Three Months in to 4G Only Internet

Last year I cancelled my ADSL connection and went 4G only on my EE 64GB contract.  It’s been an interesting three months, so I thought I’d post this info in case anyone else was considering going 4G only.

Background to why I went 4G only

In August 2017, I noticed that the ADSL connection had been causing problems with my internet access.  I was running a 4G contract with EE and ADSL with Zen load balanced through a pfsense server with secure traffic going ADSL and everything else via 4G.  Connections to websites were taking an age, or not loading at all.  I happen to have a thinkbroadband quality monitor on the line and checked it only to see that the ADSL connection had a red patch at that exact moment.

While I was looking at the quality meter, I went back through the last months’ worth of graphs and saw that on one particular day there was a large (more than 4 hours) outage of internet which explained why I’d thought the internet was slow a few weeks back too…

What ensued was a series of calls backwards and forwards to the Zen technical support as I knew that nothing on my side had changed.  The wiring in the house has previously been minimised to only the master socket with ADSL filter plate, one cordless telephone base station plugged directly into the filter plate and one ADSL modem cable.

The first call to the technical support was effectively a wait and see… a few days later the same thing happened so I called back and was asked to try a different modem – well unless you’ve got a lot of money, you don’t tend to buy two of everything, so after 30 minutes on the phone saying it wasn’t my kit, I asked for Zen to send me a modem which I’d post back… they were having none of it – apparently they don’t have spare kit to send out – not amused!

The issue dragged on and on and I managed to beg and borrow a modem off a colleague at the middle of August and that didn’t fix the issue, but by confirming the fault existed with the different modem, Zen FINALLY (It shouldn’t have taken this long) agreed reluctantly to an engineer (note reluctantly – I was not impressed at all with the Zen technical support on this case issue).

The engineer came on the 25th August, the line dropped just as he picked up the telephone, but he was unable to find any issue with internal or external wiring.

In the next month, the line would drop a number of times more, but no significant outages – I decided to wait and see, plus I wanted the ADSL connection for my holiday in late September/early October, so I could VPN back to home.

A week in to my holiday, I was a little bored surfing the internet one night and checked the thinkbroadband quality graphs again – to my horror, the ADSL connection had been off for a large proportion of my holiday so far!!






In a moment of anger, I emailed the Zen accounts department and told them I’d like to cancel.

“Since my broadband is incredibly unreliable at the moment, I want to cancel my broadband.  I will fall back to using my 4G connection permanently which is an awful lot more reliable at the moment!  I’ve had two or more months of unreliable broadband, which at over £20 per month for poor internet isn’t sustainable.”

Zen accounts sent a rely back within an hour confirming my request to cancel and on the 23rd October, my ADSL connection was stopped.

1st Month on 4G

The first month on 4G was an interesting (and expensive) learning curve.  I’d just come home from holiday and needed to re-install my laptop – hard drive failure.  This meant I downloaded far more that month than normal and we ended up using the 64GB of data on the contract 5 days before the next period!!

CRAP!

I can’t live without internet for 5 days, so I purchased a 1GB top-up for £5 and thought I’d see if that would last the 5 days.  Well it didn’t… it lasted precisely 47 minutes!! £5 had gone – poof!

I reluctantly paid for an additional 10GB at £15 and told the household to limit their internet video watching or there will be an internet blackout when the next data purchase runs out.

Having saved £20 odd pounds per month not having an ADSL connection, in the first month I’d already spent £20 for extra data on the 4G connection!

The Following two months on 4G

…Have been ok, we’ve not had any overspend on extra data (thank goodness!) but when my contact is up next month, I’ll be pushing EE hard for some extra data or two lines for the price of one.

Would I have cancelled my ADSL connection with hindsight?

Yes – Zen pissed me off big time with their technical support.

I’m pretty certain my modem was fine since the line dropped with a colleague’s modem too.  I paid them £21.40 per month for years and I expected more support for the money – heck If I knew I’d have no support, I should have gone with a cheaper provider!

It has been rough on 4G only, but now we know how quickly data can run out, we’re a little more aware of when a website is loading a video at the bottom of a page.

I would only recommend going 4G only if you have enough data on your contract – 64GB sounds like a lot, but when watching 1080p videos on YouTube or if you have Netflix, its potentially going to be tight each month.

