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Wireless Network Clash

Story location: Home / computing /

For the last week or so, my wireless broadband has been really slow. At first I suspected the broadband itself but the downstairs computer was fine, then I suspected the wireless router but the other upstairs computer was fine as well. It looked like it was just my PC which was having problems. The connection was very slow and would occasionally stall causing any downloads or web pages to time out.

I tried a few things to attempt to fix it:
Reset the router and set it to use a different broadcast channel and transmission rate.
Reinstalled the wireless card drivers on my computer.
Removed the wireless card from my PC and installed it in a different PCI slot.

None of these made any difference. It wasn't til I removed my bluetooth dongle that the network speed got back to it's normal rate. It's very strange if the bluetooth has only just started to interfere because it's been connected to my PC for several months with no apparent problems until recently.

Nokia 6630 vanishing memory

Story location: Home / computing /

Our phones were reporting hardly any free memory despite the amount of used memory being a fraction of the 10Mb on the main phone itself. Deleting text messages didn't help - deleting a couple of messages actually made the free memory go down, leaving Emma's phone having no free memory at all. Copying the messages over to the memory card failed - possibly due to the lack of memory.

We used the Nokia Communicator software to back up the phone data, then reset the phone completely. This freed up all the memory but restoring the backup just got things back to where they were before. There was actually a tiny amount of free memory which allowed us to move the messages over to the memory card, deleting them from the phone memory. This did the trick, giving around 8Mb of free memory, despite the File Manager only claiming the messages took up less than 2Mb.

The free memory decreasing when we deleted texts is still a mystery but at least we now know why the phone was full. Each text message must take up more memory than is reported. The phone treats it's internal memory as a disk drive and if each message is stored as a seperate file then this will explain it. Files always take up a minimum size, often around 2-4Kb, so a message which is only a few characters long will still take up a few K.

Storylog v0.20

Story location: Home / computing / blosxom /

Storylog is another Blosxom plugin. It logs the category views (and if storyfilter is installed, optionally logs keyword links).
Download the current version (version 0.20).
Instructions are in the zip file (no perldoc yet). For a demonstration of storylog in action, see the 'Most popular clicks' in the menu bar on the left. This uses the 'combined' log of both categories and keywords.

Storyfilter Plugin v0.31

Story location: Home / computing / blosxom /

I have been steadily working on my two blosxom plugins - this one and storylog. Storyfilter is now up to version 0.31 with the following improvements:

  • Now includes documentation in the file itself, rather than in a seperate readme.
  • Keywords treates as case-insensitive
  • Only matches at the start of a keyword, for example, 'review' will still match 'reviews' but 'work' will no longer match 'network'

Download the current version (version 0.31).
Instructions are found in the file itself.

Best Viewed With...

Story location: Home / computing /

There are few things more pathetic on a website than a Best Viewed With Internet Explorer icon. To me, it suggests that the designer was too lazy to make sure that their site followed the proper HTML specification. Especially when the site is a very simple one and doesn't use any advanced (or IE specific) features. Sites should be viewable with as many different browsers as possible. The WWW existed long before Microsoft woke up and decided to join in, and with the increase in people accessing web pages from mobile devices, it is become more important to make pages viewable in other browsers. These days, it's just plain rude to design a page with only Internet Explorer in mind.

Storyfilter Plugin v0.30

Story location: Home / computing / blosxom /

I have been steadily working on my two blosxom plugins - this one and storylog. Storyfilter is now up to version 0.31 with the following improvements:

  • Now includes documentation in the file itself, rather than in a seperate readme.
  • Keywords treates as case-insensitive
  • Only matches at the start of a keyword, for example, 'review' will still match 'reviews' but 'work' will no longer match 'network'

Download the current version (version 0.31).

