Saturday, December 02, 2017

It should be easier to report internet outages

Since switching to the NBN via Telstra I've had a good experience in terms of speed. So far I've noticed two outages. (Presumably there may have been other outages that I didn't notice).

Yesterday our connection went down. I checked the cable modem and the lights were flashing. I rebooted the modem and it continued to flash. I visited Telstra's new outage site and at the time it said there was no known outage in my area even though my connection had been down for at least an hour.

My neighbours on both sides had also lost their internet connection.

The annoying thing is that the outage site has no link to let us report an outage. The only way to do this is to go to the troubleshooting page and then start a "24x7 chat" session.

I can understand that it must be frustrating for Telstra to deal with customers who's problem is in their own home network but many of us are equipped to diagnose problems but we must go through this time consuming process.

Info: Thank you for choosing Telstra 24x7 Live Chat. A representative will be with you shortly. At the conclusion of your chat please take a few moments to give us some feedback on your experience today.
Info: You are now chatting with Shah.
Peter: telstra cable NBN internet down at XXX, Killarney Heights. Neighbours on both sides also down.
Hi, you are chatting with Shah. How may I help you?

Peter: Have restarted modem. Light still flashing.
Peter: says no known outage.
Peter: what's the best way to report an outage?
Sorry for the inconvenience caused to you. Don’t worry I will be more than glad to assist you with the fault today. 

For NBN? 

Peter: yes
I will now need to transfer our chat to our specialist team who can help resolve your issue

Peter: telstra cable NBN internet down at XXX, Killarney Heights. Neighbours on both sides also down.
Info: Please wait while your chat is transferred to the appropriate group.
Info: All agents are currently assisting others. Thank you for your patience.
Info: All agents are currently assisting others. Thank you for your patience.
Info: You are now chatting with Aijaz.
Peter: telstra cable NBN internet down at XXX, Killarney Heights. Neighbours on both sides also down.
Peter: what is the best way to report this?
Hi, you are chatting with Aijaz, I am checking with the previous conversations.

Peter: telstra cable NBN internet down at XXX Killarney Heights. Neighbours on both sides also down.
Yes, Peter I am checking with that and forward the issue to the specialist team on high priority.

My apologies for the inconvenience caused.

Before we proceed, I will have to authenticate your account for security purposes. Could you please help with your full name, date of birth and home phone number with the area code?

Peter: I thought you were the specialist
Peter: why do you need all that?
I am from the technical team. I will forward to the specialist team. Because to raise a complaint and forward it. 

Peter: don't worry, I'll report it on twitter. Thanks for your time. Have a nice day.
Thank you for choosing Telstra. Have a good day.

Peter: ha!

I guess these operators are handling multiple simultaneous conversations at the same time. Given that I've come via the customer web site (using mobile data) it seems bizarre that I need to prove my identity "for security purposes". Next I went to twitter, which seems to be the best way to interact with many organisations.

On Twitter I asked why the outages site doesn't have a button for reporting outages. They replied:

I also asked why they don't monitor the network so they know when there are outages without customers having to fight their way through to report them. Cas said they do monitor some things.

By now, outages now showed an outage at my address but I find this process very user hostile and if Telstra ever gives statistics on the low numbers of outage reports I would treat these numbers with scepticism.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan - ham radio heaven

Japan has the world's highest number of ham radio licensees per capita, 0.343% of the population. This means that there are a good number of radio and electronics shops catering to home builders and the place to go is Akihabara in Tokyo.

I walked but there is a station at the heart of the place. (Click photos to enlarge them by the way)/.

There are literal department stores full of independent electronics shops. Some are multi-story.

Inside you'll find all the components you could desire plus boxes and boards.

There's a well stocked valve store.

There's some interesting home kit gear on show too. Here's a crystal set with a spider coil.

A 40m SSB transceiver I haven't heard of before.

Lots and lots of shops selling commercial gear with VHF/UHF handhelds in huge quantities.

All the big black boxes are on show and I notice, looking at the FT-817 price index, that prices vary significantly. 

A big store, Rocket Radio, also has a good collection of antenna parts. Interestingly they have a surprising number of loop antennas available.

