Cuba – Day 4

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After yesterday morning’s scrum in ‘our’ restaurant (masquerading as guests having breakfast) we decided that we’d return to the relative calm of the ‘other’ restaurant by way of the tunnel connecting the two parts of the hotel. Although busy, this turned out to be a smart move, in spite of the slightly chaotic atmosphere.

After brekky, Ralph and I spent some time getting our head why I wasn’t able to get a reliable internet connection whereas Ralph had been able to post to Facebook without any problems. I’m not sure we found out the reason why, but between us, I did manage to get connected in the end – although currently I still can’t upload any blogs (but email and Facebook post OK). Oh well, we’re getting there albeit slowly! UPDATE: It seems that the trick is to post early, whilst their router is working less hard. Hopefully, by the time you read this, the previous three posts will be ‘up there’ at blog.StevePalmer.com

The day panned out slowly – and that suited us perfectly! We had a very lazy morning by the rooftop-pool, before taking a slow stroll down to Cathedral Square for a look at the err, Cathedral and then grabbed some lunch.




Lunch at ‘El Patio’


Entertainment too, courtesy of ‘Bacanao’ (We even bought their CD)


The Cathedral – outside


The Cathedral – inside

We then took the familiar walk back to the Hotel, but by now, it was getting even hotter and more humid. As a result, I think we must have lost half a stone walking back!

 
Views on the walk back

We were shattered when we got back! Time for ‘feet-up’ and maybe a snooze before meeting up with R and K for a light meal somewhere in the Hotel tonight.

Phew! I think today was the hottest day since we arrived – it must have been up there in the low/mid 30s – and together with the very high humidity made it very uncomfortable doing anything! We’re glad it was a lazy one! We finished our day back by the rooftop-pool where the Waiter was happy to go ‘off menu’ and conjure us up some light snacks.

It’s a full-on day tomorrow as we have an all-day tour to the west of Cuba – Vinales (where all the tobacco is grown).

Social Media Timeline

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I stumbled across this yesterday – who knew!

A History of Social Media [Infographic] - Infographic
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The Only Way is… Tooway

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OK, after years of constantly below-par broadband speeds here, I finally ‘bit the bullet’ and did something about it.

For as long as I can remember, it seemed like everyone else (apart from the rest of the neighbours in our immediate area) were getting faster connection speeds than us.

When the houses were built 20+ years ago, they made no provision for the ‘information super-highway’ and recently, the mighty Virgin confirmed they had no plans to change things – even though we occasionally get mailshots from them promising us Bolt-like speeds.

BT have been strangely quiet, and even Sky wouldn’t sell me their broadband package because of the (low) speed. 

The simple truth is that, for broadband-by-phone, we live too far away from the Exchange. On a good day, I might just get a 1.25 Mb/s download here, but as the work-day progresses, it just gets slower and slower – and many of our neighbours are languishing with speeds even slower than mine. Technology can put a robot on Mars, but it can’t get Tynan Close a 2 Mb/s broadband connection! It’s soooo sloooow that services like iPlayer and YouTube sometimes won’t run at all on our TV.

Currently it takes almost a day to download a 60 minute episode of Mad Men!!

Mad!!!!!

Prior to looking at alternative ways to receive broadband, I carried out a speed test. The result below, is the BEST I got over a six hour period from Demon Internet.

Download speed: 0.81 Mb/s

Upload speed 0.38 Mb/s

    

Preparing for Changeover
So, what did I do? Well, a quick Google search revealed a broadband service delivered by satellite. The company I chose is based in the UK (that’s  a bonus!), and is called Tooway. They offer a number of speed packages – I chose the 8Mb/s, as I’m pretty certain that will meet my business and personal needs. There are faster options available – right up to 18 Mb/s at the time of writing, and a slower one (2 Mb/s) if you’re on a budget. 

The process with Tooway was very straightforward. Call them, pay the upfront costs for: installation, hardware and your first month’s fee – and the ball is rolling. OK, unlike some other internet providers, you’re not going to get lots of add-on goodies like a free calls bundle and free access to wireless when out-and-about, but what you DO get, is a promise of a reliable and fast connection that doesn’t rely on where you live. Nice one!

