Journey to Gig/Gig broadband with Hyperoptic

I live in the centre of a major Scottish city, which has according to wikipedia has an urban population of 1.75 million people.  That’s no small number of people.  I just assumed when I bought my place, that being in a large new development that when infinity began rolling out that it’d be available pretty much after launch.  Well thanks to the mystery of BT Planning, I’ve sat for the last 5 years and watched as promised date after promised date has slipped.

Late in 2014 it became abundantly clear that BT had no interest in enabling us, all the vague excuses piled up and I realised it was going to have to be a DIY approach for our building.  First the facts- our building is just over 7 years old, is a steel frame building with inbuilt ducting and services and false ceilings.  All these things make it super easy to install services.  Secondly, the location and pricing of the building means that there’s a lot of young professionals, and home workers (i.e. a captive market).  To me it made no logical sense that the building hadn’t been enabled (I’ve actually come to get information that makes me believe it’s not a technical reason but a planning/political reason holding us back).

So i began my search, which in all honesty I was expecting to be fruitless.  I mean- if BT the largest telecoms group in the country can’t get us cable who can!  My first port of call was Virgin, where I reached out and got positive noises from they cable my street team.  I registered my interest, had a few neighbours do the same, and had good conversations with one of their outreach managers on twitter.  After 6 months though we had no committal, no in person engagement and weren’t going anywhere.

Frustrated I looked at the market again and came across Hyperoptic – a company which on paper our building was purpose made.  I have to confess that due to travel I didn’t make the first approach, but a neighbour picked up the baton and made the initial contact.  I got re-involved in summer of 2015, after which time I assumed the role of Hyperoptic Champion for the building, and pushed the project.  I started by joining our residents association, primarily for a single task (i.e. getting the fibre fitted) and began to work with the excellent John McCabe at Hyperoptic.  Our residents association really lacked social media skills, a domain name and a Facebook forum later I had the ability to outreach to folk and begin campaigning.

I started by speaking to neighbours I new in person, however it’s a big development so I probably only knew 20percent of the folks in the development. Hyperoptic require residents to register interest on their page, and have a very transparent tracker.  To assist I was sent marketing flyers and materials, which allowed me to do a mail drop.  I took the basic materials, and made them a bit more personal by branding and explaining a few things on an accompanying letter.  I mail dropped them in early September, and by the end of that same month we were showing the adequate number of registrations to move forward.

Hyperoptic were true to their word and surveyed the building, reporting back that they’d be able to fit the service with no issues.  The only fly in the ointment was the lack of service hatches in the ceilings outside the units. Hyperoptic offered a solution of installing these hatches and picking up the cost. (The truth being that we should have had these in anyway).  As is typical we had the doubters who though that these small hatches would “spoil the look” but to be frank I never accepted that given that we have smoke detectors, lights and so forth already there.  Anyway, a vote sent out by the factor saw no significant objection and we were green light to get the way leave signed to get Hyperoptic in and fitting.

The internal cabling is high quality Cat6e, I’m not 100percent sure of the switch infrastructure but effectively the fitted network should be able to support 10gigs and beyond (technology permitting).  Cabinets were installed in the basement levels where the switches are housed, and cat6E cabling was run first below in the carparks, and then up through the 3 blocks of the building (10 storeys).  The install is first class, to the point where in a straw poll of folks visiting my house I said- do you notice anything? – to which the answer was – what?

Fibre install has been a bit of a bear, with the contracts (BT) wasting dates, and making delays, however we have the fibre into the basement, and jointing is to go ahead.   I’m already confident this service will have massive benefits to our residents.  To go from a 14meg internet connection which is beginning to struggle to support multiple over the top media services, to a symmetric 1gig service is going to be a huge change, and I’m going to blog about how it affects the day to day of what and how we utilise media.   Stay tuned for more articles.

