New Virgin Media Traffic Management

Having recently upgraded to 60Mb broadband (for the sprightly sum of £3 less over the year!) I checked the traffic management policy for the new tear and found that the whole policy had been re-hashed.

 

I must say that I feel the new policy is very reasonable, and am reassured to see the company taking steps towards protecting network performance. Although more lenient on weekdays (4PM start), traffic management takes place between 11AM and 11PM on weekends and the magic number is 3600MB per day (approx. 3.5GB).

3.5GB of downloading is without a doubt a heavy user, although it would technically be possible to reach this in a little under 8 minutes with a 60 Mb connection. In order to need to download that much data you must surely be savvy enough to at least be aware networking terms, and so I suspect the concept of traffic management wouldn’t really come as a surprise.

 

The interesting thing is that I believe many people would not be aware if they had invoked traffic management, through watching Netflix for example. This is because hitting that 3.5GB cap reduces your connection speed by just 30%, still leaving you with a respectable download speed of 42 Mbps.

 

If you download another 900MB within the following hour, your download speed will be reduced by 40% to 36 Mbps for the next 2 hours, but this is the interesting bit: if you don’t download 900MB more then your download speed returns to 100% and all is forgiven. After all is forgiven, I’m not sure how much you can download before you enter traffic management again. In theory, the counters should be reset as you didn’t go into the 2 hour speed reduction but I suspect it is more likely that you can download a further 900MB before starting on a 1 hour slow down again.

 

A similar situation applies for uploading, but with harsher cuts – 900MB being the magic upload number, resulting in a 50% slow down (to 1.5 Mbps) then a further 300MB triggers a 65% slow down to 1.1 Mbps.

 

If you are happy to put up with a 36 Mbps download or 1.1 Mbps upload speeds, you can do what you like, for as long as you like (within reason, I’m sure there will be ‘fair usage’ small print in the contract somewhere)!

 

Let’s put it this way, I watched Netflix for what we shall call ‘a long time’ (ok it was a big chunk of a day) and had no idea I was being traffic managed until I did a speed test and saw the connection max out at the enforced limit.

 

Compare that to the monthly usage caps and traffic management of Sky and BT, which are either totally none existent (caps) or much harsher (traffic management) things don’t seem so bad.

 

BT:

Recently abandoned traffic management (throttling they call it). This is not good news. In my opinion, it is an admission that the network can’t handle the demands placed on it by its customers, allow me to elaborate…

If you traffic manage, or throttle connections, this means that your network has to be able to support number of people utilising their connection at the throttled rate. If it can’t support this then you can’t traffic manage, so why not knock the policy on the head and try to put some positive PR spin on it?

Data Caps: 

There aren’t any. Do what you want, BT doesn’t care if you constantly download at the maximum your connection can handle, bringing your neighbourhood’s connections to a crawl whilst you have your fun. They may eventually utilise their inevitably present fair usage policy, but this is not likely, and far from immediate.

One of the main comparable broadband packages (Infinity Opt. 1) has a 40GB monthly cap, after which you will be charged £5 extra per GB. This ‘option’ is not a directly comparable package to virgin media’s broadband tiers (up to 38 Mbps for BT vs. 30 Mbps for Virgin). Nevertheless, I am making the comparison between Infinity Opt. 1 and Virgin Media’s 30 Mbps package, which has equivalent monthly ‘usage’ of 80GB (2750MB per day * 30) and things don’t add up. You are not charged £5 extra per GB after your 80 Mbps with Virgin, you are just slowed down!

 

That is of course also an ‘up to 38 Mbps’ from BT. At present, they seem to still be getting away with ‘up to’ being anything above 0.3 Mbps.

 

I was attempting to avoid ranting but having read this statement on the BT website pertaining to Virgin Media’s (old) traffic management policy, that’s gone out of the window.

Virgin Media may slow users by up to 75% at peak times. Your experience would suffer if you watched more than 1 HD movie streamed online during peak times. [Emphasis mine.]

