Startup mode

You’ve lost that start-up feeling.. and it’s gone, gone, gone.

Another year, another startup eh?

I’m trying to get back into blogging and that’s all come together nicely with me being a victim participant in another start-up.

This is now my third (2nd proper but that’s another blog post) and it’s always mega scary on your first day. That was today. Yes it was scary.

Sitting alone in what you’d call your office (bedroom / dining room / garage /sofa) and trying to make sense of what to do first and what to do last when you already know the answer is “Do all of it” is a terrifyingly exhilarating scary wondrous nightmare.

It’s like a bungee jump. You’re standing on the edge and your toes have just left the plank.


WEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee (oh shit will it support my weight, I haven’t thought this through, I’m pretty sure lots of people have done this before and none have died right? Right? RIGHT?)




Dolby Digital

Dell Inspiron, HDMI, 5.1 / DTS / Dolby Digital – Getting it to work

Wow this stumped me for ages… I knew I’d had it working before so why wasn’t it working now?

Long story short I’ve got it working as follows:

  • AC3Filter installed
    • Main tab – Check the “Use SPDIF” box
    • SPDIF tab
      • Check the “Use SPDIF” box
      • SPDIF Passthrough section check all the boxes
      • I unchecked the “Output SPDIF as PCM” box but I’m not sure that’s strictly necessary
  • Use Windows Media Player Classic
  • Here comes the gold dust….
  • Reboot.. enjoy a film.
That third step took me some serious googling… thank me later 😉
Pointless blog

I’m going to write a pointless blog post.

*Something* is always in the way of me writing a blog post.

I’ve got lots of things I want to talk about and share but something always gets in my way. Me.

There’s a list of items I want to write about which include

  • The Spurs/ Modric situation
  • The Spurs media coverage
  • .NET MVC 3
  • Dapper
  • Fluent Migrations
  • The day to day relentlessness of working and when do you decide to take a risk / believe in yourself
  • The Ruby / .NET language debate
  • The MS ecosystem and how I’m loving it
  • My kids and how they inspire me every day
  • My love of D&B and why you should be listening to the London Elek podcasts
It just feels easier to write a list of stuff I want to talk about that actually write the list….
Ultimately I want to write them to engage not to get it off my chest…..
<3 M
Pointless blog

Pointless blog


BT Infinity for Bury St Edmunds.. it’s here and “I like it. I like it a lot.”

The future

The future. But in the 80s. with fire.

For those left reading (or caring) about mine and Bury’s Infinity and ISP exploits it’s here and I feel like I’m in the future!

The engineer arrived right on time and cracked on straight away, locating my phone line in the cabinet within 15 mins and coming back armed with a few tools an exciting VDSL box.

The face plate on my master socket was changed, which added a new data connection port (like a small CAT5 socket, I’ll get a picture and find out what connection it is)

I was then asked do I want the install (meaning  the VDSL modem and the Home Hub I’d already received) by my master socket or somewhere else as running a data extension kit to another location was part of the install with no extra cost.. result! I didn’t know that beforehand and was thinking about asking can I have an extension fitted and coughing up the extra money.

Once the cable was run to where I wanted it, it really was a case of the guy plugging the stuff in and switching it on. Rather unspectacular, no fanfare just a “Right.. you’re done. I’m measuring the full 40 at your master socket so it should be pretty quick”….. I couldn’t help but smile just like when my son remembers that trees are big and green and blow around in the wind “WOOHOO DAD IT’S ONLY A FREAKIN’ TREE! CHECK THAT OUT IT’S AMAZING WOOO!!!!!”

The engineer left me with my grin to set up the wireless on the Home hub as I was more than happy (read: I wanted to play) to do that as I had to go round all the devices in my home anyway.

Once that was set up and my wireless keys where changed I went to the first thing I could think of that I wanted to download and clicked it.

The file in question was a 140mb screen cast from Tekpub (about Rails 3 if anyone cares.. maybe a post on that later).
Previously this would have taken about 30 minutes and that’s a long time in the occasional 30 minute window of free time I get when both boys are asleep 🙂

Click ……………….. Done. (if you read those dots out loud as “dot dot dot dot” I reckon that’s about how long it took!)

3.5Mbyte/sec. What  a difference to 0.9ksec!

My wife wasn’t anywhere near as interested / excited as I was about the whole thing … as long as she could get iPlayer on the TV now and the occasional Peppa Pig episode to distract the oldest she was happy.

So that’s it really… I’m yet to experience anything less than 2Mbyte/sec for downloads and that’s during peak times. I’ll be impressed if the speed stays high during peak times as more and more people come on line with the service but overall I’m pleased with the experience of ordering, install and speeds.

Will blog back with interesting things (Traffic shaping being an interesting BT thing which you should be aware of when choosing ISPs)… any q’s just ask!