USB Wireless broke my network

Story location: Home / computing /

After claiming that the USB wireless network dongle (a Belkin F5D5070) was working ok on Emma's computer, it started playing up again. It would still lose network connection a few times per day and require re-starting. At least it didn't crash the computer forcing a hard-reset (unlike on my machine). We tried all the different hints and tips off the Internet:

  • Let the manufacturers software handle the network
  • Let Windows handle the network
  • Enable encryption

etc. etc. Nothing helped.
We took it back to the shop today. The person on the service desk was less than helpful. We explained that it seemed to work ok but would lose network connection several times per day while other computers in the same room worked fine. They took it into the back room to test, then came back 2 minutes later claiming it worked ok, completely ignoring our insistance that it only worked intermittantly. They suggested we phoned the manufacturers, and also gave us a number for their support line. I asked how much the call would cost and whether it was premium rate. I was ignored and simply told again that I should phone the number.
Back home, we phoned Belkin. They blamed Compaq and suggested I updated my USB drivers, despite me having a brand new machine, almost certainly having newer drivers than anything Belkin had when they developed the thing. Next, we phoned the support number the shop gave us (we checked first that it wasn't premium rate). The guy at the other end was a lot more helpful. He said that although he can't really offer support because it didn't come pre-installed in the computer, he'd had personal experience of the device and said, off the record, that he thought it was a heap of crap. He gave us a code to quote which meant we were returning it as faulty. We also mentioned that the original salesman told us that opening the case to install a card would invalidate the warranty, and that was the only reason we bought the USB version. He told us that wasn't strictly true and the warranty would only be invalid if we'd damaged the computer in the process.
We drove back to the shop again and spoke to a different service person this time (after waiting in a queue - we must have chosen a busy period for complaints and returns). We explained what had happened over the phone, that we only bought the USB version because we'd been misled about the warranty, and quoted the code we were given. Finally, we had a result: after disappearing for a minute to consult someone else, he returned and said we could exchange it for a proper internal card.

Windows XP SP2 killed my network

Story location: Home / computing /

Or 'Compters often make people quite angry part 2'

Last week, after installing the USB wireless network on my computer, I thought everything was working ok. Unfortunately not so. During the week, my network connection kept dying. Using the 'repair connection' option would cause the computer to hang, requiring a reach for the power switch to reset it.

I tried the usual things: uninstall/reinstall, download new drivers from the manufacturers website. Nothing seemed to work. A quick check of various websites suggested that it's likely to be a problem with XP service pack 2 and USB wireless network devices. I tried some of the solutions mentioned: let windows manage the connection, let the software which came with the adaptor manage the connection, check the USB power saving settings. Nothing helped.

As I was getting ready to return it to the shop to exchange it for a 'proper' internal card (I only chose the USB option because it was the same price and should've been quicker to install), Emma suggested we swapped adaptors from her machine to mine. Her computer is running SP1, mine came with SP2 pre-installed. We swapped the cards, reinstalled the drivers, and (touch wood) everthing seems to be working ok.

As an aside, on friday our wireless router kept losing connection, requiring regular resets. It would connect to the Internet but neither of us could connect to the router. On saturday, we upgraded the firmware and re-initialised it. So far it seems to be working ok again. I don't know whether it's just a coincidence or whether SP2 had somehow managed to affect other devices on the network.

Update: 23/09/2005

I thought the idea of one computer having such an effect on the network was a little fanciful, but I have since observed something similar. I was using FTP to transfer data between two machines (sitting at computer A, using a drag-and-drop interface to copy files from computer B to computer C). Part way through a transfer, all the computers connected to the router would simultaneously disconnect. The first time it happened, I thought it was just a random event. The second time, it was a bit annoying. The third time, it was obvious what was causing it (but not how it was doing it).

Computers Often Make People Quite Angry

Story location: Home / Blog /

At long last, I finally got around to buying myself a new computer. My old laptop was getting to be so slow (I'm sure somethings gone wrong with the hard drive, everything takes so long to load). The only problem with a new computer is having to reinstall all the software I take for granted on my old one.

Obviously the first thing to go on was Internet access. I installed the wireless networking and then Mozilla and Thunderbird. It took me a while to work out how to copy all my settings and emails over. Normally I just copied the directories from the Documents and Settings/Application Data but this didn't work. It took a bit of trial and error before I realised that the problem was the Windows user account. I normally set one up called 'Mike', but the computer came with one set up called 'Compaq User'. Thunderbird and Mozilla were trying to access a nonexistent user directory . The easiest solution seemed to be to create my usual user name and install everything as normal. Thankfully I hadn't set anything else up to use that user name, so nothing else needed messing with.

