity didn’t stop the GPS from working. Whilst we mostly used a paper map we did find it very convenient to resort to the Ordnance Survey which would then tell us whether we were off course or not. This saved us time and effort on quite a number of occasions and I very much recommend it if you are into the outdoor recreation game. I wouldn’t rely on the OS Maps app as the main navigation tool. It feels like it uses a lot of battery power although I have no data to back this up. Also in the rain it is safer to use a map securely stored in a waterproof map case or even a waterproof map.

I had with me a Fitbit Surge watch. Tests had determined that whilst this did work as a tracker the battery life was not sufficient when using GPS. The latest we got in was 8.15 pm on the second day. The phone battery could be supplemented by the external charger but this was not possible with the Fitbit as the socket was underneath the display, ie resting on your wrist.

The Fitbit would be great for the intended usage – running, working out etc where the times involved might be in the lowe hours rather than days.

I carried with me at all times the Pangea Tracker. This gave me a reliable backup for Runkeeper and also a portal that will allow me to access the whole route when back at base and with some time to properly write up the whole walk (whenever that might be!).

Other gadgets worth mentioning include the Leatherman multitool. I only used it once and that was in the evening at the B&B. Whilst being a really cool boys toy it didn’t take me long to decide that less weight was better than invisible coolness and this was soon relegated to the duffel bag and the transporting van.

The duffel bag btw was a North Face Basecamp XL. Fantastic bags. Really robust. As well as my clothes it also carried my Osprey laptop bag. I used one of my Chromebooks during the evenings, exhaustion permitting, to update the day’s blog. The chromebooks are so cheap as to be almost disposable and taking it along was an acceptable risk.

I think that’s it on the coast to coast walk gadget front. I used the premium, paid for versions of Runkeeper and the OS maps.

The coast to coast walk has been a major feature in my life for the last few weeks. Check out all the posts in the coast to coast category on this blog.

Coast to Coast Kit List

Coast to Coast Kit List

Feet are starting to recover from the coast to coast walk. I removed all the remaining plasters last night and have been giving them a good airing. No further details are necessary. I’ll soon be switching this daily diary back to my personal website philosopherontap but for now, whilst I have coast to coast stuff to say, it’s going onto trefor.net. Today I thought I’d talk about my coast to coast kit list. The gear that I took along on the walk. I figured that I’d need all the help I could get and decided that price wouldn’t be an obstacle to buying the right kit. This didn’t necessarily mean I ended up paying top dollar for everything. It just meant that I chose what seemed right for me without worrying about the money.

The first port of call were the boots. I have a slight problem when it comes to choosing footwear in that my left foot is sized 9 but my right foot is sized 8. Ordinarily this isn’t a problem because a pair of sized nines does the job and I hardly notice the looser fit in the right foot.

When it comes to walking 190 miles up hill and down dale as in the coast to coast the story is different. Both feet had to be a comfortable fit with not too much play. I tried on numerous pairs in both Blacks and GoOutdoors but never felt comfortable enough to make the buying decision. Instead, on one of my trips taking kids to university  (Hannah to Durham and Joe to Newcastle) I stopped off at the Alt Berg factory shop in Richmond.

Alt Berg is a wonderful shop with a factory attached. You can see them making the boots whilst you sit there fitting your own. They supply the armed forces and are willing to sell you a mixed sized pair. Unfortunately they didn’t have a wide enough fit for my feet and I ended up with a pair of Meindl Meran GTX in size 9 1/2. Very comfortable.

The story unfortunately didn’t end there. After ten or so practice walks i concluded that the left boot was rubbing a toe and took it back to see whether they could do anything. They used a very hot tool to put a bulge where the boot rubbed but a couple of walks later I found that this had a knock on effect of allowing my foot to slip forward in the shoe and rub other toes.

I was running out of time. We had a walking holiday in snowdonia coming up fast on the rails and after that only a month until the coast to coast. My boots needed to be right. I but the bullet and bought a second pair of the Meindls at size 10. I wore the ten on the left foot and the 9 ½ on the right. This does mean I have two pairs of odd sized shoes , one of which is no good to me, but needs must. The odd pair are a perfect fit!

My socks were Bridgedale merino fusion Trail. These were really comfortable. I had three pairs. One on, one off and a spare in my day bag. I’d wash that day’s socks in the shower each evening and dry them overnight on the radiator, or the B&B/hotel drying room.

I bought pretty much everything other than the boots in GoOutdoors where they not only match the cheapest price online but let me have a further 10% expedition discount.

