Tuesday, October 25, 2005

IBurst a vein - I Love you long time, and how to share that love


In the previous two blogs of this series, I detailed my telkom-replacement selection and installation process. Now I will tell you why I am growing to love IBurst, how you too can get the most love out of your IBurst connection, and also how you can share that love with all the people in your home.

This is the third blog in this series. To read the previous two, look at #1 "In the beginning there was a monopoly" and #2 "I am Committed"

Captive Audience
Telkom is too expensive and even if they halved their prices, they would still be completely overpriced. Saving for a wedding and not having any performance-related bonus scheme at work builds a strong case for having a strict budget. I chose IBurst because I have/had no other viable option. (see blog #1) IBurst's signal was very low but I knew that a directional antenna should remedy that, and as a result bye-bye ISDN and hello IBurst. Getting rid of ISDN is something I have done before and each time I have suffered greatly at the hands of these incompetent buffoons. Maybe I will lament my dealings and repeated attempts to cancel ISDN in a later blog.

Luckily I am a geek
I shudder to think what the average Joe-soap would have to do to get the optimum bandwidth after purchasing IBurst? Only my technical knowledge, an enquiring mind and the forums at mybroadband.co.za helped me accomplish what would be a nightmare for Joe-soap.

Deja Vu all over again
Without repeating what the experts have said on mybroadband.co.za, I will only list the main steps for tweaking your connection. To start your tweaking journey read this Newbie thread

Even if you have everything set up perfectly, you probably will not get the full 1Mb/s bandwidth you thought you were entitled to. This is because many ISPs (including IBurst?) take that bandwidth and share it among a set number of users. They do this because all of those users will probably not be on at the same time, and if they are, tough luck. This is called .

Tuning your Connection...
1) Using the Directional antenna should give you better bandwidth than using only the UTD modem. (I say "should" because I have had inconsistent results here) Also note that I said "bandwidth" and not "signal" you might get 5/5 lights on your modem in both cases, but with the Directional antenna you should get better bandwidth/download-speed.
2) You will need to make changes to your networking settings in your Operating System (Windows/Linux ..etc) to achieve the best speed. Do a search for 1352 on the forums on mybroadband.co.za IBurst forums to find the entries related to the networking settings. There is a software utility available to edit the network settings (Dr TCP)
3) Your Directional antenna must face the Base station directly (15 degree FOV, i believe?) and should ideally have direct LOS (line of sight)
4) If you increase the length of the cable between your modem and the directional antenna, you will lose signal strength and as a result lose bandwidth. Something like half signal for every 2 metres. So adding 6 metres will give you 12.5% of your original bandwidth (100/2/2/2)
5) The transmitter might not always be on the top of the base station tower, so seeing the tower is no guarantee of perfect LOS. Putting your Directional antenna higher might help, while keeping no 4 in mind.
6) If you have 5/5 lights on you modem, this is ideal, but it does not mean you will get full speed/bandwidth.

I hope this has helped someone to boost their IBurst connection. Good luck

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

IBurst a vein - I am Committed


For those of you thinking of IBurst as a cheap Internet-access alternative to the Telkom monopoly or one of the other fallible options, here is a route to avoid the traps.

This is the second blog on this subject. For #1 read "In The Beginning there Was a Monopoly"

Take your Pick
First-off you must determine whether the IBurst service is available in your area. Open the Rollout map. Scroll past the drop-down menu's because they don't obviously differentiate between planned and existing Base Stations. Scroll down to the Area List. There might be one or more towers close to you. Now be careful to open the "Individual Base Station" link for the applicable areas. This will show the signal coverage and strength for that Base Station only. If you have a choice of Base Stations pick the one which shows the darkest shade of green for your home. IBurst will pick one primary Base Station and won't download from another Base Station unless it is in the direction in which the directional Antenna is pointing, so using the Total Coverage map is deceiving. If your house has no signal whatsoever (white and no green) then you might have to wait for future developments.

So do you get it?
Once you have determined that you do have some signal coverage (even if it is light-green which is the lowest signal strength) and you feel that you want it, then get it! Remember if you have a light green signal you will need to invest in a Directional Antenna to "boost" the signal.
As I mentioned in my previous blog, I decided to purchase the equipment from Tradepage because they have a 7 day opt-out period where a full refund is promised if you are not happy with the purchase. I decided to pick up the equipment instead of the delivery option because I wanted no delay with the testing.

Prozac Nation
Happy as a kid with a new toy, I unpacked the equipment as soon as I arrived home. A modem, a USB and Ethernet cable, a Directional antenna, a bracket for the antenna and a CD with the drivers and some free software.

It Starts
First of all, we want to make sure that the equipment works in basic mode without the antenna.
Unpack equipment
Don't connect the modem yet (USB model)
Install the software/drivers located in the Drivers folder for your specific Operating System (XP or w2000 etc.)
Reboot (with Windows install)
While the PC is rebooting, attach the modem to the PC via the USB cable and connect the power cable for the Modem.
The modem will display a green light for a connection on the light which has a antenna icon if there is a connection. There are 5 lights which show the incoming signal strength by lighting up 1-5 of the lights to indicate the strength. In low signal areas this might be sporadic.
Once you have a signal, try double-clicking the iBurst icon on your desktop.
You will be prompted for three items of information.
1) Your logon ID. This is on the lid of the box which contained the modem.
2) Your Password. This is on the lid of the box which contained the modem.
3) The means of connection. Either the PCMCIA, UTD(USB) or UTD (Ethernet) connection, but for now we choose the USB option.
click Connect.
The dialog box should say "Connecting" and then "verifying user name and password" and the you should be connected. The IBurst console icon in the system tray (bottom right of screen) will show an IB if connected. If not connected it will show and IB with a red cross through it.
If it doesn't connect then check that the Modem has power and a signal and is connected to the PC.