VMUG Advantage – a fantastic new resource for VMware study

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I’ve been in a bit of a refresh cycle since I had my recent promotion in my company.  Over the years I’ve attained a ton of professional certifications, and it was about time to make the difficult decisions, on what to maintain, what to improve, what to add and what to cut.  Having some time to myself to allocate to technical development, I’ve been keen to bring my VMware skills up to the new VCP6.0 level ( I have aspirations of takin this even higher) and top bring in desktop virtualisation, virtualised networking and orchestration.   Part of my challenge is that I’ve already done the classroom training, and have a ton of hands on for VCP510, but need to sit the technical exam.  So the questions in order are: 1. how to attain VCP550 2. How to upgrade 550->610 and then what I can build on in terms of NSX.  Secondary concerns are upping these core fields to higher levels.

I have a ESXi box in the house, an investment sometime ago means I have a Dell T620, with a health 12 x 2.5Ghz Cores, 5TB of storage & 64GB of RAM.  Nesting labs is relatively easy, but as I want to build a lab that will last , I don’t want to be affected by the constant 60 day nag message that come with using the evaluation version.  I’ve been googling and came across the VMUG Advantage, which on paper seems to solve these issues by:

  • Offering 365day evaluation licensing for all VMware tools including Sphere, Horizon, Orchestration and VSphere
  • Offering discounts on specialised training.
  • Forum access to a global pool of VMware professionals
  • VMware blessing.

All of the above for $200US, and to be clear that includes full legal licensing for the full VMware portfolio.  If you think it seems a bit too good to be true, you’re not alone, but I can assure you having signed up that this site is completely legit.  I wish more vendors took this approach to training for software.  The signup process is painless, though be warned that the time between signing up for the program, and receiving the logins and links is about 48 hours, as it’s a manually verified process.  Rest assured the support teams that administer the service are fast and really friendly- and yes to repeat, you get FULL LEGAL LICENSES!  in hindsight I wish I’d not signed up on a Saturday as I waited the whole weekend to be activated, but that’s a minor grizzle at something I did on my side.

I’ve now got a VCP6.0 box (Sphere 6.0 and ESXi6.0) and a nest lab running an evaluation version of Sphere 5.5 for my first training course.  Nicely, it means that I can practice the upgrade from 5.5->6.0 when the time comes, and at the same time evolve my box to my needs.  I plan to also go through the VCP-NSX 610 course – I qualify for this due to my CCNP and having attainted my VCP, again though, that’s a secondary.  I will be posting more specifics on my lab setup and experiences but thought the sheer brilliance of this offer just had to be shared- take it up- you will not be disappointed!.  I’ve also loaded the box up with a copy of Cisco’s VIRL tool with a 30 node license- an Openstack underpinned service giving you full access to to Cisco images, allowing you to out do GNS3.

I once heard it said that the best money that Cisco ever spent on development was creating their training curriculum, and ensuring that IOS images leaked on the web.   It’s all very well being able to buy a few cheap catalysts and a couple of routers and sit your CCNA or even your CCNP, but what happens when you need to self study DC gear, or advanced firewalls with 6 figure price tags?  Often  this lack of hands on results in paper passed students, who have GNS3’d the sh_t out of it but lack real world skills.  The only other option is piracy (which I don’t condone) but why I can understand.

By allowing students legal, affordable and full access to your technologies, you are putting in place the foundations for a successful support structure, both in companies, and in the wider market as a whole.  VMware (for supporting the VMUG advantage) and Cisco (with VIRL) should both be celebrated for taking these important steps into enabling driven students and individuals to attain knowledge of their products.

So over to you Citrix, Juniper , ALE and others

New tracts and the first bite of the Elephant

I’ve been working in the networking and WANX space now for about 8 years, and after a while, new technology gets to the point where you think- I’ve seen this before.  I’ve never been very good at doing the same thing again and again, life is way too short and I get bored way too easily.  With that in mind, I’m making more of a push into something I started on a few years back- virtualization, both of compute and networking.  I did my VCP training course at Caledonian University in Glasgow a few years back, and I loved it, but didn’t give it the time I needed.  With my new role in my company, I’m back on the books and determined to get into something new.

