SeniorNet UK – PC Clinics

After a number of months of inactivity, we are working towards to holding a number of PC Clinics.

These will be ‘open’ events where you can bring along your ‘problem’ device and we’ll have a look at it and see if we can solve the problem that you’re having. Devices could include, Laptops, Tablets, Smartphones.

Depending on what the problem is and possible time to resolve it, we may ask you to make a contribution to cover our costs of the day. Of course there may be some problems that we can’t overcome during this ‘open’ clinic, but we’ll try and point you in the right direction to get your problem resolved.

By the way, will need to ensure that you have backed up your data prior to us examining the device. If you don’t understand what that is about, we’ll happily explain on the day.

Lastly, we won’t be doing any home visits at this stage, but more of that in a later post.

We are hoping to hold our first PC Clinic in late February/early March and it will be in the Reading area, exact location to be confirmed.

Keep an eye on this website for further news.

My ISP Broadband Speed – Update

I’ve now been running the SamKnows Broadband Performance monitoring software for over 3 months, that’s long enough to see that there is a very good pattern of consistency to the speed (and other aspects) that BT is delivering to this part of Reading through their Infinity network.

It’s still below what they advertise and I think they could deliver, but that’s a discussion that I have had with them that I don’t think is ever going to change. Considering that this is for non-fibre optic connection to their nearest Infinity distribution box, I suppose can’t expect more, after all a pair of copper cables can only do so much.

Anyway, here is the latest snapshot of the SamKnows dashboard, I’ve run this from start date, May 15th through to today. Lets hope this quality continues for the future.

Latest BT-ISP Infinity Performance Figures
Latest BT-ISP Infinity Performance Figures


My ISP – Broadband Monitoring Survey

I have been monitoring my ISP Broadband speed for a number of years now and up until last month have been collecting the data manually, using a spreadsheet for collation and screen snapping an image to post into another blog. As you will see from my posted May 2013 figures below, much remains the same in that I am still maintaining a steady 32Mb (average) download speed.

But is there anything else that I could be checking that might be helpful?

I have used part of the Sam Knows website for many years as they have always seemed to be the one with the most up to date information about exchange configuration changes and service availability.

In early May they emailed me and asked if I would like to participate in their Broadband Performance Monitoring Survey which allows them to build a UK wide picture of the sorts of broadband performance that we are getting from our Internet Service Providers.

To participate in the survey, you will need to install a ‘white-box’ in between your broadband socket and your router, the ‘white-box’ (mine is actually black) monitors the technical side of your connections performance – not what you are looking at or what files you are sending (we can leave that to GCHQ & the NSA!! Just kidding) and keeps track of a set of figures which can be reviewed via a dashboard or via monthly reports that are sent to you. Does this interfere with your connection performance? No, look at my figures.

The screen snap below shows the main dashboard display, which as you can see shows that the average download speed is much the same as I have been gathering via my ‘handraulic’ method, these figures are from first use in May till today.

What is also included in this dashboard view are figures that show Website Load Times, Latency & Packet Loss all of which will affect your on-line browsing experience.

A word about each of these…

  • Website Load Times – This test emulates that process and shows the average time in seconds of how long a selection of popular web sites took to load. Note that results may vary according to changes in the websites being visited. The lower the figure is a better loading speed. For example, you may have a download speed of 32MB, but if the ‘distant’ website can’t serve out the pages very fast, no amount of download speed will help the page load faster.
  • Latency – This can effectively be thought of as the responsiveness of the connection between your home and servers out on the Internet. Times are recorded in milliseconds. The lower the figure is better.
  • Packet Loss – Some broadband providers have been known to suffer high packet loss at peak times. If this is the case for your ISP, then you may find that time sensitive applications such as Voice over IP (VoIP) and on-line gaming will suffer. Packet loss is recorded here as a percentage, The lower the figure is better.

There are other performance figures that can be obtained simply by altering the dashboard look.

Sam Knows will also send along a monthly report showing the main points of performance and if there are any issues, which can then be forwarded to your ISP if required.

For disclosure purposes, SeniorNet UK does not receive any fee’s from SamKnows. However, I would encourage everyone to sign up and participate in this survey.

Let us know how you get on and if you have issues with your ISP broadband connect.

Picture Backups

We had to help someone last week to recover all of their pictures from a broken computer disc in their laptop. Luckily for the person involved, the disc was not physically damaged, they had just accidentally deleted them, but had then emptied the Waste Bin for good measure! A total of 2,800 pictures potentially lost.

Of course the first question we asked was to use their back-up to make a restore. The silence was very loud! No only had they not backed-up up any of their pictures, they had tried to reinstall Windows as this was what they had been told was required by a helpful friend! Luckily, they had failed to complete the reinstall for what ever reason and after the Laptop refused to boot, they called us.

After a short while we had found their pictures on the disc, got them back in the right place and made a backup onto a spare disc that we have and smiles abounded.

As we have said a number of times here and on our previous site – Back Up Your Data. Small, by that we mean physically, USB disc drives can be purchased for as little as £50.00 and are big enough – storage wise to cope with most laptop discs that are around today.

We’re going to look into Back-Ups again here on SeniorNet UK as there is also the ongoing discussions about using Cloud based backups and whether you still need to keep a physical copy locally – by the way, we think you should.

But in the meantime here is another new player PictureLife that offer Cloud base storage of your picture content with access from anywhere, anytime. We did not look at this one in our recent Cloud Storage post, but we will have a more detailed review at their offering and some others and let you know in another post.

In the meantime, please Back Up your data, somewhere.

Better User Interfaces

Making the User Experience More Enjoyable – Better User Interfaces

As we all know, as you get older, your eyesight does not always stay the same as when younger – I changed my close-up work glasses twice in the past three years!

Poor eyesight is also one of those areas that may affect Seniors when using Tablet, Smartphone and PC screens, In a recent report the research firm IDC suggested that 2013 will see more Smartphones sold worldwide than traditional feature phones. If you add to that, the fact of the ever rising take-up of Internet use by the over 50s, then it’s clear we will see a focused Senior Smartphone/Tablet market emerging with some rapid growth attached to it.

Doro, a Swedish telecommunications company is hoping to help Seniors with better computer based User Interfaces and has come up with a number of products to do just that. With Smartphone, Tablet and PC offerings the Doro Experience aims to make some of the tasks that we all take for granted, much easier for Seniors to complete.

We have not tested any of Doro’s products, but they look very interesting. Of course there are other companies that are also completing in the same market place, so you should not take this post as any kind of recommendation. However, we think that we will see more of the these types of products with manufactures looking to capture more share of a growing Seniors, technically savvy marketplace.

We’re going to look into these ‘tailored’ interfaces in another post and see which offer the most capabilites and at the end of the day are the easiest to use for Seniors.