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!

The Royal Wedding

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I’m not an avid Royalist – I never felt the urge to wave the Union Jack today, but I’ve got to say, I really enjoyed the whole of the BBC’s  TV production – in HD of course! Splendid camera work, a good-day weather-wise (although it started off a bit grey), and I loved Kate’s dress. Makes you proud to be here in England!

Great stuff!!

What a dress!!

Doctor Who – New Series

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I’ve heard that the new series begins on Easter Saturday. Full length trailer started to appear this week – up until then, there had been a short 5 second teaser.

Wot, no more Christmas?

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So that’s it then! Christmas is officially over and my waistline is the only evidence of our period of indulgence. After a rather large lunch, Nicki helped us remove the cards and dismantle all the decorations and the tree. The cards are now in the recycling bin and the decorations and the tree are back in their ‘other’ home – the rafters in the garage.

I feel a diet coming on and to make life easier, any food still in the house that contains a hint of ‘junk’ about it, is now considered contraband. It’s either been given away – or filed under ‘b’ for bin.  Bye-bye then: chilli-peanuts, chocolate nuts and raisins, cake, crisps, salsa dips and all that beer – I’ll miss you!!

With the ‘other event’ coming up at the end of the year, that’s another good reason to get into shape – it’s just I’m not sure what that shape will be – a dodecahedron maybe?

Smile

We chilled-out in the afternoon, watching Elizabeth – The Golden Age recorded earlier in the week on ITV1 HD.

Smile please..!

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canon20D Way back on July 20 2005, I made a big decision to trade-in my existing camera for the then new and exciting DSLR, Canon 20D. At that time, this Canon model was pretty much the top-of-the-tree as far as semi-pro DSLRs were concerned.

How times (and technology) move on! Here we are almost five years later and it’s trade-in time again.

Panasonic Lumix g2 So, it’s bye-bye to the Canon and hello to the Panasonic Lumix G2.  The camera world has advanced so much in five-years, so comparisons between the two are almost pointless – the G2, is less than half the price with a gazillion more features!

With thousands more models on the market, what was a four-figure price for a camera back then, can now easily be bought for much less. This is most strongly illustrated in the trade-in price for my old Canon – unfortunately!!! Used prices have plummeted – When I bought the 20D way-back-then, it cost close to 1500 notes just for the camera body – and the trade-in today?, well, little more than 150!!!! Fortunately the camera shop was also interested in all my Canon dedicated lenses and the flash-gun too and the total trade-in price covered the price of the G2 including a standard lens.

Although my old Canon is probably technically superior (Panasonic might not agree), the new Panasonic Lumix is infinitely more flexible – it can even record HD video. Why the switch of brands? Well, I’ve always been impressed with Ann’s Panasonic Lumix T5 – a compact camera that seemed to be able to take photos even in the crappiest of conditions, whereas my Canon 20D was always a bit fussy and in certain conditions, produced a lot of underexposed shots in its lifetime (even when using the flash).  Technically, the Lumix is NOT a direct replacement the 20D, as it’s not a DSLR, it’s what they call a HYBRID – an evolved type that mimics the DSLR’s feature-list in many ways (and adds some!) but saves on size and weight. For the nerds it uses the Micro Four-thirds format.

And size and weight is probably the best feature of all. It’s about a third smaller and half the weight of the Canon – and that’ll be a great benefit if the Lumix does as much travel as the Canon did!

More information about the G2 camera HERE (pdf)
Panasonic Spring 2010 Camera Brochure HERE (pdf)
Accessories for the G2 HERE (pdf)

TV: First HD recording

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In years to come, this will all seem very mainstream or even supeceded by something even whizzier; but for now, this is a great facility. I was able to set up the timer on the TV to record an HD transmission to hard disk.

No prizes for guessing which programme: Doctor Who, (Series 5, Episode 10, ‘Vincent’).