Archive for March, 2021

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To fibre, or not to fibre, that is the question

March 19, 2021

OK, I’ll come clean. I already have fibre broadband. That’s FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet). Then the connection from the cabinet on the corner of my street to my house is copper wire multiplexed over my phone landline.

My ISP (Sky) offers a maximum speed of 80Mbps (mega BITS per second), and when I test it with a computer hard-wired to the router I get all of that.

But there’s a chap with a digger making a hole in the pavement outside my house.

He’s a contractor working for Swish Fibre, which is installing an entirely different sort of fibre broadband. This is FTTP (Fibre to the Premises). This means fibre all the way to my house with a potential maximum speed of 1Gbps. I could get the basic 400Mbps version, 5x faster than my current broadband, for not much more a month than I’m currently paying Sky.

Fibre to the premises…



There are, however, some questions which I’m pondering.

Do I still need a landline?

My existing Sky broadband includes an analogue phone line. Of course it does, because it’s the copper wire that connects me to the phone network which also carries the broadband signal from the cabinet to my home. Do I still need a landline? Probably not. I was getting approximately 20 times more scam calls than genuine ones, although Sky Talk Shield has done a brilliant job of stopping those. I think we currently get no more than three landline phone calls a week.

Could I get those people to call our mobiles instead? Yes, I could, and that would solve the problem of the scam calls.

Can I use the extra bandwidth?

At the moment I’m using PowerLine adapters, rated at 500Mbps – which IRL actually means 50-65Mbps. This is OK, it’s almost the full broadband bandwidth. But what’s the point of increasing my broadband connection to 400Mbps if I’m throttling it to 50Mbps internally?

So I’m now debating, do I lash out £200 on some 2000Mbps Powerline adapters which might get much closer to 400Mbps, but I won’t know until I install them? Or do I embark on chasing plaster and drilling walls and installing an internal Cat6 Ethernet network to actually make use of the higher bandwidth?

Do I need this at all?

Or do I admit that, now I’m largely retired, 50Mbps is plenty, and I just stick with FTTC from Sky? In which case I might lash out on some new PowerLine adapters just to get the full 80Mbps over my existing network. Now that seems like an easy way to improve my broadband speed without getting building dust everywhere…

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Lack of vision in Apple design

March 3, 2021

Prompted by a question on Quora, I went into a rant about the connectivity, or lack of it, on new MacBooks and the incompatibility of different Apple devices. This is an edited version of my answer.

Today I forgot my Macbook charger, and was only able to charge it with my friend’s Android charger, not my iPhone charger. Isn’t it ironic? Don’t people find that Apple lacks coherence?

I agree with you. Apple probably makes money from this situation by selling its own connectors and adapters, and it maintains control over its “walled garden”. 

I find the incompatibility of USB C with Lightning connectors infuriating. It suggests to me a lack of vision from the company, and hints at silo thinking from the design and product management teams. But it does explain why you get a Lightning to USB C cable with a new iPhone – it’s so you can connect the phone to your Mac. Apple’s assuming you already own a charger from your previous phone, so you can carry on using your old chargers with their old USB A to Lightning connectors to charge the phone.

I currently use a Late 2013 MacBook Pro. It has two USB 3 ports, two Thunderbolt/miniDisplayPort ports, a 3.5mm audio socket (which also outputs optical digital audio) an HDMI port and an SD card socket. It also has a MagSafe 2 power connector. It still works perfectly, and I love it, but it’ll be out of support later this year.

2013 MacBook Pro 13″ Retina showing HDMI and SD card sockets

One of the major things that has stopped me upgrading to a new MacBook Pro is the poor connectivity on the new models. With only two USB C ports, one of which you have to use for power, buying the equivalent new model would force me to buy an expensive dock connector, just to replicate some of what I’ve already got.

I understand Apple’s trying to make the new MacBooks as light, and thin, as possible, but in my view this is a triumph of design over utility. I would happily sacrifice a few grams and a couple of millimetres of thickness to avoid having to carry around an expensive bag of adapters that collectively weigh more than the power supply!

I mourn the demise of the MagSafe power connection and the SD card socket. I realise not many people were using the optical digital output – but I do, and I will miss it. I also resent being forced to buy yet another expensive adapter – USB C to 3.5mm – to use my headset. I already own a Lightning to 3.5mm adapter so I can use it on my iPhone!

And, as you suggest, the incompatibility of the ports on a MacBook with the port on an iPhone really rankles. 

Come on Apple, let’s see either a coherent and rational explanation for your choice of ports and connectors, or alternatively some signs of joined-up thinking in product design.