BT Infinity box packaging

BT Infinity router arrived – Ports and all

Got home to find a tracked parcel had been delivered that was a shrinkwrapped BT Infinity Home Hub for my install on Friday 15th.. woo!

Took some pics as I’d previously looked around for what connections / ports the home hub has and drew a blank (admittedly it was a lazy search!)

Looks pretty standard.. I’ve read there’s not a lot special about them and you can, depending on if you’re router has a LAN / broadband port already, use your existing router.

I’m thinking about using the BT Home Hub 2.0 for a while and trying to setup WDS with the Draytek so that I can stash my Drobo FS and other attached network devices under the stairs or in a corner somewhere. If I get that working I’ll draw up another blog with some steps…

Here’s those pics….

BT Infinity ports

BT Infinity ports

BT Infinity box contents

BT Infinity box contents

BT Infinity box packaging

BT Infinity box

Another son – Double Trouble

Isaac and Harry

On 20th Sept (6 days before my birthday and 8 before my wife’s) my beautiful second son was born at 3:27am weighing 8lbs 6oz.

Very proud of my wife and, thankfully, it all went very well and everyone’s safe and healthy.

We took a week to name him Harry James Fitchett and he’s putting on weight and sleeping quite well.

It doesn’t stop me being exhausted and skipping the gym! 🙂

I’ll leave you with this –

Bury st Edmunds fttc llu

Bury St Edmunds – FTTC, Fibre, LLU … find an ISP..

I live in Bury St Edmunds, a lovely market town but not normally blessed with spanking new technology like FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet), as I wrote about in this blog post, it’s coming here. Very soon..

I thought it’d be interesting for other Bury St Edmunds people to know why the previous blog post was written and how to choose an ISP along with my personal experience.

I’ve heard friends talking about poor broadband speeds in areas where their neighbours seem to get far better speeds. I was suffering the same so decided to try to find out what the root reason might be.

I’d chosen Sky broadband as part of the deal Sky where doing where you get your broadband thrown in with calls and the TV deals.. when I phoned Sky initially they told me I was in a “Sky area” (somewhere they offer LLU) and I’d get the broadband deal. Turns out that I wasn’t in the area so I was dumped onto a product called Sky Connect and had to pay for the privilege.

The awfulness of that product needs to be described in a seperate blog post, but needless to say DON’T DO IT!

Why was Sky Connect so bad? Was it just my bad luck and line speeds? My line stats where pretty awful (line stats are the information about the amount of noise on your line that could affect your broadband service, you can commonly get them from your router / modem) so for a while I assumed it was that but then I did some digging.

It turns out that Sky Connect is actually a re-branded standard BT ADSL line. And here comes the important bit… so are all other ISP’s packages that don’t have LLU at the local exchange.

Yup that’s the bit that’s so obvious but made me realise… everyone who thinks they’re on such and such ISP is in fact on a BT line… come around 5pm when the traffic management kicks in everyone in you’re local area is sharing the same bandwidth and your speeds go horribly horribly wrong.

With this info I needed to search down an ISP that was LLU.. so I went here..

Sam Knows Broadband Checker (you can search for info. on any exchange and see what’s going on)

It was at this point I discovered one of two good things

  • Sky had taken advantage of LLU and installed equipment at my exchange
  • I spotted the FTTC stuff that I wrote about in the previous blog post


I phoned Sky and they moved me over to the product I had originally asked for, reduced my monthly bill and my broadband speeds have gone from around 0.3 Mbps to around 1.9.

Nothing earth shattering but a significant difference for the average browsing / music / youtube / Spotify session.

I now bide my time for an FTTC install date. 🙂

Mac mini

Mac Mini – new model

A couple of months ago I had a nice surprise.

As previously mentioned I’m technically reviewing the multimobile development book and as a large section of the first book involves iPhone development I’d need access to a Mac to review and comment. Whilst using a mac elsewhere I didn’t have one at home and thought it was time I dived in.

I placed my order for a mac mini and upgraded to 4gb RAM as I knew VMware for my windows fix would be called for.

During my wait for the custom build to be completed the nice surprise turned up in the form of an email from Apple saying that as I was waiting for my old style mac mini that they where going to upgrade me to a new model free of charge! Bonus!

3.6cm high and 19.7 cm square this thing is small. The shell of the mac is complete aluminium meaning it feels robust, is light and looks lovely.

Gigabit ethernet, firewire 800, 4 USB ports, SD card reader and an HDMI port are a few of the connectors that adorn the back plate. It’s also got built in Wireless N.

Over the last two months the Mac is now our main home machine. So much so that in a recent clear out the PC has gone into the loft. I used to use the PC for gaming but now the Xbox does that so for day to day internet, email and simple photo and video editing and organisation the Mac is awesome.