Great to see that they are well stocked with morse keys.

Not a lot of English is spoken and unfortunately the shop keepers seem rather embarrassed about this. I did a bit of pointing and tried to be friendly.

Anyhow, I'm very lucky to be here this week. If you do get to Tokyo don't forget to check it out.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Archive of early technical magazines

American Radio History is a fantastic archive of early electronics, technology, sound recording and broadcast magazines. Mostly UK and US. It includes some classics including Byte, Popular Electronics, Modern Electronics, Wireless World, and some educational titles.

I saw this on Roger G3XBM's excellent blog that is (mostly) about ham radio but I find the occasional diversions most entertaining. Roger wants an IC-7300 for Xmas I see.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tuning 40m at a low noise location near Dorrigo

What a pleasure it is to tune the 40m band at a location where the only noise is the occasional "tick tick" of electric fences. Here's a bit of a tune around this week.

We need some remote receivers at places like this. Unfortunately there is no mobile reception at this property.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Low RF noise location - near Dorrigo

This week I'm spending a few days at a very low noise location in northern New South Wales near Dorrigo.

Yesterday I tuned around 40m and experienced S0 noise. There were some stations in Victoria and Tasmania coming through well. Tonight I will try to join the Home Brew Group's net. Here is my squid pole hanging off a stake. (I'm told there are much better stakes, normally used for electric fence supports, available for about $4 - will investigate).

The local paper, the Don Dorrigo Gazette, here is printed with the old letterpress system and looks amazing.

Internet here is pretty slow so I won't be posting much.

These posts, seen below with the orange loop at the top, are widely used to hold up electric fences. They have a convenient foot hook for pushing them in to the ground.

It's lovely here, audio and electrically quiet. The only sound on radio is the clicking of electric fences - how ironic.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Blog hits a million page views

A milestone today, the page views on this little blog has just hit one million. This blog is really a personal notebook where I write little posts that I can find again later to remind me how to do various things.

The first post was on October 12, 2006 back in the days when email spam was still a problem. Before this blog I had another, rather too serious blog. I found that I'd set the bar too high. Posts were essays and I couldn't keep it up. I was foolishly thinking too much about the audience. Giving that up and just posting notes to myself has done the trick.

The blog is never a chore and many times I've searched for how to do something and found my own blog post from the past. I fear that social platforms like Facebook are becoming the owners of our writing and much like GeoCities will some day disappear with all of that content. Arguably a blog on Google's Blogger suffers the same drawback but I hope that Google is more likely to keep it up.

Thanks everyone for visiting, for comments and for getting in touch.



Friday, November 10, 2017

Comparing antennas with WSPR

The new end fed antenna has obviously higher signals but also higher noise. The question is.. which antenna is better?

I now have three antennas that work on 40m (7MHz). The real test of an antenna, at least on receive, is the signal to noise ratio, and WSPR is a great way to measure this. I've set up three receivers, with three computers, all running wspr with the following call signs.
  • VK2TPM/1 is a half G5RV into an FT817
  • VK2TPM/2 is the new end fed into an IC7300
  • VK2TPM/3 is my old dipole fed with open wire feeder into a KX3
At the time of this first post, I'm surprised to report that my half G5RV is significantly better than the dipole or end fed for most reception.

Reception of VK2RG who is 48km away.

Reception of VK3AFE, who is 718km south of me.

Reception of ON7KO who is 16,732km away.

Comparing antennas is not simple. Each antenna is directional so performs better for stations in certain directions. Local stations are received quite differently to remote stations where signals come in from above. Some antennas pick up more local noise than others.

WSPR is a great tool for antenna comparison. Is there a better way to plot the data?

Update: I'm wrong

I think my analysis above is incorrect. Looking at all data over a 24 hour period it's clear that the big dipole receives more spots overall, which is a good measure of overall receive performance.

For what it's worth, here's the average received signal to noise ratio, spot counts and total distance of all spots received. (I don't actually think adding all S/N db figures makes any sense).

So in the end the dipole I think performs better even though signals (and noise) are higher on the end fed. John, VK2ASU, correctly points out that I haven't attempted to tune the end fed for 40m properly and that may well improve it.