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Long live RISC OS!

It is always annoying when you know you created a file, but you don't know which of the half-million filesystems it might be residing on.

Looked on a few backup discs. It wasn't there. I'm sure it existed!

So, with a heavy heart, it was time to start up Aiko (64Mb 450MHz Pentium 2), which I have not used since I got Azumi over a year ago. Actually, it was in a hibernated state, which meant startup was fairly fast, if I didn't mind a washed out display (what happened to the colours!?) and the fact that the mouse was non-responsive. No power at all as far as I can tell, the little red light on the buttom didn't show at all. Thankfully I remembered the various keypresses, though using modern Windows without a mouse is not as easy as it used to be (you can't tab to the systray, nor can you tab to the Explorer toolbar to switch to search panel, but Windows-F does much the same thing).

No file.


Now for the real challenge. I'll have to fire up Alyson (RiscPC). Now RISC OS doesn't routinely write logfiles as, you know, it just works. But if I had to guess, the last time I dusted off the RiscPC's keyboard would be sometime in 2008. So we're looking at two years of inactivity. This meant finding a power lead, remembering the RiscPC sockets are upside down, tracing the wires to find the mouse...
...and then press the power button. It would be a real pain to have to run through a default config if it losts its settings and didn't know the display was a VGA sync.


First time.

Not a hitch.

RISC OS screenshot.

I looked around using the mouse and display, for having only a 10 megabit ethernet connection, I would probably find it tedious using SMB network shares. Not to mention the RISC OS !Samba server (at least, the one I have) is odd that it takes forever and a day to get itself ready to send a file, then merrily whizzes along once it has done the preparation work. It is none too quick at directory browsing. So I located the file (yes, it really did exist!) and puzzled as to why it was never transfered to the PCs. Then I set up a network share and pulled the file.

Sadly, that was all I needed of my RiscPC, but it was really nice to see it "just work", even after a two year sleep.


Stupid Livebox

For reference: My model is a Livebox Mini 1.2 (it says it is "Livebox 2 Mini" on-screen, firmware sip-fr- It is the smaller of the "open book" style, with a small Orange logo on the front, and ethernet ports conveniently placed underneath as it stands up (!), plus a USB host port that as far as I can see does sweet sod all, despite the user guide's contrary information.

I was without Internet for most of Saturday thanks to that god-awful noise on the electric. When I came home from work Saturday morning, I threw together a program to attempt to fetch a file from my website once a minute, and report on whether or not it was successful. I started this around 5.30am (mom had made notes as of midnight) and left it running all weekend. This week I will make up some code to plot the results in a graphical chart. I think you might be shocked at how much the Internet is knocked out on Saturday. I can only wonder what this powerline pollution is doing to the switchmodes...
I'm going to log again next week and take printouts to the Orange girl. I know full well this is not an Orange problem, but the symptom I see is loss of Internet and telephone. I will get her advice on the matter, but I think ultimately it will require EDF to hook something to the line to try to figure out what the hell is going on. As we had it in bursts around 5-6 for about an hour, we thought it might have been some new milking equipment (imported from China, no doubt, to splatter that much crap back into the electrics), but what the hell spews for most of Saturday (and I mean that literally) without a peep on Sunday? Whatever, I'll show you the charts when I've coded up something.

One of the things I have noticed is windy conditions tend to cause the Livebox to freeze. If the line is killed too often, the Livebox freezes. I had an interesting one this morning when the Livebox was blinking red (no Internet) yet there was functional internet... only the Livebox's admin server wasn't responding. A half-crash?

As an aside, Saturday night the Livebox stiffed. I have a short and amusing bit of video of me repeatedly poking the Reboot button and absolutely nothing happening. You have to unplug the dopey thing!

Just now (actually, it is nearly quarter past two on Monday morning) I was listening to Kawaii-Radio when it dropped out. And kept on dropping out. Not a lot, just enough to cause WinAMP to suspend playback, after flawless hours. I ran the Orange DSLtest and it reported all sorts of silly speeds, like 45kbit down, 190kbit up. I know from experience that it would appear that the test server is somehow able to communicate with my local exchange, so maybe if things needed a bit of a boost (the Livebox reported the attainable speed was about two and a half megabits which could be better, but it was enough room for my 2). But it seemed like each test was making things worse.