The Mac feels more powerful that it’s diminutive size should hold, apps are snappy even when I’m running a Windows 7 VMware instance, XCode, Interface builder, iTunes, Firefox and Tweetdeck. Although I’m sure this is helped out by the rather expensive 4Gb upgrade option (which I’d highly recommend)

I’m still in the relatively early days of getting used to learning short cut keys (which are excellently implemented throughout all the Mac’s software) and adjusting to Fn keys and the one that gets me the most…. the minimise and close buttons being on the other side of the window!

I know that people have complaints about the price of the new model, and I don’t think I’d be sitting here with one if I’d seen the current new model price. It’s a tad overpriced for me, considering you then will want to add 2Gb.

Overall, it’s a typical high quality Apple experience that you have to pay for.

Drobo FS

Drobo FS – Power supply / PSU buzzing

I’ve noticed a few hits from people searching for Drobo FS information so thought I’d write a few more posts about my experiences so far..

The subject of this post should be indicative of the content…

Power supply buzzing seems to be a common issue with Drobo owners, my power supply suffered from a high pitched noise that would shift pitch when the Drobo was firing up disks or (presumably) using more power.

I looked around the Drobo forums (which are, rather frustratingly, only accessible if you own a Drobo unit) and there’s one of the longer threads with quite a few people suffering the same problem.

I decided to email the technical support and see what would happen.

Not expecting a response for a week only for the response to patronise me in some “have you restarted” it kind of way was what I expected. The opposite is what I received.

Within a day I’d received an email apologising that I must have a faulty PSU and Drobo would send me another one straight away. A few days later a parcel arrived and sure enough a new Drobo FS PSU was within. Wow is all I can say. That’s customer service. I can understa, and sort of agree, with the “Drobo FS is too expensive” argument but this is where a company can really shine, it’s customer support. Thank you Drobo!

However, not all was well with my new PSU… it was worse! Far FAR worse than the initial unit… so I re-opened the support ticket and asked the question again… sure enough within a few days another power supply turned up on my door. I’m yet to plugin the 2nd new PSU due to moving offices but will see what happens.

If you’ve had experiences of this and stumbled across this blog from google then please feel free to  comment on any fixes or general info.

FYI it’s plugged into my UPS so I’m hoping that’s smoothing current!

I’m unsure how I feel about this in general.. I love the Drobo FS and the customer support has been immaculate but having had 3 PSUs (granted, I don’t know if the third suffers from the buzzing) and doing some research and seeing how common buzzing appears I’m not sure it this is a wider spread problem and people just put up with it.

As I say, feel free to join in the discussion….

Fibre Optic cabling

FTTC, FTTP and 40Mbps fibre. How to make a nerd happy.

I’m at home berating my ADSL router again.

Screaming at it to give me more than 0.3Mbps (I live in a 3 year old house on a new estate but a bit too far from the exchange for my liking, I’ve gone from 6Mpbs to not even being able to stream Spotify tracks. It’s amazing how the internet becomes an essential service) and I decide to check on the LLU status of my local exchange again to see if I can move from my travesity of an ISP to a more reputable one and maybe double my speeds (woo)

Hang on? What? That’s an error surely? My local exchange is going to be FTTC around 01/09/2010! *faint*

This is amazingly good news for someone that’s on cold turkey from the internet. Some background….

FTTC and FTTP are part of BT’s plans to rollout fibre connections to Cabinets and Premises (FTTC = Fibre To The Cabinet and FTTP = Fibre To The Premises). Most will receive a service of FTTC which basically means that BT engineers will wire up your local phone cabinet (important difference to ADSL Exchange here… this wiring is to the green cabinet commonly found around the end of your street so the “Distance from Exchange ADSL” issue disappears) and the remaining run , from cabinet to your house, will be over the existing copper. An engineer will also have to install a special VSDL type modem and then you’ll be set.

Now to the good shit. Speeds if you’re in a reasonable radius of the cabinet will be upto 40Mbps download and 10Mpbs upload. Yup 40Mbps. Anyone with a basic understanding of math will gather that craps on high on my current 0.3 so to say I was happy was an understatement. I’ve gotta wait a few weeks then get on the waiting list for an install! woo yay!

Check out the BT page I’ve just linked to to see other exchange install dates, some have already been done and the people using this service already are more than pleased.

A few ISPs are offering the service as well as BT (BT’s package is called “BT Infinity”), one of the ISPs that seems to have a few people talking and comes recommended is IDNet. From looking at those allowances, some seem quite small for such a powerful and blazingly fast internet connection but I’m guessing consumers and businesses will take a while to adjust to what is actually feasible for the cost / performance ratio.(Another ISP announced their package : Zen)

BT will want us all to be watching HD streaming films and music ASAP and with a connection like that it all becomes possible.

As an aside for anyone reading from Bury St Edmunds… I spotted an OpenReach engineer down a manhole feeding through cabling so stopped and asked was he installing fibre. He said yes and that they where about 1/2 way through installs and it was going to be 40Mbps to the cabinets and I’d get that sort of speed if I lived where I did (having pointed at my house)… chuffed!