My thoughts on packet shaping by ISP

It is not unknown that there are providers (including mine) that shape the packets, especially the micro packets that are used by p2p networks, such as Skype, Torrent Clients, Usenet, and others. Their excuse of course is that they have a specific amount of bandwidth available, and with everybody using the internet there are peak hours. And to ensure that everybody can use it, they have to do this traffic shaping so more important content gets delivered quicker, as a better experience for everybody. Sure, that does sound reasonable. But it is not.

The world is not made out of sending an email and loading a web site. We talk for hours on Skype with 10 people, we have meetings, we have fun discussions. We support the open source community by sharing what we download, such as linux distributions or podcasts. We buy content from iTunes and Amazon such as TV, Movies, and Music. We read eBooks and we chat with others on IRC and other IM clients, and discuss current affairs with attachments on Usenet / BBS / Social Networks. We have our own web sites, we have blogs, we have data such as images on Flickr and what not.. all in all, additional data that also is as important as a stupid email with another LOLCAT from mom or dad – which, we already read about on social networks, etc.

So .. why punish one group of people, who are the now generation of the internet and give priority to the old generation? Because in my eyes, it’s just that! Well, the answer is businesses. They do not use p2p, voip, usenet, etc and agree that it is probably used by only pirates (see above paragraph to see that isn’t the case). And they are the ones that pay the big bills to the providers. Business accounts, data centers, hosting providers, etc make good money from their corporate and enterprise clients, and they have their customers that do not think and just google and email that are the majority of their customers. So, waiting for a slow email is not an option. Slow down the rest, so it can come through and everybody has a guaranteed speed.


No. NO !@! NO@!# ffs! NO

Not right. They guarantee a speed, you have a contract with the provider that they promise to, at all times, do their best to provide you with the products and services you buy from them. This does not say or mean: Knowingly shaping the traffic so you take longer to get what you need, at a lower speed.

Think about it like this, and feel free to tell me why I am wrong:

If you buy a bread at a bakery for an x amount you get a full bag of slices of bread, which for example, are around 19 or 20 slices. You understand, they guarantee you a full bag, but depending on what’s available or how it was offered, you might get 18, 19, or 20, or 21 slices.

Now .. Imagine you go around breakfast time, where it is quite busy in the bakery and you pay for a full bag again for the same x amount. You look at the bag, it has around 19 or 20 slices. You smile and pay the bill, then you go home and open the bag. And look! Every third slice is only half the size.

You go back to the bakery and inquire why. They say that due to traffic hours they have to ensure everybody gets bread. So as a result they remove every 4th slice, or cut every 3rd slice in half. Everybody still gets a full bag, and everybody pays for it. And everybody walks home happy. Eating the same amount might mean you have to go back and get more, but it takes a bit longer.

So, are you happy paying the same amount, for getting less?

I rather have them be honest. And advertise their services (and stick to it) in such a manner:

– Pay X per month, get 12 Mbit guaranteed, speeds can go up to 24mbit.

Rather than:

– Pay X per month, get 24Mbit (up until reasonable due to techn. limits). But without letting you know at various unknown times during the day, and this might increase over time, we shape your traffic and you only get 50% or worse.

The same goes for the time: Let me know when you have your traffic hours. I will keep it in mind and work around it. So I can get full speed, and you get less stress during traffic hours.

The same goes for traffic limit: Do not tell me unlimited, but apply a fair use. And each month it is a risk. Tell me a cap of 250 GB or something reasonable, and we can keep it in mind, and schedule when we download someting.

Transparency is important. Vague sales terms are misleading.

Am I unhappy with my ISP? No. Not at all. I pay my bill, I have a certain internet behavior, but it is horrible to experience VOIP going bad, downloading slowing down, etc, while paying for a full account with no limits.


Getting Finances In Order

Through the last summer and especially the last few months I’ve had a bit of a rough spot when it comes to my finances. And I won’t go into detail to ensure that I won’t bore anybody with the specifics, but .. now that the holidays are over it’s time to revisit my pile of bills and my small pile of income. Since it’s January 1st today I guess this could be my new resolutions. Getting my financing in order.


Rebuilding The Office

Over the last six months I have spend quite a bit of time and money into updating my home entertainment system and my little office. Changes included upgrading my internet service provider account and purchase new hardware, and most recently replacing a few ugly wooden planks with a new, more shiny, bigger one. And there is more to come.