I’ll certainly be getting another internet connection as soon as they fibre the village I live in -ConnectedCounties, you’ve promised it, so now you need to deliver on that promise!

blitzortung.org Daily Position Cron

As you probably know from my blog, I have a number of Arduino’s around the house for monitoring household and weather metrics and I’m always looking for ways to add more devices and data sets.

My dad happened to find a map one summer on blitzortung.org to view live lightning strikes and we decided to sign up for a lightning detector in December 2015 (I think!).  When you register you use your email address and can see where you are in the list of people who want a device by going back to en.blitzortung.org/cover_your_area.php and filling in your email + the other boxes.

After one year on the waiting list, our position in the queue had moved a bit, but it became tedious checking the list once a week, so I wrote a script that I’ve now made generic enough for anyone.  Simply add it to crontab and take the pain out of checking every week 🙂

GitHub gist: https://gist.github.com/vls29/aac9d3efaf265734dfc1b64c46482160#file-blitzortung-position-sh

#!/bin/bash

email=$1

epc=$(date +%s)
echo $epc

# Country does not seem to be important
res=$(curl --data "info_time=$epc&info_email=$email&info_country=United+Kingdom&info_text=TSqrb" http://en.blitzortung.org/cover_your_area.php)
#echo "-----------------------------"
#echo "HTML Response"
#echo $res
#echo "-----------------------------"

html=$(echo "$res" | grep $email)
#echo "-----------------------------"
#echo "Position Text"
#echo $html
#echo "-----------------------------"

textpositionstart=411+${#email}+1
echo "textpositionstart: $textpositionstart"

position=${html:$textpositionstart:6}
position=$(echo $position | sed 's@^[^0-9]*\([0-9]\+\).*@\1@')
echo "position: $position"

lastpositionfilename=blitzortung-last-position.txt
lastposition=$(cat $lastpositionfilename)
catresult=$?
echo "catresult $catresult"
if [ "$catresult" -eq "1" ]; then
    echo "didn't find last position file"
    lastposition=100000
else
    echo "found last position file"
fi
echo "lastposition: $lastposition"

if [ "$position" -lt "$lastposition" ]; then
    echo $position | mail -s "blitzortung.org position" $email
    echo $position > $lastpositionfilename
else
    echo "position not less than $lastposition: $position"
fi

exit

The only input to the script is the email address you’ve used on the waiting list (assuming you haven’t hardcoded it in the script like I have).  You don’t need country as that doesn’t appear to be used by the site to verify the email address.

Monumental App Update Mess Up!

A few weeks back I received a request to add in the ability to select half days in the Retirement Countdown Clock app (http://blog.v-s-f.co.uk/2016/02/retirement-countdown-clock-app/) and I decided that this was a quick change that wouldn’t take too long, so why not 🙂

Well I made a complete mess up of the update… It started off as seeming like a simple update, but I’d just had a rather large problem on my laptop that killed the SSD, so had not much software installed on the new hard drive. After all the necessary apps were installed, I set about updating the app, adding in the ability to select the half days. It only took about 4 hours in total to make the code changes and test (most of which was updating the runtime target version). I packaged it, tested it on my laptop and old phone, both of which said they would install from fresh and then added a new submission to the store.

Job done 🙂 or so I thought…

Two days after the app was published to the store, I logged in and to my horror I’d received over 11,000 crash reports!!! O.M.G!

All the crash reports were for the new version (2.1.0.0) and all were in exactly the same line of code… I wondered well how come it worked on my laptop and phone then? And the key answer was that it installed the app from fresh and didn’t do an update. I dashed around the house to find anoher phone I hadn’t tested on and updated the app from the store. Lo and behold, it crashed as soon as you tried to open the app from the start screen 🙁

I had all the info I needed in the crash reports to find the particular dodgy line of code – wasn’t handling the previously stored int and converting correctly into a decimal. Less than two hours later, a new submission was sent for approval to the store, but it takes a minimum of a day to get a submission approved… In that time the crash reports topped 20,000.

I learnt a very valuable lesson – don’t rush a change through, even if it seems simple and make sure you test it as if you’ve done an upgrade as well as a fresh install!

Sorry to all those people that downloaded the dodgy update, hopefully you’ve updated to 2.1.1.0 and it’s now working again.