Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Unicode SSIDs

I have tried many access points over the years, and some of them allow you to use unicode characters (outside the normal ASCII set) in SSIDs. i.e. the names of WiFi networks.

It seems many devices understand these and display them correctly, which is nice. However, annoyingly, a lot of access points seem to either disallow use of interesting characters, or at least make it difficult.

Why would you use these? Well, one rarely has to type an SSID, you pick from a list, so why not make them more fun - with emojis and the like?

So what have I found with the latest APs?

Aruba Instant IAP-305(RW)

I noted on the new Aruba APs that they have the useful option of SSID Encoding, either Default or UTF-8. This was encouraging. You have to select the advanced settings to see this though.

So I tried a pile of poo as an SSID... Sadly this does not work...

Some what annoying.

The config file...

The trick, of course, is to save the config, and take a look, and if possible tweak and upload. This works!

Yay, but in various tinkering I spotted that some parts of the config file saved back in a different way?!

Yes, the character in question had been percent/hex encoded. I found that I could type that in the ESSID box on the web based config. This is a lot less hassle than manually editing the config file!

What is strange is that some I cannot, seemingly those starting %F rather than %E, for example.

Seeing boxes

Some devices cannot show them, obviously... This is my camera. Note it sees one "box" so understands that the bytes are a single UTF-8 character which it cannot display (I also tested with two characters showing two boxes).

And finally, the magic changing SSID :-)

Using U+F8FF, which is a "private block" unicode character, on anything apple, you get the apple logo. For me I see that here: 

On other machines you don't. I was hoping for the windows logo at least, or even a Klingon symbol,  but my son's windows laptop just showed a box! Shame.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

iPhone roaming with IPv6

As you know, this has been a challenge!

In summary - using iPhones and roaming between WiFi access points on a network with IPv6 enabled does not work well! It breaks some times - the phone ends up in a state where it thinks it is connected to an AP but there is no traffic working at all (IPv4 or IPv6). Turning WiFi "off" then "on" on the phone fixes.

This has been reported by people using several different routers (which allocate IPv4 and IPv6 addresses) with ubiquiti APs. We did a lot of testing with ubiquiti to try and find the cause, but to no avail. There was suggestion it could be related to the FireBrick, but as the whole process of AP roaming does not involve the "router" device in any way, with no packets to or from it needed or seen, then it cannot be the "router" that is the cause of any problem. The fact it has been seen by others with other routers left it as either ubiquiti or iPhone.

The good news is that it is looking a lot like ubiquiti are off the hook on this one at last. It pretty much has to be an iPhone bug at this point. IPv6 is still not common enough for this have to been noticed a lot, and of course it is only noticed with routers that do IPv6, such as FireBrick.

Dumbing things down...

Having come to an impasse with ubiquiti I gave up, and got some other APs. I went for cheap(ish) xClaim ones. These are made by Ruckus with is a well known name in APs.

They do what they say on the tin, and are quite usable, and simple to set up (if prepared to use their cloud based config). But they do not do "roaming", you just have to trust the device to switch to a new AP when it wants to. This works 100% but means a gap in connectivity, it is far from seamless.

Stepping things up a bit...

Then I decided to then try some higher end ones, the Aruba APs from Hewlett Packard, another good name. I have some IAP-305(RW) APs. The config is web based, very flexible, controller based logic but one of the APs takes on that role so no separate controller needed. You can have a separate controller for larger installations. 255 associations per AP is a lot, and even 15 SSIDs per radio for fun. Lots of bells and whistles (even 3G/4G dongle fall back, PPPoE, VPN, all sorts).

I set them up, and bam, I got my iPhone playing up yet again in exactly the same way.

The good news is I can tinker and fine tune, and turn on and off specific roaming protocols on a per SSID basis. Turning off 802.11r fixed the roaming issue, which confirms it is the 802.11r that is the issue. I left 802.11k and 802.11v on as they seem to cause no issues. The iPhone does support 802.11k and 802.11v so having these enabled helps roaming anyway.

So sounds like we'll have to wait for iPhone to fix 802.11r support. I am raising on the Aruba support forum as well though in case they can help.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Insulin pens and temperature

How hard is it to mess up your insulin?

The instructions with my insulin pens are pretty clear - store in fridge 2°C to 8°C. The in use pen should not be stored in the fridge but kept below 30°C (for a maximum 4 weeks).