My plan is to sit my VCP550 in late March this year, and then spend April and May learning the transition from VSphere 5.x-> 6.0 and take my VCP610 exam.  After that I plan to complete my CCNP R&S (I’ve already done my SWITCH exam, so it’s a case of sitting ROUTE and TSHOOT) to get that box complete, it’s not like I don’t have the knowledge just about getting to doing the exam.  As well as all this, I have Riverbed to recertify, am dropping my Ipanema and Aruba, and somewhere along the line I need to pick up my ITIL Expert (already became ITIL foundation certified in February).

The long term aim is definitely to move into the DC and SDN space – I have an idea to undertake the VMware NSX certification line, and eventually look to be :

CCNP R&S , DC & CCDP

Riverbed RCSP WANX & RCSP HCB

VCP6.0 DC

VCP 6.0 NSX

ITIL Expert

It’s going to be a busy year – something I look forward to!  But you don’t eat an elephant in one bite, so first things first – VCP550 24th March  🙂

Starting to use Blogo

Looks as if since I last blogged (over a year ago) that the tools supporting WordPress on the (Mac) desktop have gotten a hell of a lot better. The latest one that I’m trying out is from Blogo , it’s a lot cleaner, much more OSX like and faster. There’s the promise that I can import and add pictures just this easily..

Picture of Whyte Bikes G-160 RS mountain bike

Whyte Bikes G-160RS

And further more I can tag and link

Getting more serious about a social footprint

I’ve decided to really get serious about a social profile again.  With continued interest (read stupidity) about maybe doing more than just having fun with a camera, I’ve taken the decision to invest in my extra curricular activities.  To that end I’ve picked up a copy of Mars Edit let’s see if it’s £27 well spent 🙂

Screen Shot 2014 12 30 at 19 34 14

Winter Walks- Canada December 2013

We took advantage of the gorgeous sunny days to enjoy the snow with Shirley’s dog Crystal.  We get ice and snow in Scotland, but nothing like this.  On the day of our arrival, we managed to skirt a band of freezing rain, which by the second day of our holiday (Saturday 21st) had turned into one of the worst freezing rain storms of the last 100 years that Toronto had ever seen.


Whilst there was a lot of destructions, with many trees breaking under their own frozen weight, it did make for some pretty spectacular shots.  I took the picture using just an iPhone 5S camera, in HDR mode and little if no editing in Apeture, I’m quite proud of it if I do say so myself.

HDR Stop Sign

A Canadian stop sign captured in HDR using Apple iPhone 5S camera, and slight retouching in Apple Apeture 3.0

After a year out – sheddan.co.uk is back

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WordPress- best blogging platform around

I was shocked to discover that it’s been over a year since I posted anything to the blog. I got lazy if I’m honest, and Facebook and twitter were simpler.

Lately thought, I’ve been getting back into my technology and photography. I’ve been getting the change to travel a lot more with work and personal projects and so I’ve been missing the integration and @”glue-like” social features that WordPress gives me.

So I’ve given my WordPress engine the proverbial tune up, cleared 14K junk comments out of the engine, upgraded to 3.8, activated JetPack and given my knuckles a crack. Going social again in 2014 🙂

 

Chrome – The Macbook Pro Battery Killer?

Macbook Pro RetinaI’ve had my Retina Macbook Pro for just over 3 months now, and during this time, it’s both impressed me and pleased me with it’s performance, good looks and battery life.  The other day I was reading up on the Apple support webpages for an unrelated problem, when I stumbled over a thread relating to poor battery life on the Retina Macs.  Interested I wondered what issues other people were having, and discovered that it seemed to be a widespread problem.  Many users reported that they were seeing only 3 or 4 hours battery life after full charge, when the quoted figure is 7 or 8 hours easily.  It hit me like a train: I’ve never seen battery life anywhere near as high.  Coming from an old Macbook Pro (circa 2008) I was impressed because comparatively my new Retina was miles ahead, but those 3 and 4 hour estimates set alarm bells ringing – did I have a shitty battery mac?

