The Only Way is… Tooway

Reading time: 3 minutes...

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!

RIP: Norman Wisdom

Reading time: < 1 minute...

normanwisdom Star of stage and screen, the comedy legend that is Sir Norman Wisdom, died today, aged 95.

Famous for playing the underdog, and someone who made falling-over, an art-form, I remember him best for the 1953 film Trouble in Store, (which I think, earned him a BAFTA). In the film, he first uttered the line: “Ooo, Mr Grimsdale!”, which later became his trade-mark catch-phrase, and the one-liner that all impressionists used in later years.

He also sang – most remembered for his track “Don’t Laugh at me because I’m a Fool..” from the same film.

A nice quote from the great man:
“As you get older three things happen. The first is your memory goes, and I can’t remember the other two”

Related Stuff

Pemberley Grange II Router is REALLY live!

Reading time: < 1 minute...

O2wirelessrouter After a load of false starts because the router refused to ‘talk-to’ the internet, we can now connect our whizzy new DVD Player to the Internet using our O2 router.

Why? Apart from an extra internet connection capability, we can now access YouTube and Picasa Albums through the TV – How cool is that?

youtube_on_tv

Ralph and Karen – here for the weekend

Reading time: 3 minutes...

Saturday
We drove down to Bicester Shopping Village to meet R and K. The girls did a little some shopping, (but didn’t buy much) whilst Ralph and I pursued more manly activities by like heading to the BOSE shop to see the latest kit. Ralph and I then headed back to ours to chill-out and try and solve the problem of my second router not connecting to the Internet and generally bring ourselves up-to-date with the latest TV technology. However, things were to become far more complex from an electronics point-of-view later on in the day.

Ann and Karen arrived back just after 12 and we all sat down to burgers for lunch – lovely!

Straight after lunch, Ralph and I resumed our search for the solution to my router problem. A couple of hours later, we still couldn’t get it to work but we had at least, narrowed it down – something to do with the main phone plugged into the bedroom socket upstairs. The router worked if that phone was unplugged, but plugging it in, just knackered the internet connection. Strange!

pir_lightEven stranger, was the ‘old’ problem of my garage door randomly opening and closing for no reason when someone approaches it. After discounting someone nearby just taking-the-p*** with an identical remote control (how paranoid am I?), we discovered that the door was being triggered by the PIR sensor for our security light nearby. Walk into its path and the garage door began to open; and then close again – all on its own. It’s not done it before, so why now? An hour later, we still couldn’t solve the problem and the help-line at ScrewFix had gone home!

What a frustrating time – even with our both our sharp minds on the case, we now ended up being stuck with TWO problems!!

6.00pm. Time to bottle-out, and open a bottle of something! We’re hoping to eat outside later, but some champagne and nibbles will do until then!

dvd_blu-ray_vertical_limit Time for a movie too! We settled for ‘Vertical Limit’ on Blu-ray, starring Chris O’Donnell and Bill Paxton. Although the story itself was a bit ploddy, it was more than made-up for by the stunning photography and stunt sequences.

 stars-three

7.00pm. It turned out to be a lovely evening so we paused the DVD and had starters of cold meats, olives and cheeses outside. Then a brief pause whilst the girls prepared the risotto.

8.15pm. Seafood Risotto time – delicious!!! Followed by Ann’s ‘apricot-topped egg custard thingy – more than delicious!!!

9.45pm. Karen and I cleared-up the kitchen (which was nowhere near looking like the bomb-site it threatened to be!) and we then watched the rest of the DVD.

Sunday
As usual, I was first up; unusually, it wasn’t until 8am!! What a hot night though – it felt like it remained in the 20s throughout.

So, a late breakfast then – mainly of cereals, toast, muffins and fruit (we were all too stuffed from last night!).

After breakfast, (returning to the problem of our second router not working), Ralph suggested I checked the the ADSL filter on the BT line upstairs and replace it with a new one – it was worth a try even though I’d tried it before. When I pulled the bed out to access the main BT socket upstairs, I noticed that the socket had NO filter on it at all. So, I added one in and surprisingly, the router is now working perfectly! I’d been here before, but previously, the router definitely DIDN’T work – Go figure!

11.20am. Ann and Karen decided to go for a walk whilst Ralph and I faffed around with the DVD player accessing YouTube and playing media from an SD card and USB. I still haven’t got it all sussed-out, but I’;m getting there!

12.45pm. Time to head for The Star Inn at Geddington where we’d booked lunch. We haven’t been there for a while, but we recall the food being excellent. By the time we’d made the short drive (bottling out of driving through the ford), the day had become much warmer. There were already people sitting round the Queen Eleanor Cross with their pints in their hand and it all looked very ‘English’.

We were greeted with a very warm welcome and were shown to our table. The menu followed shortly afterwards. I went for the vegetarian cottage pie, whilst everyone else had the Sunday Roast. The service was excellent and servings were so large that none of us could manage dessert – not even me, not even coffee – but we were tempted by the ‘chocolate lumpy bumpy’. We’ll just have to go back again!