Advice for flying is that you take the insulin in hand luggages as it could freeze in the hold. I have been on holiday before. I know the drill, or so I thought.

So what happened in Rhodes?

I am finally back from a week in Rhodes, a nice holiday with my wife this time. The villa was nice, and had lots of effective air-conditioning. The short excursions in to the outside where it was hot were OK. I actually got a bit if exercise even. The villa even had IPv6!

As normal I took two new pens in my hand luggage, put one in the fridge on arrival and one on the side (in an air-conditioned room, so well below 30°C) to have my daily dose.

I am lucky that at present I only need one dose of a slow acting insulin as my body does manage to make some still, with the help of some tablets. Indeed, a change of routine (i.e. my evening meal being late) will usually leave me hypo, and somewhat cranky!

However, in spite of the change of routine, and 2 hour time shift, I was not getting at all hypo. Indeed, I was not eating much at all. At the start of the week I felt mostly OK, but as the days went on I felt increasingly tired and even thirsty. What really gave it away was that I started getting spots, which is a sure sign I have high blood sugar.

Blood tests showed my blood sugar was indeed unusually high, even hours after eating. I was now taking the maximum dose of gliclazide to try and help matters. What was going on? I do not normally have to bother testing - I have a routine that works, but this week was not working.

I tried the other pen, but no better. It is a slow acting insulin, so I could not tell immediately if it was helping or not, could I?

By the time I concluded that it was also not working, we are on the last day, having slept a lot and thrown any hope of reading a book out of the window.

Finally home, gone 3am in the morning, having had one small sausage roll at the airport some 8 before, with a gliclazide, and nothing for about 4 hours before that, my blood sugar was still high. So I got a new pen from the fridge and had today's dose a few hours early before going to bed.

Well, I know now, that if there is a problem, then taking working insulin does indeed have quite a quick impact. This is useful for future reference I think. By 6:30 this morning, blood sugar low and shaking slightly (hypo), so time for some breakfast.

Now to get back into my usual routine again.

What did I do wrong?

The issue is that I don't think I did anything wrong. The plane was not hot, the taxi may have been a bit hot but that was like 25 minutes from airport. The rooms were not hot. I have a feeling the fridge may have been on the cold side, maybe too cold (i.e. below 2°C) so will have to take a thermometer next time maybe, but that does not explain the first insulin pen being broken. Maybe it was that short taxi ride in the hot Rhodes heat? Could that really be it?

Overall it seems something it a bit sensitive and the effect is not instantly obvious (well, not so much in my case, as I say I still make some insulin myself). It can have quite a nasty impact on an otherwise fairly enjoyable holiday.

What next?

There are cool bags you can get, but being a techie I am more interested in a tiny portable medication fridge - no moving parts or liquids so ideal for travelling. Yes, someone sells them! I think I will have to invest. I really do not want this happening again.

So, keep cool, and keep your insulin cool, especially when travelling.

P.S. An "eating bugger all as you have no insulin" diet did not help as I am exactly the same weight as when I left. I think it must be the "sleeping all day" side effect that thwarted it.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Who could have predicted this and told the ASA?

As I previously blogged, there are proposals to make ISPs advertise broadband service speeds differently.

This is a complex topic - the speed of the line itself depends on technology and location, so in a general headline it is hard to explain. A headline explaining the best the technology can do is good for comparing ISPs, but changes to show 90th percentile muddied the waters and they are getting worse with latest changes. One suggestion was to advertising a minimum, for example...

Oddly enough I, and others, predicted it would not help... See this from Sky...

They are advertising a 55Mb/s minimum speed service.

Now, compare to normal FTTC which could be anything from 1Mb/s (maybe even lower, not sure) to 80Mb/s, if advertised as a guaranteed minimum side by side, you would go for Sky with the 55Mb/s minimum, obviously. Obviously a "guaranteed 1Mb/s minimum" is worse than a "guaranteed 55Mb/s minimum"... WRONG!

The speed you can get using a particular technology (presumably FTTC in this case) depends on your location and the line quality. You get what you get using that technology whether you go with Sky or BT or A&A.

The difference is that if you cannot get 55Mb/s then Sky will not sell you "that package", though I am sure they will then offer alternatives such as slower FTTC or ADSL package.

So all we have is misleading advertising making people think there is a better package when there is not.

