Nokia N95 8GB on Vodafone UK by Christmas

The good news is that Nokia’s new “N95i”, or Nokia N95 8GB as it looks like being officially dubbed, is going to see a UK release this side of Christmas. The bad news is that it seems to be a Vodafone exclusive. This is not good news for anyone that was hoping to get a good deal on it as, in my experience anyway, Vodafone seem to be much more expensive than O2 and Orange in terms of tariff deals (although to be fair they’re all getting more expensive for handset prices).

What’s the big deal with

the new N95 8GB anyway? Well, there are a few tweaks to the N95 formula: for a start I’ve wanted a phone equipped with WiFi for a good while now, but while the N95 met this criterion it apparently ate batteries, so the new 8GB version Nokia are releasing has a bigger battery as well as an even bigger 2.8″ screen (very useful when using the wireless to browse the internet) and has 8GB of internal flash memory instead of an expansion slot. I really badly wanted an N95 but I’ve been hanging off until this comes out, though I may be hoping for too much for Vodafone to have it available on a £30/month tariff before Christmas (the busiest time of the year for mobile phone sales).

Ah well, maybe I can get one in the January sales?

For more info on the N95 8GB see the Nokia or “tweaks” links in the post or see this Dialaphone blog post.

nerd. links – Flash is Evil

I’m graduating on Wednesday and have been looking about town (Belfast) for somewhere to have a meal afterwards to celebrate with the family.

I’ve been round a few places (Yum looks like the favourite at the moment) and now Bourbon has been suggested. “Good idea!” I thought. I’ll just check their menu on their web site.

Unfortunately that’s easier said than done. It’s all fine until you hit the back button to go back from the Set Menu to the A la Carte one. You see the site is a wholesale abuse of Flash and it reminded me of an 8 year old article called Flash is Evil. The article may be getting on a bit, but every word’s as true now as it was then.

Flash has it’s uses and designing entire web sites (particularly web site navigation) is not one of them.

Vista Update

Following my earlier rant about the trial that is installing Vista with a Netgear wireless card, I thought I’d offer an update on that story.

Firstly, my new Linksys (WMP54G v4.1) wireless card is working fine.

Thanks Amazon.

Secondly, I updated the Windows Experience Index score just now. Still the same graphics card in the machine, so I don’t know how but suddenly my desktop graphics rating jumped from showing 2.1 to 4.1, pretty sweet! On viewing the details I also noticed that the graphics card apparently has 334MB of system memory available on top of the 256MB of dedicated RAM. I don’t know if this was the case before or not so can’t say if that influenced the change in score.

Anyway, this brings my overall Windows Experience Index up from 2.1 to 3.0, now based on the Gaming Graphics score (WEI bases your overall experience rating on the lowest score it finds). My system now looks like:

Processor (AMD Athlon 2800+): 3.4
RAM (1.5GB @ 266MHz): 3.7
Graphics (256MB eForce 6200): 4.1
Gaming Graphics: 3.0
Primary Hard Disk (Seagate 120GB 7200rpm): 4.4

Now if anyone can tell me of a Protowall/PeerGuardian substitute that works with Vista I’ll be sorted.

Server application unavailable: installing IIS on .NET 2.0

I feel so dirty, but for a project I’m working on at the moment I have to use ASP.NET instead of PHP; “why?” is a question for another day. Anyway, I’ve installed IIS before so that wasn’t a big problem… or so I thought.

I already had the .NET 2.0 framework on my XP machine so went straight to installing IIS (5.1 comes with XP Pro). It installed easily enough and my hello world html file was served without any major problems (actually that’s not true, before I copied my own files across I tried to check the IIS default pages served ok only to discover, through more googling, that if I used IE instead of Firefox that annoying box asking me for a password would go away).

Now my ASP.NET issue. I got a Server application unavailable error message in big red letters when I tried to run any .aspx (ASP.NET) scripts and couldn’ t figure ou

t for the life of me why. The Event Viewer, where IIS errors are logged, gave little more by way of help: Failed to initialize the AppDomain:/LM/W3SVC/1/ROOT

Err… What?! I worked out that it wasn’t affecting html pages, just ASP ones – and only .aspx ones at that, suggesting it was .NET-related.