The only other thing which caused problems was the bluetooth dongle I bought to make it easier to transfer photos from my phone. I followed the instructions, but couldn't get it to work. I then noticed a slip of paper in the box with additional instructions for XP SP2. After following those, I got it to work (sort of). For some reason, the phone doesn't always manage to connect to the computer but it usually works ok the other way around. But that's something to sort out later if it keeps causing problems...

Lunch at 300mph

Story location: Home / Blog / work /

I was on-site with one of the Data Collectors in work and was trying to use his laptop pc (with build in GPS) to track our location. There seemed to be something wrong with the tracking because it would sometimes show us in the middle of a field or think we were on a side road when we were still on a main road. If it was trying to navigate for us, and thought we were on a side road, it would read out nonsense directions and try to get us to turn into nonexistent roads. The best (or maybe worst) was at lunchtime when the van was parked in a lay-by. The GPS thought we were flying over the town at around 300 mph!

The Black Screen of Death

Story location: Home / Blog / birmingham /

They seem to be having a few problems with the departures boards at Birmingham New Street. I took this photo last night, but it was also showing this interesting variant of the Blue screen of death last week. They seem to have sorted it (or simply rebooted) because it was working ok today.

bios screen
Update: 22/09/05
The above looks more like a Bios screen which you see when a computer starts up. Here is a 'proper' blue screen of death, on the same screen.
blue screen of death

Storyfilter Plugin updated

Story location: Home / computing / blosxom /

I have update the plugin to version 0.23 and fixed a few problems:

  • The keyword cache file is now rebuilt from scratch rather than waiting until all the stories have been viewed.
  • Rebuilding the cache can be forced by appending ?refresh=full to the url.
  • Bug fixed which stopped stories being viewed if they were in the blosxom main directory (ie not in a category) when /keyword was being used.

Download the latest version (version 0.23).
Further instructions are in the zip file.
There are still some problems with using /keyword instead of ?keyword= but they don't seem to be critical.

Blosxom Benchmark Timings

Story location: Home / computing / blosxom /

I was curious as to how well blosxom would handle large numbers of articles - my main worry was whether it would slow down much if it had to sort through a lot of stories before displaying anything. The timings here are for 100,500,2000 and 10000 stories.

See more ....
Times are in milliseconds and are the average of 10 runs. If the'entriescache' plugin is used then blosxom seems to manage quite well.

Time (ms)
no of entries: 100 500 2000 10000
1. no plugins 2281 4091 8422 48452
2. no cache 2537 4392 12236 52570
3. entriescache reindex 2822 4533 14016 54172
4. entriescache normal 1159 1180 1269 1978


  1. All of the plugins removed before running the benchmarks
  2. All of the plugins except for entriescache
  3. entriescache using reindex=y to force reading all the files
  4. entriescahce in normal use

Blosxom seems to scale reasonably well with increased number of files, especially so when entriescache is installed. If a large number of stories are to be displayed, it's probably a good idea to have entriescache to only rebuild the cache when needed, by setting to a large number such as 999999 which would rebuild every approximately 2 years.

Storyfilter plugin

Story location: Home / computing / blosxom /

Blosxom is a pretty good bit of blog software but it's main weakness is the inability to place a story into several categories without duplicate postings. This plugin is an attempt to recify that.
Storyfilter maintains a list of keywords and allows stories to be selected according to keywords. The keywords associated with each story can be displayed and if the user clicks on one, blosxom will display only those stories which contain that keyword.

See more ....

Download the plugin (version 0.16). Full instructions are included in the zip file.

The plugin is still in it's early stages of development and should be considered a very early beta. At the moment, when a keyword is selected, blosxom will only display stories which have been viewed since the plugin was installed. This is because as stories are viewed, the keywords are be added to a list. I hope to rectify this in a later version.

Spectrum Emulator

Story location: Home / links /

Possibly the most compete repository of ZX Spectrum info can be found at World of Spectrum. This is where I found the link for the emulator I'm using on my phone. I'm still playing the football manager game (and have won the FA Cup a few times). I still need to find more phone-friendly games though. Arcade games don't always play very well because of the small keys on the phone. I'll have to find some strategy games which don't use too many keys to play.