Luckily the support site had a couple of tips: zapping the PRAM was one of them, and secondly to kill off a corrupt desktop process.  I quickly bookmarked the pages for later reading, and set an alarm to follow up.  Back at home I ensured my Retina was fully charged – with the battery showing 100percent, I unplugged to go onto battery power and watched the power meter.  After a few minutes saying “calculating remaining time”, I got my figure – 3.5 hours!!!  To say I was dismayed was an understatement.  You don’t expect your £2 Grand pride and joy to have lost battery condition so quickly.  I followed up the bookmarks, and proceeded to zap my pram and wipe out the faulty process: improvement, we were now seeing 4.5 hours, but then witnessed this quickly fall rapidly down in 10 minute increments.

By now, this was really worrying me.  Having bought the Retina in Canada worries regarding warranty started to surface.  Where was all this battery going?  A glass of wine, and some thinking time followed.  I checked the activity monitor, but no processes were consuming huge chunks of CPU time…  Back to the basics, Layer 1: Physical, with virtually no applications running, the bottom of the machine was hot.  Checked a quick schematic of the machine, and the place that was the hottest was definitely where the CPU resided.  So how can CPU be running hard but no process consuming any CPU time?  Closed every application (even though only had Bit torrent, iTunes, Mail and Chrome open).  I could feel the machine physically cool, and the battery life start creeping up, 4 hours, 4hrs 20, 5 hours, 5 hrs 30.  So an application was causing crippling battery life.  In the past I’ve known iTunes to be a resource hog, so opened it on it’s own and started playing music: battery life stuck at 6hrs 25 minutes (on 75 percent battery) with no noticeable drop.  Opened Mail, again no noticeable drop, uTorrent is lightweight so no surprises, opened it and again no noticeable drop (even when hitting 1.5MB a sec).  Opened Chrome: BANG! battery started to drop like a stone!.

Google Chrome Icon

The evilest browser in the world

So what’s going on here? Chrome is draining the battery – I proved this by only having Chrome open.  Chrome closed: battery 6hrs 25, Chrome open for 5 minutes – battery showing 3 hrs 20 and machine running hot.

Conclusion

I can only assume that the current build of Chrome supporting Retina display is a bit of a resource hog.  I’d speculate that the fact that each tab runs a process taking 2.5- 3 % CPU quickly adds up and makes the machine run hot.  Certainly I’ve got 4 cores of Ivy Bridge at 2.6Ghz.  I’ve switched over to Safari, and done several tests – I can drain 20 percent battery using Chrome for half an hour, whereas using exactly the same sites in Safari barely dents battery life.  I’m not sure this is a problem that anyone else has had, but certainly for me I’ve checked this both on a 2012 Retina Macbook Pro (2.6Ghz) and a 2012 Macbook Air with similar results.  If anyone has any ideas as to what is causing this, or if they have had simliar problems I’d be interested to hear from you.

iPad Nano : more than a shrunken iPad

We’ll since my non-Mac loving partner has pretty much swiped my iPad 2, I’ve taken the plunge and bought an iPad Mini.  I preordered in the UK last week (25th October) and received the device at 10am on Launch day.

The first thing you notice about the device is that it’s obviously an iPad, but I was really surprised at how different it feels in the hand compared to the iPad 2 on which it is based.  The change in form factor, with the smaller side frames really changes how you hold the device and interact with it.  The extra sensing for the thumb on the glass takes a bit of getting used to coming from the full size iPad, but is a welcome addition that works really well to prevent unintentional inputs.

I went for the black and slate iPad: I’ve never really been a fan of the Apple white products…. they always seem to age badly in my humble opinion.  I was able to quickly setup the device from my iCloud account, and restore it as a perfect copy of my now lost iPad 2.

I’ve only had the briefest of chances to play with it, but it looks like they may have yet another run away hit on their hands.  I’ll update as I go.