Indeed, maybe we need an A&A headline: "79Mb MINIMUM SPEED GUARANTEE (available to X%). If you cannot get this we have an alternative 78Mb MINIMUM SPEED GUARANTEE (available to X%). If you cannot get that we have 77Mb MINIMUM SPEED GUARANTEE (available to X%)..." and so on.

The changes being proposed are absolutely not helping customers make informed choices.

Update: Someone has checked the Sky web site and put in various addresses and found that Sky are apparently guaranteeing the 55Mb/s based on the "minimum forecast speed (impacted)" not on the "handback threshold" and so are taking a small risk that some lines may sync between the two and they have to refund a customer without getting a refund from BT, so well done Sky - I stand corrected.

However, my point still stands, Sky will not make your line do 55Mb/s. If it can manage 55Mb/s, then it will for any ISP. If it cannot, then it will not for any ISP.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Data Protection

So there is the new Data Protection Bill to put in place the rules under the General Data Protection Regulation, under EU law.

Well, there is a lot to this, so this is just a placeholder post really - to say there is a lot of shit going down, and with any luck I can post more about this in due course.

This, and the NIS directive, almost feel like exactly the sort of thing those Brexit voters were wanting to kill off!

OFCOM confirm BT lied to us

Recently, BT plc stated, several times :-

"Openreach is not a communications provider."

OFCOM have now confirmed (as if there was any doubt)...

"BT plc (of which Openreach is currently a division, and of which Openreach Limited will become a subsidiary when it is incorporated) is a communications provider subject to various regulatory obligations set by Ofcom."

Oh well, not surprising I suppose. Thanks to OFCOM for confirming.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Quota Bonus

I have had an idea of a tweak to the way we do quotas that should help address some of the concerns people have.

Quotas are always tricky things - having some sort of roll over is more complex, and usually needs some sort of caps. We did this on the old units based system and it resulted in quite complex statements of usage and quota and roll over.

What we have now for Home::1 and SoHo::1 is quite simple - it is a monthly quota. You start each month with that quota. Simples!

Even so, there are complications, such as pre-using some of next month's quota (slowly) if you use all of this month's, and the top-up, which I have now made carry on until used. Even so, the "unused quota" that is "lost" at the end of each month is clearly a concern for some.

Quota Bonus

The proposal is relatively simple. You will start your month with your monthly quota as now, but as a bonus you will also get half of the "unused" quota from the previous month.

So if you started on 300G monthly quota but only used 200G in your first month, you start the next month with a new 300G, plus 50G bonus (half of 100G unused), making 350G.

If you only use 200G that month you will start the following month with your 300G monthly quota plus 75G bonus (half of the 150G unused), making 375G.

And so on. Any top-up remains separate and is not halved.

The nice thing is the system is self limiting in time and amount by the nature of geometric progression. It does not need any caps or time limits. It also makes it simple when you change your monthly quota and no change in caps - the same simple rule applies.

This should reduce some of the perceived "loss" of unused quota, and allow some balancing out of high and low months.

Obviously we need to make it clear on the control pages how your monthly quota was created, i.e. your monthly quota, and any bonus you have (and if you have any top-up carrying on), each month.


I am interested in comments on this specific idea. Is it easy enough to understand? Does it help address some of the concerns?


Our costs depend on a lot of factors, like many services. We haves some fixed cost, some costs directly related to number of lines and types of lines, some costs related to usage of the service and the overall scale of our operation. Whilst a simple usage metric of "Gigabytes downloaded" does not relate directly to our costs, it is not a bad analogy.

So we could charge simply a monthly fee and a usage fee for what you used. Several people suggested we do this. Indeed, we do this for our mobile services, and get many calls for us to offer "call packages". At the other extreme we could do one "package", even an "unlimited*" one. But we have chosen a middle road, so that light users pay less than heavy users, but people can pick a package which means predictable charges.

This means quotas in tiers, and obviously some people will have some "unused" quota. When we start getting to the terabyte usage levels this will normally be quite a lot as these are meant to reflect a near "unlimited" usage level for most users. People feel they are losing something in such cases, and may even try and "use up" their quota at the end of the month. Others feel their usage being very variable they have some months high and some low, and that we should somehow balance usage. For lower tariffs, we allow change of quota every month.

No system will be 100% fair to everyone, and no system can meet everyone's requirements exactly. But we hope this addresses some of the issues.

This is not launched yet, I am just asking for comments at this stage.

P.S. yes, applicable to the terabyte quotas, and I am increasingly inclined to launch this now.