I went into the living room and yanked the power. That'll learn you, <expletive!>. I plugged the Livebox back in, waited ages for it to reboot and get its act in order. Then ran DSLtest again. This time the Livebox itself reports:

Caractéristiques techniques :
1.14 Atténuation Up (dB) :21,1 dB
1.15 Atténuation Down (dB) :49,9 dB
1.16 Signal bruit Up (dB) :2,0 dB
1.17 Signal bruit Down (dB) :8,0 dB
1.18 Débit maximum possible ligne Up (kb/s) :952 kb/s
1.19 Débit maximum possible ligne Down (kb/s) :3352 kb/s
1.20 Puissance émise (dBm) :12,6 dBm
1.21 Puissance reçue (dBm) :15,4 dBm
I'll leave it to techies to pore over the technical characteristics. Not good, but within the capabilities of 2 megabit using current technology. Our phone line, incidently, is reported as 4770 metres.

For the actual test...

DSLtest results, 1979 kbit down and 245 kbit up, which isn't bad.
This is much better, pretty near to what I should be getting.

Oh, and I should point out that it is now gone 3am after writing this, prepping the images, reformatting the table data and so on. I've been listening to Kawaii-Radio the whole time, not a hiccup.

Really... I have enough to deal with with the electrical interference, I really don't fancy contending with bugs and quirks of the Livebox. <sigh>
I guess my advice is this - if your line seems unusually slow and the analogue phone line sounds clear (you'll get a set of beeping tones even if you are dégroupée), you might want to consider unplugging the Livebox, counting to ten, and plugging it back in.


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Austin, 27th September 2010, 16:13
I'm quite interested in the fact that you get 2Mb/s downstream (albeit seemingly quite unreliably!) 
We've always had the 1Mb/s service, with FT/orange refusing to increase it in any meaningful way. perhaps now that they're forced to offer 2Mb/s as a minimum we'll suddenly have developed faster internet next time we're over! 
Our router statistics look really quite promising: 
Noise margin (dB) : 32.4 
Attenuation (dB) : 22.0 
Attainable download rate (kbps) : 9523 
This despite the fact that I'm actually connected at: 
Downstream Upstream 
Rate (kbps) 1212 326  
Part of the problem in our case is that the local exchange hasn't been upgraded to ADSL2+ or even ADSL Max: io.html 
The line is much shorter than yours though (courtesy of 
Caractéristiques générales de la ligne : 
Code Commutateur Local : 79211PIO [ Fiche détaillée ] 
Nom Commutateur Local : PIOUSSAY 
Longueur de ligne : 1810 mètres : 
6/10 sur 1810 mètres 
Affaiblissement théorique : 18.643 dB 
[Estimation] Débit descendant ADSL : 8116 kbps (1015 ko/s) 
[Estimation] Débit descendant ADSL 2+ : 17557 kbps (2195 ko/s) 
Caractéristiques du central France Télécom : 
Plaque ADSL : PO1 
Type de DSLAM : ECI 
Zone Dense (> 20 000 lignes) : Non 
Nombre d'abonnés approximatif : 500 
NRA compatible ADSL FT : Non 
NRA compatible ADSL Max FT : Non 
NRA compatible ADSL2+ FT : Non 
NRA compatible ReADSL FT : Non  
So I'm quietly hopeful! We have the older, larger LiveBox but I've never tried to use the USB port on it. 
Rick, 27th September 2010, 17:37
Take a look at what your contract is. I had to change from a 1mbit contract to the new Net Plus 8 megamax (or something like that). Change was free. Might have reset my 12 months period, but other than that it seemed to be just a load of paperwork. 
When you get notification of the change of your contract (mine happened that evening), you'll need to reset your Livebox as it won't sync up to any faster speed on its own. Even plain ordinary ADSL ought to do better than 1 mega. 
Pop your phone number into and it will tell you what you ought to be able to achieve.
Austin, 27th September 2010, 19:15
According to Univers Orange: 
* Nombre de lignes : 500 
* Distance vous séparant du central : 01810m 
* Atténuation : 18.64 dB 
* Estimation débit ADSL : 2 Mbps 
* Estimation débit ADSL 2+ : 2 Mbps 
Seems a little stingy!
Rick, 28th September 2010, 04:28
Ah, there's a difference... 
Plaque ADSL : BR1 
Type de DSLAM : ECI 
Zone Dense (> 20 000 lignes) : Non 
Nombre d'abonnés approximatif : 500 
NRA compatible ADSL FT : Oui 
NRA compatible ADSL Max FT : Oui 
NRA compatible ADSL2+ FT : Oui 
NRA compatible ReADSL FT : Non 
Your final four are all Non, I have three Oui. Though, from Degrouptest I note that my ~49.131dB (quoted) 49.9dB (from Livebox stats) is pretty damn close to the 50dB cut-off (interesting, given the site says my exchange can feed ADSL up to 5385 metres, half a kilometre longer than my line!). 
Still, I think you might need to wait to have your exchange modernised. Ours was done in late 2009, which is why I started at one megabit (t'was all the older exchange was capable of on our line).

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