Which Connection?
We have now verified that there is a connection and that the modem works using USB. Now you decide which mode of connection you wish to use. For the USB/Ethernet Modem you can connect using either USB and, you guessed it, Ethernet. With the PCMCIA modem you only have PCMCIA.
There is no speed benefit with using either USB or Ethernet because the Internet connection is much slower than either of the two anyway. The criterion will be logistics. You might not have enough USB ports or need to place the modem in another place in your home, so then use Ethernet. If you have enough USB ports or the directional antenna (if used) can be close to the connecting PC, then use USB.

Ethernet Smethernet
What is Ethernet? It is the most common type of physical network connection and protocol connecting PC's and other network devices. If you are contemplating connecting via Ethernet then you will need an Ethernet card in your PC. If you are planning on using that same PC to provide Internet connectivity to any other PC's in the home, then you will need two Ethernet cards in that PC. Once you have installed the required number of Ethernet cards in your PC, you might need to reinstall the IBurst software/drivers if both of the cards weren't installed prior to the driver installation.

Connecting via the Ether

  • To connect using Ethernet, remember that the IBurst console software is not required, so close it (by rightclicking on the IB in the System tray and selecting Exit) Also remove it from the Startup folder (Start-Programs-Startup on W2K, and Start-AllPrograms-Startup on XP)
  • Disconnect the USB cable safely by right-clicking on the USB ison in the System tray and selecting the Safely Remove/Disconnect option and selecting the IBurst Modem.
  • Connect the Modem to the Ethernet card via the Ethernet cable.
  • Ensure the modem is powered on.
  • Try double-clicking the iBurst icon on your desktop.
  • You will be prompted for three items of information.
  • 1) Your logon ID. This is on the lid of the box which contained the modem.
  • 2) Your Password. This is on the lid of the box which contained the modem.
  • 3) The means of connection. Either the PCMCIA, UTD(USB) or UTD (Ethernet) connection, but now we choose the Ethernet connection option. The Ethernet connection name will differ from PC to PC because it show's the brand name and driver name of the Ethernet card. Also if you have installed 2 Ethernet cards, both cards will show up as an option. Pick one of the Ethernet options ( we can try the other one if it doesn't work immediately)
  • click Connect.
  • The dialog box should say "Connecting" and then "verifying user name and password" and the you should be connected. If it doesn't work, try the other Ethernet option, but close the connect dialog box first. It seems that if the dialog box isn't completely closed it doesn't always work.

What Next?
I took the plunge and purchased IBurst and kept it even though my signal was horrible. So I had to get it to work.
My next blog will discuss the process of getting the best signal possible and also how to share your IBurst connection with other PC's on your home network. As we used to say in the days of SADF conscription "Alpha Bravo, Jou seine vywe, myne?" which roughly means "Your signal's coming in strong, how strong is mine?"

IBurst a vein - In the beginning there was a monopoly


Changing from the Telkom monopoly, to a cheaper alternative is not without it's own set of problems.

This is the first in a series of blogs on this subject See Number 2 "I am Committed"

A week ago I decided to sign up with a reseller of the IBurst wireless Internet service. This was mainly because of Telkom's ridiculous costs. I will, in the next Blog, detail the arduous road to better bandwidth with IBurst, but first I will explain the selection process I followed.

I use my Internet connection to download large and small files. From 4GB DVD image files of Linux Distro's to small utilities from http://www.sysinternals.com/ I use my Connection for surfing, Online gaming and to do VoIP chats with friends ("Ha!" I hear them say ).

Money on the line.
Cost is the main criteria, and then connection speed and stability. I started with a 64Kb ISDN connection and increased that to 128Kb/s to accommodate the demands of two PC's browsing the Net simultaneously while throttled downloads were churning in the background. The costs of dialing in using ISDN every day started becoming a burden. Line rental, ISP costs, and R15 for every day Monday to Saturday amount to between R1000 to R1200 depending on whether I forgot to disconnect the link before 7AM. For those non South Africans wondering why I would need to disconnect before 7AM, we still pay for local calls and it's simply cheaper between 7PM and 7AM.

ADSL is a bridge too far.
I requested an ADSL connection from Telkom because the cost of a 192Kb/s ADSL connection is absolutely the cheapest option over 2 years (total cost) followed closely by IBurst. Luckily the telephone exchange supported the ADSL technology, but unlucky for me the maximum limit from the Exchange to the Modem, according to Telkom, is 5KM. Guess how far I am from the exchange? 5.1KM.... can you believe it? So ADSL is out the window.

IBurst a vein
After waiting for IBurst to roll out their service in my area, I started researching the pro's and cons:
Pro: Relatively cheap monthly cost, R469 for 1GB of data per Month.
Pro: 1Mb/s bandwidth (dependent on distance and line-of-sight)
Con: Not a very stable connection. For online gaming etc.
Con: Expensive initial financial layout. Between R3000-R4000.
Con: Technical knowledge required. (I'm just waiting for IBurst or Tradepage to ask why... grrr)

Enter Tradepage.net
I decided to use Tradepage as the reseller because they had a 7 day opt-out period where they would refund the full amount if I was not happy. I had considered Hi Fi Corporation as an option but they would not test the signal for me to see if IBurst was viable. WBS aka IBurst repeatedly stated that the resellers must provide the service of testing the signal, but all the resellers repeatedly said that they would not. So armed with my own technical knowledge and the 7 day opt-out period, I took the plunge.

I still haven't cancelled my ISDN. Read my next blog to experience the pain of setting up your own IBurst connection.