As it turns out the problem was that I had installed .NET before IIS. It’s easy enough to fix, but it took 20 solid minutes of googling to find the solution in a Microsoft community newsgroup (and then realise that I’d have found it already if I’d just read to the bottom of a 4 year old forum post I’d already found).

Anyway, what you need to do if you’re getting this “Server application unavailable” message is navigate to your .NET directory (something like C:\WINDOWS\Microsoft.NET\Framework\v2.0.50727) in a command prompt and run the command aspnet_regiis.exe -i which will register ASP.NET with IIS. If that still doesn’t work, there’s always PHP.net 😉

BT Admits 21CN’s True Speed

Anyone who has read my previous posts here may have gleaned that I have a certain disdain for big companies over-hyping their own products. Having seen so many instances of BT coming so close to telling outright lies as makes no difference, I was understandably sceptical when I heard BT claims that their 21st Century Network (21CN) would give users broadband ADSL speeds of “up to 24MB/s.”

Sure enough, what do you know, it turns out I was rightly sceptical. Buried in a statement from BT’s CTO announcing that BT would not implement traffic shaping, was an admission that you would need to be practically in the exchange to achieve that kind of speed and a prediction that real speeds would be somewhere in the region of 8-12MB/s. So basically we’ll get roughly the speeds that BT (and other ISPs) have been telling us we can get for a year or more now

? Wow. That’s right up there with

From just £9.99 a month
£9.99 a month for first 6 months, £17.99 a month for the next 12

Don’t you just love marketers?

Installing Vista (AKA More Netgear WG311 Misery)

I managed to get a copy of the 32-bit Windows Vista Business from the MSDN Academic Alliance program through university and, after a RAM and graphics card upgrade, and a lot of moving of files to clear a partition for it, I was ready to install Vista. The installation itself went reasonably quickly. After about half an hour I was choosing desktops and playing with the control panel.

I was disappointed to notice that my initial Windows Experience Index (Microsoft’s measure of how pimped your PC is) was disappointing at 2.2, let down by poor graphics performance, considering I’d just spent about £40 on a new 256MB card from Dabs. Maybe it’s because I’m only running AGP4x, I don’t know. Anyway, Vista told me my system was rated as follows:

Processor (AMD Athlon 2800+): 3.4
RAM (1.5GB @ 266MHz): 3.7
Graphics (256MB eForce 6200): 2.2 4.1* – yay!
Gaming Graphics: 3.0
Primary Hard Disk (Seagate 120GB 7200rpm): 4.4

The first spot of trouble came as I tried to get my wireless connection going. The device manager was reporting my Netgear WG311 v3 present and correct, but it wasn’t picking up my network. Oh dear. Anyone familiar with my previous exploits with this card will probably guess I wasn’t very surprised by this.

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Northern Ireland Enters 21st Century

Let’s face it, our politics might be stuck in the 17th century, but Northern Ireland is going to be the first region of the UK to be fully covered by BT’s 21st Century Network, a plan to convert the Public Switched Telephone Network to system that uses IP for both voice and data. By 2010, all Northern Ireland’s exchanges (160 of them) will converge into 3 major hubs (2 in Belfast, 1 in Portadown) utilising the new technology.

According to SwitchedOnUK the line I’m on will be converted between April and June 2009, but what difference will it make to you and me? Well, the main one that jumps out is that maximum ADSL broadband speeds will jump from 8MB/s to 24 MB/s*. Presumably this will be a huge boost to BT’s plans for Video on Demand services among other applications. It will also allow businesses to wider use of more bandwidth intensive applications and hopefully set Northern Ireland up as a good place for them to be.

That said, some of the small print looks a bit worrying.

Broadband services will have a separate switched-on date … Some broadband services may remain on the old network and others will be switched-on to the new network over time.

I’m also not sure how much of the speed quoted is fact and how much is BT’s usual marketing ‘hype’ – remember, at the minute BT’s Northern Irish customers have access of “speeds up to 8MB/s” but many are limited to somewhere between 2 and 6. I’ve no idea if the new figure being bandied about is going to be an flat standard rate or a theoretical maximum.While I would like to think that in a major upgrade like this there would be a way to maximise the connection quality for everyone, regardless of distance from the hub/exchange, but this is BT we’re talking about. If I find out I’ll update this post accordingly. Thanks to KeithBlog for reminding me about this and

for links to more info.