3.00pm. On leaving the Pub we were greeted by the throaty roar of a number of Ferraris travelling through the village – red, yellow, silver and even a black one!

We said our good-byes to R and K and headed home. Time for Ann to have a snooze and me to catch-up with a bit of TV.

What a great weekend – the weather’s been fantastic and it’s been great to catch-up!

Bye-Bye David Tennant

Reading time: < 1 minute...

One of the many (and probably one of the better) tributes to DT as the 10th Time Lord. It’s all home-made and deserves an award just for the editing!

…lump-in-the-throat time??

Our new Blu-Ray DVD Player/Great Shopping Trip

Reading time: < 1 minute...

Sony-DVP-S735D-DVD-Player-0It’s time to pension-off our trusty Sony DVP-S735D DVD player which is now more than 15 years old. Technically, there is nothing wrong with it – it still attracts good reviews on-line, but technology marches on!! BD80web550After lots and lots (and lots) of research, step forward the snappily titled Panasonic DMPBD80, the most technologically advanced Blu-Ray DVD player currently available.

Probably the two most innovative features are the ethernet connection, allowing access to the Internet, (for sites like YouTube) and a USB port allowing digital images from cameras and PCs to be displayed through the player to an HD TV.

We bought ours from those very nice people at Richer Sounds. They were easily the cheapest and there was also an option to purchase a five-year warranty for just 10% of the purchase price. Total price: 340.90. Superb customer service from ‘Ellis’!

In addition, I needed an HDMI lead. How much? 20? … 30? …40 pounds? Not even close! How about 79.95? – I think it’s made of gold!!! Then when I came to connect it all up I discovered that it wasn’t long enough. Kerr-ching!!!, that’ll be 89.95 for a two-metre version. I’ll have to drive over to Leicester tomorrow, to pick it up.

Because the DVD Player is very new and a bit hard to get hold-of, we couldn’t order it on-line but had to visit one of Richer Sound’s shops. We chose Leicester, having reserved it a few days beforehand.

Whilst we were in Leicester, we popped into the newish John Lewis there. What a fantastic store …spacious …not very busy …and a great product range. Perfect! We had a productive time. I picked up a black leather jacket; we bought some more garden lights; a small carpet for the lobby; and we arranged for a visit by their kitchen planner to help us re-think the kitchen.

Lazy Saturday

Reading time: 2 minutes...

The plan is… not to plan anything today – just chill-out and do mainly nothing.

I popped round the Stefan’s for some professional advice about the School Magazine production process – and that was a very worthwhile exercise! Cheers Stefan!!

Ann spent a large part of the day, ‘liberating’ lots of JS paperwork and files to their new home – guess where?

We also spent some time looking at our outgoings for the rest of the year and thinking about how best to manage Ann’s redundancy cheque that’s due next week.

We caught up with the Film ‘Vantage Point‘ starring Dennis Quaid. This was far better than I expected it to be. It was a film that told the story of the current President of the USA’s assassination, but told from the viewpoint of the various characters.

Star Trek Logo Virgin 1 ran a series of Star Trek episodes around the theme of time-travel over the weekend. Excellent! They showed four ‘Next generation’, three ‘Deep Space Nine’ and three ‘Voyager’ episodes.


It’s 8.00pm, and of course, tonight is Eurovision Song Contest night. Everyone is saying we could, at last, be in with a chance of winning this year! The song: ‘It’s My Time’ has been written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and is being sung by Jade Ewen (voted for by the public in a short series of TV shows). Jade’s up against 24 other countries and some are pretty good by Eurovision standards. We ought to do better than previous years, not because the song is necessarily any better than previously. It’s simply because the UK have been on a massive charm offensive throughout Europe for the last three months promoting Jade and the song.

The semi-finals were held during the week and they featured the good(ish), bad and the truly awful.

Graham Norton is hosting the final from Moscow tonight; Terry Wogan stepped down last year, disgusted at other nations’ block voting tactics. As most of us know, it’s something that’s been going on for years! This year, we have a voting system based on a panel of music experts plus the public vote. Should be interesting to see how it all turns out

9.55 – The voting has started. It’s not allowed to vote for your own country, so I voted for Albania – see below.



10.25 – The Panel votes are coming in…and the good news we’re second – unheard of in recent years for the UK. The bad news is that the current leader is Norway, by a mile a really stoooopid song featuring someone who looks about 12 years old, singing and playing a violin (the word is that everyone’s voting for the singer’s cuteness)

10.45 – 15 minutes to go and we’re 5th with 102 points

11.15 – The results are in and Norway won scoring the highest points ever in the history of Eurovision – 387 – unbelievable!!!

The UK scored a very respectable 173 and came 5th whilst Albania came 17th with 48 points (shows you how much I know about good music!!)