The cap which you would have to have invoked under the previous traffic management policy during peak times is 3GB. Which streaming service offers HD quality with individual file sizes totalling over 3GB!? This would have to be a video stream at over 3 Mbps for a 2 hour film, or a film longer than 2 hours in order to get to a total size of pver 3GB. That simply does not / can not happen in streaming media – a 3 Mbps constant connection speed to play each second of video. It certainly wouldn’t happen on most BT connections I am aware of.

Sky:

Much of a muchness, non specific traffic management policy but they will only send you an email if you are on a capped package and go over your cap. If you impact other users they will impose unspecified slow downs to your connection.

Remember, this is the same technology and same copper as BT use so as they so carefully state that connection speeds may vary due to location. They also use the term ‘line speed’ at points in the T&C, which is worrying as this is the theoretical maximum speed if you were the only broadband customer and ignores network loading.

Ultraviolet – “The Dark Knight Rises”

Having recently purchased the latest Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” on DVD I was made aware by the largely unsubtle information which adorned display stand that the DVD copy came with a digitally downloadable version of the film. As this was certainly a blockbuster in the traditional sense, I was curious as to how well this system may have been incorporated, and how likely this would be to stop people acquiring their own illegal digital copies anyway after purchasing the film. I thought I would post about my experience here…

Continue reading

Google Play Movies

I’ve just rented a movie from Google Play Movies and thought I’d post a small review of my experiences.
Firstly, at 99p (in a sale) the rental was very good value, and with some movie rentals at £2.50, and therefore competitive with pay as you go LoveFilm there was some hope.

Or so I thought.

Rented films have to be watched within 30 days of renting – this is ok and is reasonable enough.

Once playback has been started, you have 48 hours before the rental expires. Considering they are competing with the likes of Netflix, LoveFilm and iTunes, most of which offer monthly recurring plans, this seems strange. I understand that some kind of limit has to be placed on the rental, but why not a 30 day rental (or even a 14 day rental), scrapping the expiry once playback has begun.

You can sync rented movies to your Android phone, to playback offline. This is simply a necessary feature. It does however disable the option to watch the rented film in a browser – you can’t split your 48 hours of viewing between mobile and desktop without repeatedly re-downloading the movie to your phone.

You can watch on a desktop, but only in the browser. When buffering (in a YouTube player) video playback was often stuttery. Now I know my hardware can play back 1080p YouTube content, so there is something different about this flash only player. Video played smoothly once the entire film was buffered, and was good quality, at a max. of 720p for the particular film I rented (which was released in 1976 and so would not have benefitted from any higher resolution). In addition, and although having not tried this with standard YouTube content, it is not possible to use dual monitor functionality when playing rented movies in the browser. Once the lightboxed player is full screened, other tabs cannot be opened and used whilst full screen (I was using the latest version Chrome on my mac).

Or…I hear if you somehow find yourself in posession of a verion of the film as an .avi, it plays pretty much anywhere, for as long as you want. I would never encourage the aquisition of films in such a format however, when faced with inconveniences between the content and the enjoyment of the content there is little wonder why the path of least resistance is often followed by consumers.

It’s Hard to Believe that this Insane Real Time 3D Demo Is Not a Real Life Video

Not “3D” in the gimmicky sense, this demo illustrates how close to indistinguishable CGI has become. You can see from the article text that this is not some kind of rendering farm, it is created in realtime (you can see the mouse pointer manipulating the canvas) with a Radeon 5870 in an Intel Core i7-based PC.

http://gizmodo.com/5927819/its-hard-to-believe-that-this-insane-3d-demo-is-not-a-real-life-video

Vinyl Comparison – Background

Firstly, I’d like to just cover some interesting things I’ve discovered about the medium, as I believe they play a major part in why there are supposed differences between modern high fidelity digital formats (of which I only consider their to be only one – CD quality WAV) and vinyl releases.