Review: Why the Netgear WG311 v3 Sucks

I’ve had the WG311 wireless PCI card from Netgear since I initially set up my home wireless network a few months ago. In that time it has been no end of f**king trouble!!

The first problem I had was that on installation was that the connection would cut out inexplicably (the router was about 2 feet away through a plasterboard wall), but wouldn’t actually realise that it had been disconnected (either running the Netgear utility or the Windows Wireless Zero configuration, both seemed to think they were still connected despite the lack of traffic.

Fortunately I also had a nearly clean partition with Windows XP Pro installed, so I tried using it with that. Here it seemed ok, for a few hours anyway. It turned out it was suffering from the same problem, but it the connection lasted for 8-12 hours rather than 30-90 minutes.

I tried everything. I used the Netgear utility; upgraded the drivers to the latest version from the Netgear website (1.1 – despite well-known problems with Windows XP SP 2, they’ve only ever produced one revision); I disabled the Netgear utility and just used the Windows Wireless Zero Configuration (uninstalling and reinstalling the card between times to be doubly sure there was nothing left lurking on the system). Nothing seemed to work.

A Solution?

Eventually I downloaded the drivers provided by Marvell, the original manufacturers of the chipset for the v3 version of the WG311 (Netgear seem to bring out different, incompatible versions of the same card with chipsets from different manufacturers to allow them to shop around for parts- and you can’t usually choose which one you get when you buy, not that the previous versions of the WG311 were problem-free). Shock of shock, the Marvell drivers actually worked!! Netgear should just bundle them with the card instead of their own messed up piece of crap they call a ‘utility’.

Now all I had to worry about was the fact that since moving the PC with the WG311 in it to a different room, the signal was extremely weak and intermittent. Having little experience with wireless networks, I just assumed this was because, despite only being about 10 feet away, there were 3 plasterboard walls between the router and the PC. Still blaming the router, I was on the verge of ordering a stronger antenna when my brand spanking new laptop arrived and in the same room, it was getting a “Very Good” signal at 54 Mbps; imagine my pure rage!

So that’s that. After a few months of pain after pain in the ass with Netgear’s WG311 v3, I’ve given up and am planning to replace the card in the near future. What’s the point in a wireless network card that only works when its right beside the router?

If you’re having similar problems, you might find the Marvell drivers (MV-S800374-00.zip) useful. That said I make no warranty as to their usefulness, and Marvell probably won’t either since I can’t find a link to the file from their site. Use at your own risk.

Also, see this follow-up for the next chapter of my battle with the Netgear WG311v3.

BT / Netgem Iplayer+ Review

There are lots of patronising adverts on television telling us to ‘go digital’. A few years ago I decided to get a Digital Terrestrial Television (Freeview) box for my student house and plumped for the BT / Netgem Iplayer. I’ve now decided to generously share my thoughts on such product after a couple of years use; because that’s how nice I am.

A few years ago I purchased a (Netgem) BT Iplayer Freeview box (a returned sale) for £30 from ebay so I could get Freeview in my room in a student house in Belfast. Now, a couple of years on, I’ve decided to share my experience of this particular piece of kit.

From what I’d read on the subject on the internet, it seemed unlikely that the loop antenna on my TV wouldn’t be sufficient to receive DTT (Freeview), even though the iPlayer supposedly performed better than other boxes when there was a weak signal. I assumed my house would have poor reception (particularly in my downstairs room) so I also grabbed an amplified set-top aerial from Argos and was initially quite impressed with the quality of the picture and sound. In fact, aside from the fact that initially the EPG was only a now/next (see below), I would have been delighted.

Setting Up

The box immediately auto-tuned to pick up the available channels; the standard 5, plus ITV2, BBC Three and Four etc. The picture’s good, although subject to interference from mobile phones and cars outside (I blame that on the set-top aerial though). The on-screen display menus make it easy to configure your box the way you like it.

Features

The box itself is packed with features. Mine was the BT Iplayer, meaning that although it was manufactured by Netgem, it was BT-branded and came with different features, such as on-screen caller ID when plugged into your phone line, at the expense of a Top-Up TV slot (which wasn’t a problem as I wouldn’t waste my money on Topup TV anyway). Other than that the boxes were nearly identical, and thanks to a subsequent software upgrade (downloaded through the box’s built-in modem) I now have a Topup TV-capable “Iplayer+” (complete with 7-day EPG) anyway.

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