Let’s just call the computer room the office because it is from this room that I connect to the Internet using a dedicated workstation. And with dedicated I mean a computer system that does not change location, unlike the Powerbook which I move around with. I use the system as a hobby-, work-, and game station. It is nice to have a room like this and as work location where I can sit down and dedicate myself to doing work, and not be distracted by other things- keeping it separate from my living room. And if this office space is something I need to escape from I just pick up the Powerbook and continue what I was doing from my couch, dinner table, balcony or even from bed – or put it in my backpack and visit friends or family and Internet from there, or in their garden, wherever.

About a year ago I was on analogue television from UPC, had analogue phone from KPN and a small consumer broadband account from Chello. The costs were about EUR120 a month, and this did not even include the costs for placing phone calls. The Internet connection was around 2 to 4 megabit down-, and about 512 kilobit upstream. The TV had a limited amount of channels and the phone didn’t include any free services like voice mail or caller id. And I needed to save money to pay for increased bills and because I wanted to purchase new hardware like good speaker set or other computer parts, or just something like a whiteboard for the office. Earlier this year the UPC services changed their policy and offered a more expansive but more realistic broadband and introduced free upgrades to VOIP phone accounts and cheap introductions and upgrades to digital TV, etc. I looked into it and realized that upgrading my accounts actually saves me quite a bit each month. Currently I have a 20 megabit down-, and 2 megabit upstream internet broadband account with no traffic limit. Free VOIP phone account and almost 50% cheaper per minute costs for calling. Oh, and the VOIP has free calls between 19:00 and 07:00. And I now have digital TV with 120+ digital channels. All in one UPC account for EUR80 a month. And the costs for calling is around EUR5 if I make a lot of calls during the daytime. This saves me at least 50 a month. And in return I have better services like a faster Internet connection.

From the money I saved I purchase a few new things. Like a Logitech z-2300 THX certified 2.1 speaker set. Which was intented to be used with the Powerbook and PC, but after trying it out on my digital topset mediabox I am now using it dedicated for my TV system. Hopefully at the end of the year I have some money left over again to buy another set, perhaps investing now in a 5.1 surround system for the computers.

The other week my father helped me rebuild parts of my office. I starting with removing all my hardware and furniture, and cleaning the place up a bit. And we borrowed a big strong drill from the neighbors to drill some holes in the concrete walls where I needed to hang up some paintings, a plank and my new whiteboard. We put the whiteboard up and went to purchase the plank and placed the paintings on the wall again. In the meantime we also worked on repositioning a lamp in the livingroom. My two IKEA tables are back in the office again and the computer systems back in place. The electricity has been taken care off and there are less wires lying around and things like that.

The whiteboard was worth the money, I am using it daily now for planning and todo lists and whatnot. If you haven’t bought one yet, get one now. As great as a pen and paper might be. The whiteboard is easy and within reach. Easy to fix mistakes and helps with writing out an idea using different colored markers without running out of paper. And in the end I use Omnigraphl on the Mac if I need to share the idea and make it look pretty. No – some people might who swear by it, not me.

The next step is to actually clean and fix the PC but before I can do that I have to install a secure program on the Mac where I can collect all my passwords etc for reference. Otherwise if I format the PC and I forget to do that I will have a lot of trouble restoring all my access. I use hard to guess and remember passwords for every different login I have. And I have a big list of software licenses that have been purchased online, things like that. Right now the PC boots again so step 1 has been completed. And the Mac has been set up this week with SVN and Apache2, PHP and MySQL behind a secure setup. And the data from my PC ‘localhost’ have been moved to the Mac’s ‘localhost’. However, this week I won’t have time as I have to work quite a bit for vBulletin and my own web site – and I will not be home as much as I am now in the next few weeks, occupied with other events. The finalizing of the office and PC have to wait until the end of the month, unless I find some time inbetween.

I know, all in all it is not much. But I usually only do things in the house when I feel comfortable with doing them, and when I feel I have the time and motivation to do them. Little steps, improving each time, and eventually it will be like I want it to be. And right now I am quite happy with the improvements and progress.

Plans for the future are getting a new computer system as the current PC is breaking down, and 64 bit 4 quad is around the corner and I need a data storage server, and a media box and a switch to improve internal network speed and have access for when more people come over. But more about that in a future blog entry.

When I am done with the whole little office setup and the PC is fixed and put in place I will take some pictures and put them up.

Be well,