Blog Archives

Few Updates Recently

Few Updates for Several Months

Regular readers of this blog may be wondering why there’s been so few new posts in the past several months…

The reasons for our tardiness are two-fold: First of all I’ve been relocating my home and business to Aston Bay in the Eastern Cape. Secondly – blame the latest versions of WordPress, and above all the new text editor (TinyMCE 4.*).


What is Data Shaping

Internet Access Data Shaping

Internet access data shaping, also known as “packet shaping” and “traffic shaping” is the method used by some Internet Service Providers providers to limit certain types of internet data traffic. The internet provider may impose data shaping for several reasons, the most common being insufficient network capacity; nearly always a result of the “profit motive”  – ISPs oversell capacity and try to load as many paying customers on to a network as possible, to grab extra profit from the limited resources.

Internet service providers will seldom admit their sole reason for data shaping is profit, they will usually tell clients they regulate  network data transfer rates to assure a certain level of performance or quality of service (QoS) for all clients. Whether or not their data shaping adversely affects these same clients is of little consequence except in a highly competitive market.

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International Telecommuting Challenges

The Challenges of Telecommuting Internationally

telecommuting internationally iconModern information and communication technology introduced a new era in the way we work. It promised a new era where we could work from anywhere, no matter where in the world our office is located, or where in the world our customers came from.  For some of us at least the this new era has arrived.

For others, the promise of telecommuting is only partly realised.

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Is Your Website Slow

Website Slow – Look to Your Server

slow website cartoon imageWhen we find problems with our website speed, we look at our website system – Right? We (those of us on shared hosting anyway) have been conditioned by our service providers to think whenever our sites are running slow, it’s our code that’s the problem, not the server provided by the hosting company the site is running on.

Well, sometimes it is. But then again, often it’s not.

When is it the Server?

There are some circumstances when the server is nearly always the problem. Let’s look at some clues:

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Is MWEB a Spammers Haven?

MWEB IPs used by Spammers and Hackers

mweb spam ips icon

Checking an IP record for after noticing a minor offence this morning – the ubiquitous and quite stupid practice of adding “/undefined” to the end of actual URLs – brought up a list of IPs in the neighbourhood. All the IP’s included below belong to MWEB. ( IP lookup records.)

MWEB, a South African Internet Service Provider, has previously had IP’s under their control listed in several databases as a source of spam e-mails. According to Project Honeypot  a range of IP’s managed by MWEB is (or was) used by Spammers and Dictionary Attackers.

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Mobile Data Crunch (and Costs)

Data Bundle Overload: End to Free Mobile Data

data bundlesIt looks like mobile data users at the Southern tip of Africa are not the only ones looking at paying high prices for data bundles (or buckets as they are known in some locales). The USA is joining the trend of charging for mobile data. Down South we have never known the privilege of free mobile data, having some of the highest data cost per GB in the world – at least when compared to first world civilisation.

The Data Crunch

The end of free mobile data is no real surprise. The RF frequencies used to carry this traffic are limited in capacity, new compression technology can only go so far to reduce the load on these channels. Urguably more frequencies could be made available, however these would have to be in higher frequency bands than are currently used. Increasing RF frequency brings it’s own problems – higher frequencies (into the  mid and high Ghz region) suffer more loss from inclement weather signal absorption from structures, components cost more, and we have to consider the human health related dangers of microwave radiation.

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Internet and Time Wasted

Three Weeks of Internet Frustration

Network SwitchThat’s my lot these past three weeks; the net has been bad. Latency rate high, intermittent connections, slow, frustrating. And of course work is piling up.  These past weeks have been a battle – even writing a post for this blog has been a trial of persistence. Even the WordPress auto-save function has been affected.

Maybe it’s over; Yesterday was not to bad, today I haven’t been disconnected once, yet!

A Nationwide Concern

It’s not only me – South African internet has been bad everywhere. And of course the people managing the service causing the bottleneck are saying nothing. What I have been able to deduce using the internet tools available, is the Telkom ADSL network has been the cause. At some point 99% of all local internet traffic is carried by Telkom for part of the route. The ADSL routers have been dropping up to 100% of data packets, a fact I mentioned a week ago in an article on (Telkom Internet Routing Causing Problems).

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8ta 3G Modem Issue Resolved

Recurring problem with 8ta 3G Modem

I have previously enthused over the 3G service package from 8ta Telkom South Africa, but mentioned one problem with the modem or software in my 1st month use review.

“the application has a tendency to ‘freeze’. It shows it is connected, but other apps, e.g. browsers and mail clients cannot connect to the net. A manual disconnection just leaves the modem reporting it is disconnecting, and cannot be closed without using Task Manager to force a close”

At the time of posting the article I mentioned I suspected it was something to do with my system, not the modem or the software.