A Few Day Later…
Having ordered the product over the phone (you can also order online), a few days later, two packages arrived containing all the hardware. A few days after that, an installation company called to arrange installation. You can do-it-yourself, but I’d recommend leaving it to the professionals. It’s not a difficult job in itself, but aligning satellite dishes is something most of us won’t have much experience in! Just remember that it means another dish on your property, and sometimes you might need permission. If your residence is restricted, Tooway do provide an option to receive your TV through their dish.

Not the prettiest of sites, but functional!

Installation Day
On the day of the installation, it all went pretty well. The Installers arrived slightly earlier than expected – and that turned out to be an advantage because it took them slightly longer to ‘point’ the dish. Depending on where your house is, you may be limited on suitable locations for this essential piece of metal – it has to be able to ‘see’ the satellite and there shouldn’t be any visible obstructions like trees or tall buildings in the line of sight.

A few hours later, everything was up and running. It’s worth remembering that the installers will only configure the modem to work and confirm your connection is working. It’s down to you to connect the modem to the router (which Tooway sell) and make any adjustments to the settings on your PC. In short, don’t expect the installers to touch your PC at all.

Any Good?
Oh yes! Everything is working as it should. I didn’t notice much difference with normal ‘surfing’, but downloading and/or streaming is a smooth and speedy process. Downloading Sky Movies is now a breeze, so is watching iPlayer – and I can even look at Facebook and Twitter on my TV – how sad is that!

As a quick test, I downloaded a 120 minute movie from Sky and it took just 23 minutes – and because of the faster download speed, Sky let’s you start watching it before the download is finished – in fact the film was viewable within about three minutes. Perfect for a film addict like me.

Here are the results of the BEST speed tests carried out over a two-hour period for the Tooway setup – remember I’m on an ‘8Mb/s down’ and ‘2 Mb/s up’ package.

Download speed: 8.4 Mb/s

Upload speed 1.9 Mb/s

Just compare these to the broadband-by-telephone results above

    

I’d say that was a fantastically good result – 10 times faster downloads than the previous setup.

Hats off to Tooway. The service has been excellent, there’s an efficient customer service team and the technical help and advice (not that you’ll need much) is spot on. It’s also nice to be able to talk to real people, rather than spend ages trying to get through to a faceless call-centre. Call Tom on 0844 874 0600 if you have the need for speed!

This has definitely been one of my better decisions of 2012!

PS. Only the satellite is connected to Tooway, I’m not a relation of any of the staff, nor part of their organisation – just a VERY satisfied customer!

There be Dragons!

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dragon

Well, maybe! But all I need during our week away (Lee’s house-sitting), is a mobile phone signal! Apparently the properties around Fountain’s Abbey, have ZERO bars, even though it’s one of the most visited of National Trust locations.

No phoning, no email, no blogs, no Twitter, and no Facebook! Eeeeekkk!

Maybe the thought of ZERO communication for a whole week might seem like the perfect scenario for some – but for me, it sounds like Hell!

Website Makeover

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 My Website

I spent some time this week giving my personal website a bit of a makeover. Nothing too drastic, but I haven’t touched it since June 2010, and it deserved a bit of a tidy-up. The major changes included:

  • adding links to my LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter accounts
  • removing some crappy graphics
  • enlarging the page dimensions so it fits better on modern screens
  • tidying up the ‘photographs’ page
  • adding a custom search function
  • adding a lightbox function to some of the hyperlinked graphics

Test Blog

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bigstock_businessman_with_yellow_notes_4156298

Hello world! This is a test blog to try out a new facility that posts my blogs to my ‘wall’ on Facebook automatically. The previous script just posted a LINK to the Blog, so if you’re reading this on Facebook, it’s come from my Blog, so that means the technology is working!

PS That reminds me, I need to add ‘post-it notes’ to the shopping list!

Laptop sorted!

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Trish popped round with her (very nice) laptop. I managed to sort out her Facebook access problems, delete a phantom account, sort out her email address and generally have a tidy-up. All-in-all, it went very well.

I love compooooters!