My day sack was a Deuter Futura 32. This is a great bag that adjusts both chest and hip straps to your size. It’s got a lower compartment for your waterproof, an inner slot for your camelback and all the straps and pockets you can think of. I was really pleased with this bit of kit.

I bought several base layers, both short and long sleeved and synthetic and merino. I ended up just using the North Ridge short sleeved merino and  Rab long sleeved merino/polyester job. These were not only comfortable but had great wicking properties and I felt a lot more comfortable having the long sleeves on the hot sunny days as protection against sunburn. The sleeves were looI needed to cool down.

I bought a couple of cheap thin Hi Gear half zipped fleeces but didn’t use them much at all. The weather was not cold and I didn’t need the extra insulation. In fact I spent half the time just in a base layer.

I did use my Berghaus full zipped fleeces a good 50% of the time. The layering system works really well. Zips go up and zips go down dependant on my body temperature. These fleeces have large side pockets that are map sized and really handy.

I had two of most things except for the Marmot Red Star outer/waterproof. This is a pretty minimalistic lightweight garment designed to be windproof and waterproof but not particularly warm. On the first day, which was very wet and windy, I left the pocket zips open and the pockets filled up with water!

When wearing base, fleece and outer and climbing I found the small of my back was often soaked. Dripping even. The wicking properties were phenomenal and I never felt wet.  When we stopped I’d dry off in no time.

All the clothes got a wash a couple of times during the walk but otherwise mostly dried off each night. The previous day’s kit would be put away in the morning and reused the following day. Our bags were carried to the next night’s stop by a company called Packhorse.

One item that proved essential were the Lowe Alpine gaiters. These saved me from having wet boots on a number of occasions, especially in the Lake District. They were chosen only because I had trouble finding a pair that fitted but were perfectly good.

My Montane Terra Stretch trousers were fantastic. Lightweight and comfortable, very breathable and with side vents that stayed open pretty much all the time after the first day which was the only really wet one. I had Berghaus waterproof overtrousers.

The merino buff was used mostly to wrap my phone in after it was dropped and cracked in the rain on day 1. Finally my Tilley hat was fantastic. Used come rain or shine and very versatile.

I’m running out of steam here and it’s bedtime so that’s all you are getting from a coast to coast kit list description. I’ll add more tomorrow as I think of it.

ciao

Coast to coast walk reflection and advice

Coast to coast walk advice

Coast to coast walk advice for first timers. Advice to people thinking of doing the coast to coast walk.

Our build up for the coast to coast was tremendous. It started at the end of March when I pushed the button, went through lots of training walks and stints in GoOutdoors splashing the cash on kit, and the promo activity designed to raise funds for Cancer Research UK. No that it is all over I thought I’d stick some reflections on the experience that could help you if you are thinking of doing it yourself.

weather

In the week or two running up to the start I stopped training, partly due to being away a lot on business, and started to focus on the weather for the trip. It was looking particularly black for day 1 which is how it eventually turned out.

We got totally soaked on day 1. My waterproof coat pockets filed up as I had left the zips open to take things in and out. The Martin wainwright Guide Book was totalled and I lost my specs (Oakleys).  I’d removed them as my blurred vision was better than looking through blurred specs. The boots got thoroughly wet – no gaiters were going stop the lakes of water we had to paddle through from filling up the boots.

My gloves also got soaked through. They were supposed to be waterproof but weren’t. Make sure you have a decent pair.

As it happened whilst day 2 began wet the weather for the remaining 10 days was near perfect. On occasion it was too perfect – heat isn’t good for walking. 10 degrees with a gentle breeze is just about right. We were lucky. The average number of days’ rain in the lake district in May is 16.

We were lucky. Especially on the last day where the sun came out as we were walking in to Robin Hood’s Bay and allowed us to enjoy the experience sat outside the Bay Hotel with friends and family.

The enjoyment would have been really curtailed had we not had nice weather most of the time. Be prepared.

preparation

Although I did around 150 miles of walking in preparation for this trip it was mostly on flat roads around Lincoln. This was no preparation at all for the underfoot conditions on the coast to coast.

The Lake District in particular was a real swine (language and true feelings toned down for a Universal audience). There are few nice smooth paths and many steep ascents and descents.

Beware of lakeside paths. They are no such thing. They are merely areas of rock designed to hurt your feet and slow down progress. The dotted green line marking a “public footpath” gives no hint as to the difficulty of traversing said path. One mile an hour can be the going rate on such paths.

Ascents were actually less trouble than perhaps might have been forecast. As long as you take things steadily you can make good progress. On our last day we had a 1 in 3 hill to climb out of Grosmont and did this without stopping in just over 30 minutes. Likewise Loft Beck, the ascent to Honister Pass near the Black Sail Youth Hostel was far less trouble than anticipated and we managed it in an hour.