“This may be a purely local issue with the PC in use”

Finally got round to sort out a few things for myself that have been left for ages.

Huawei Modem Instability  fixed

Huawei E1820 3G Modem
Huawei E1820 3G Modem

The Huawei E1820 Modem software app was uninstalled, and the modem moved to a rear panel USB port, instead of the front panel port it had been plugged into initially…

Additionally, the no longer used modem drivers and software (for the previous Voda service modem) were removed from the system.

End result – modem has been completely stable now for 8 days – more than 100 hours of connection time.

Possibly the older Voda software drivers were causing the problem, more likely the Huawei E1820 prefers the USB2 port it now inhabits (the front panel ports are USB1). Better still, it is now connected to a USB cable, whereas when using the front port, it would only work plugged directly in to the socket – suspect a power availability issue there

A local system problem only

The conclusion must be drawn that the 8ta 3G modem problem was purely a local machine problem and not anything wrong with the hardware or software. The service remains in my view the best value mobile connectivity option available in South Africa at present.

8ta Review 1st month

30 Days with 8ta8ta still gets a yes

And no complaints

The service has been reliable, and fast enough to make the net a pleasure rather than an irritating wait while files download.


There were a few periods of network downtime, although mostly these were in the early hours of the morning, around 00h30, when most users will have been asleep, and on one occasion, several hours during business time, but this affected Vodacom service as well, so was likely a local service tower, or network issue common to several operators. (The past 60 days has seen more than its usual share of internet network issues, with several hosting service providers also experiencing un-scheduled downtime – software upgrades, security upgrades, virus attacks? I’ve been too busy with other things to do the research – perhaps someone knows!)

Speed is good:

(Remember this is more often than not limited by the connection speed of the serving machine, not the service connectivity speed). Downloads up to 10.2 Mbps and surprisingly, UPLOADS of up to 3.2 Mbps which was Speed trapping in Johannesburgtotally unexpected.

Comparing to the Vodacom 3G service I used for some 4 years: With Voda – Best download speed EVER; 3.2 Mbps but more regularly less than 2Gbps even from known FAST servers. Best upload speed in 4 years of use; 750kbps, more usually 250kbps (all numbers rounded off)

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8ta 3G package First 24 hrs

8ta 3G package – The first 24 hours:8ta 3G checkmarked image

So Far so Good: We took up the 10GB/ promo offer yesterday: Initial impressions: Very Good!

Answering the first question raised: (See 8ta Challenges…) regarding ‘Shaping’; It is confirmed that the data is unshaped, quote “Use as you want”. So with one of the most important aspects acceptable, it was all systems go for the take-on.

The Sign-Up Experience:

Thanks to ‘David’ one of the 8ta consultants at Telkom Clearwater branch office, who proved knowledgeable, professional and friendly, the process was smooth and as pleasant as filling in documents can be. First off, David checked to make sure our premises fell within the existing coverage area (Most of SA metropolitan areas are covered at this time). Then 2 paper documents needed to be completed, and the rest was all done online. The sign up experience gets a definite ‘Thumbs Up’. Thanks David!


Plug and Play – Plugging the new Huawei E1820 Modem into a free USB port, Huawei E1820 Modemit auto-ran and within a few minutes was installed and working, not even requiring a Windows re-start to complete the process (Although a restart is recommended after adding new software or hardware).

The only hiccup was of my own doing, as initially I used the same USB port that was seen by windows as the 3G connection for a Vodacom modem, and that caused a conflict. So just use a USB socket that hasn’t been used for any other 3G modem, and no problems can be anticipated.

Another point to note: The modem did not like the USB cable I used… and needed to be plugged directly into the socket. But I suspect this is due to the cable – an old thin one that was the first at hand, not anything else. (I will ‘dig out’ a better quality cable and try that.)

9540kbpsSPEED TEST:

The first speed test (A 26MB download from Google’s Server); Speed up to 9540kbps. Looking good.

Second test, conducted this morning at 08h45 SAST. Download of Windows XP Service Pack 3 network installation package. 6 Minutes and a few seconds for 312MB. at up to more than 10000 kbps.

So clearly 8ta is not compromising speed with this promotional package.

NOTE: Speed depends on the modem used. Older and slower modems will not deliver the maximum! High speed modems are available at good prices from 8ta.

In Summary:

After the first day, I am sufficiently satisfied to conclude: This package is good value for money and so far has worked well. On that basis, and because this is a limited time price promotion, I will recommend it to anyone looking for a decent amount of data, and a fast internet connection.

For Now, Telkom and 8ta get a THUMBS-UPThumbs Up Smiley

Mike Otgaar