As I mentioned in the introductory post, what goes on on the surface of a record is largely black magic to me, and the process of converting 1s and 0s into an audible waveform makes much more sense. However, after doing a bit of reading, I may have shed some light onto the surface of those little discs.

Continue reading

Onkyo HT-S5405 1 Box 5.1 Surround Sound System

With the search for a 5.1 system beginning and ending quite quickly, I thought I’d post my thoughts on the new system. As Matt Harrison happened to see when he coincidentally brought his own receiver in for repair, I recently bought the system from Richer Sounds for £350. Although undeniably a lot of money, I have to say I am impressed with the value for money.

Continue reading

Why, oh why, Spotify?

There was dispair on my part when Spotify announced the 5 plays per track policy, not because I use Spotify heavily, simply because I (and many others) saw this move as the end of Spotify. I am trying to understand Spotify’s logic; if people aren’t paying for premium subscriptions, how is attempting to force them to pay likely to work? It is a well known fact that when the general (music loving) public don’t like something, corporations forcing them to pay money for things always works – I mean look at how few people use P2P and torrent technology!

As far as I was concerned, if I wanted to listen to a track I might use Spotify, although the previews on sites like Amazon (my favourite) are usually adequate enough to decide whether I like a track or not (it’s mainly a whole album yes / no situation for me any way, to be honest). Or I could just not bother with it at all. I was done.

Continue reading

Bose VideoWave

I recently attended a demonstration of the Bose VideoWave at Earl’s Court in London so I thought I’d post my thoughts on the new system, which I believe was being demoed reasonably exclusively at the Ideal Homes show where I saw it.

Firstly what it is: a TV made by Bose.

What it is more than:  a TV made by Bose!

The VideoWave attempts to combat the issue which is rapidly ruining many new TVs; the trend to make them thinner for some reason, even though no one ever looks at them from the side once they have left the showroom. The VideoWave has built in sound engineered by Bose and as with many Bose products, far far exceeds any possible expectations you could have when hearing a TV with built-in speakers.

Continue reading

CDs, MP3s, iPods and iPhones

As part of my new A/V setup I was also pondering what role my CD collection would take in all of the new technological gorgeousness. No matter how much I love CDs, the idea of playing single disks does seem strange after years of MP3 acceptance. So, considering that most of my music collection (well all) is in MP3 format it seemed logical that an MP3 player would be the obvious choice, or so I thought.

Continue reading

A new system

I am waiting to be able to properly set up the new home theater system I have bought.

During the long deliberation process which will be familiar to any dedicated tech nerd, I was considering a surround system but thankfully, I stopped to really consider what it was I wanted from the new system. I concluded that I really wasn’t that bothered about surround sound and although something I like, movies aren’t my main passion; music is.

As a result I am now the proud owner of an Onkyo TX-SR608 receiver. This offers a certain amount of future proofing, being a 7.1 receiver, but it was the stereo bi-amplifying capabilities which I was most interested in.
Coupled with this are a pair of Mordent Short Mezzo 2s which, after listening tests proved to be great sounding speakers with a much more exciting and spacious sound than the floorstanding KEFs I initially heard.

What shocked me most was the difference in sound quality which occurred when the Sony receiver which was initially being used because the Onkyo receiver I was interested in wasn’t available, was replaced with the 608. What I was blaming on the KEF speakers, and the mp3 test tracks which I had inadvertently taken (MP3s burned as an audio CD rather than the original CD quality files), soon turned out to be the processing (or lack of) being performed by the Sony receiver. Drastic improvements in the sonic image and overall impact of the experience were caused by the addition of the Onkyo, and as the Japanese translation states “sound harmony” was indeed that much closer.

When I heard the Onkyo with the ‘book shelf’ format mezzo 2s (it would have to be a bloody big book shelf!) the positive effects I described previously were further I increased, and both I and my wife were sold.

All I need now is the new TV stand we need to set this all up on/in!

I will continue my review / gloating when I have the system full set up, with the tag “A/V”.