The big problem are the descents. These are bone jarring knee knackering “paths” that slowed us down big time and in the case of Honister resulted in my having to nip to Keswick in the morning to buy a knee support. Thereafter we planned some of our days to avoid the steep descents.

This had the side effect of also avoiding some ascents although it did usually mean a longer walk around the hill. It was more important for me to get from St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay in one piece than to do it heroically but in bits, or not even to make it to the end at all.

How fit do you need to be?

This is where I should comment on Wainwright as a cult figure and how fit you need to be to do this walk. Old Alfred Wainwright was a life long fell walker. Any comments he makes about how long it should take you to walk a specific route should take this into consideration. When AW says a good walker should easily complete a stage in a day he really means it is easily doable if you are superfit.

Some stages are obvious ones to split into two days. In fact whilst we completed the walk in 12 days I’d say 14 or 16 would make the experience that much more enjoyable. Our days were spent concentrating on making progress to the end point B&B rather than making detours to see interesting stone circles or graves. With a 12 day schedule it was all about survival.

We met a party of retired persons who were walking East to West and taking 19 days. That’s 10 miles a day and a very comfortable pace. Worth thinking about if you can spare the time and afford the night stays. A daily mileage of 10 – 12 is good. Consider 15 to be a long day. 19 – 23 miles is just making it hard for yourselves.

There were plenty of walkers along the route who were eating up the miles on whatever surface they chose. It is doable but they were largely people for whom walking was part of their lives.

So when you read the Wainwright book and get fired up about the whole prospect of doing the coast to coast just remember you need to be pretty fit.

The other comment here relates to the Julia Bradbury Coast to Coast TV programmes. Julia made it look easy. In fact this was partly because they allegedly took six weeks to make the series. You weren’t going to be able to do the walk and stop off to meet the people she interviewed en route in 12 days, especially with a film crew in tow. Moreover she gave no real indication as to how tough the walk was going to be. Buyer beware:)

The last observation here is that both AW and JB would spend some days sat in cafes drinking tea whilst the rain pelted down. It just isn’t safe to go out on some of the hills if visibility is poor or non existent. Lethal in fact.

The problem here is that old AW would just go out on nice days as he lived a short drive away and in any case talked in terms of arranging the next night’s accommodation the day before or even on the day of the walk. This is not practical when you are on a timetable with accommodation booked and paid for months in advance. The coast to coast walk is so popular now that places get booked up very quickly. We spoke to ca couple of ladies, Alison and Betty who had tried to book the Lion in last December but it was full. great place to spend the night though so no wonder.

The rainy day alternatives can be a very long way round (eg Patterdale to Shap) and in some cases there are no obvious ones.

first aid kit

Essentials – lots of Compeed blister plasters and/or Duoderm blister treatment second skin. Plenty of spare sports tape or medical tape (and scissors) – these blister packs come off easily in the boot and need strapping down. Safety pins for popping blisters – the theory is that you leave them untouched but a fluid laden blister can be really sore in a boot. Antiseptic ointment (Savlon), Vaseline for places that can get sore when rubbed together – I lashed it on in spades and it did the job. Deep heat for sore muscle relief. Paracetamol and ibuprofen – I had really sore feet an they seemed to help plus I had a toothache at the start of the walk and the drugs seemed to take that pain away. I’d also pack Voltarol pain relief cream or gel for the feet and also some Arnica cream for bruise relief. Finally don’t forget sun tan lotion and after sun.

Oh and by the way. Nothing to do with first aid per se but take a roll of toilet paper with you in a plastic bag… It’s a top tip.

map reading

The coast to coast walk whilst signposted in many places cannot be done without constant reference to a map which needs to be readily accessible – we used a map case hung around the neck. We also used a compass, at least several times a day. If the weather turns bad this is even more important especially on the moors where there are few landmarks.

I also subscribed to Ordnance Survey Online and pre planned the route for each day making each one available offline. If we were unsure of our position we would whip the phone out to check. The GPS would tell us if we were even a few feet off the planned route. It was brilliant.

You shouldn’t rely on the phone though as the battery won’t last all day when using GPS. I carried two spare external phone charger although I dispensed with the weight of the second after a few days as one was enough.

I bought a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge specifically for the walk as it is waterproof. The heavy rain on Day 1 however made the phone next to useless an the screen would respond to each raindrop as if I was pressing icons. I also dropped it in the wet slippery conditions smashing the glass on the back. That’s £630 worth of dog and bone!

The phone wouldn’t charge in the wet – the os detects moisture in the connector and stops it.

On day 2 I left the phone in a dry bag in my day sack only getting it out for essential purposes and using a GoPro in a waterproof case for pics and vids. After day 3 I resorted to carrying the phone in my pocket wrapped up in a merino wool buff to keep away moisture (sweat mostly). I took 25GB worth of pics and vids which would not have been so easy had I had to stop and get the phone out f the bag each time. The Edge is a brilliant phone.

A few people en route commented that they thought the Wainwright Coast to Coast should be better signposted and be made a National Route. I’d be against this. Some of the adventure is in having to find your way. Too many sign posts would be a dumbing down and becoming a National Route would also result in a lot more paving going down.

Mind you I’m all in favour of zipwires taking you across deep valleys and obviating the need to go down one side and up the other. One long zipwire from coast to coast would also work but I suspect be impractical and I suppose counter to the spirit of the game 🙂

I’m going to talk about kit in another post. But I hope this coast to coast walk advice helps you in putting together your plans for your trip.

Don’t forget I was raising cash for Cancer Research UK whilst on this Coast to Coast walkJustGiving page here. The start date of the walk coincides with the anniversary of my mother’s death on May 1st last year. Mam was Chairman of the Marown & District branch of the IoM Anti Cancer Association. It’s never too late to contribute 🙂

The morning after the 13 days before

coast to coast walk day 13

On the coast to coast walk day 13  woke up at the usual time in Raven House B&B in Robin Hood’s Bay. It’s a classic seaside bed and breakfast and perfectly good. There is optional fried bread on the menu. Quality. We have a view looking out over the bay and I’m sat here in the bay window typing this post.

I’ve already been out for a stroll, of sorts. My feet are somewhat sore and I’m glad not to be going through the normal routine of the past ten days or so of sorting out the blisters. Didn’t get the blisters until day 3 as I recall.

One of the surprising features of this walk is that my feet haven’t got better as the days progressed. I had imagined they would harden and the walking would get easier. Not so. It’s meant that the average pace of 3 miles an hour during training on the roads had dropped to 2 mph which is a real issue if you are trying to put in maybe 19 miles or more in a day. Walking on stony ground has been particularly sore.

There are I’m sure going to be lots of reflections on the past fortnight’s endeavours. We will be giving awards for best breakfast, best B&B, best landlady/landlord etc. Also best location and so on – not really decided what the categories are yet.

It’s great to have finished. The welcome committee outside the Shore Hotel yesterday was wonderful. Very emotional. The weather was great although it had been quite cold walking across the moors. We video’d the throwing the stones ceremony whereby the stones brought from St Bees beach were cast into the sea in Robin Hood’s Bay.

Walked back up the hill to the B&B, showered and out to the Victoria Hotel for dinner. Had ribs followed by chicken jalfrezi and then profiteroles. Didn’t want to risk a curry when I was walking the next day. It was just standard chain pub stuff so nothing special but did the job. Our menu choices each night on the walk had been pretty identical at each venue – standard pub fare (steak, burger, pie, lasagne, gammon etc). Apart that is from the Buck Inn at Chop Gate where Wolfgang the chef owner had a great German menu.

Waiting now to pop down to brekkie at 8.30.

More later

Back home now (nice) with an afternoon of relaxation and internet in prospect. Had a sms yesterday from EE telling me my 20GB data limit had been reached. I have nearly 25GB of pics and vids on my phone SD card which was new before the coast to coast so that’s what’s used it. I’d a thought there wasn’t enough bandwidth of an flavour on the walk to use 20GB but obviously I’m wrong. Apparently the bundle reset yesterday but the very charming Irish girl on the end of the phone bunged me a complimentary 10GB to be getting on with anyway. Fair play.

Going through the mail and paid a few bill online associated with our rentals. Seasy. Tomorrow I am taking campervan Betty to Grimsby to buy her a new condensing fridge.

We are off out to the Tower Hotel tonight for a surprise party. Only thing is it’s not a surprise and tbh Ajax and I had in mind a few pints early doors followed by a quick Thai and then home but then again we are only bit players in the pageant 🙂 A  good time will be had.


Warning: Unknown: open(/var/lib/php/sessions/sess_j707m2k4qve0c8t9hu3lark9d2, O_RDWR) failed: Disk quota exceeded (122) in Unknown on line 0

Warning: Unknown: Failed to write session data (files). Please verify that the current setting of session.save_path is correct (/var/lib/php/sessions) in Unknown on line 0