Shaped! Oh the humanity!

My Internet access account got shaped on Sunday afternoon, for the last day-and-a-half of the billing cycle, as we apparently burnt through 30 Gb (peak) in the month. No big deal — it may just mean Youtube is unbearably slow for 36 hours, and I’ll have to curb my practice of having lots of browser tabs all doing stuff at once.

On poking around in the account, I find that Netspace has again upgraded its plans without telling anybody — in fact following iiNet’s takeover of Netspace, they’ve aligned with iiNet’s plans. For the same price as I’m getting 30Gb peak+45 Gb off-peak (midnight to 7am), I could be getting 50 and 50 (with different off-peak hours: 2am to 8am).

I think even the shaped speed has been upgraded, from 56 kbps to 256 kbps. And it offers quota-free access to a bunch of sites in the iiNet FreeZone — including ABC iView. Neato.

There’s a gotcha in the small print: Uploads and downloads are counted towards the monthly quota on all current plans — the existing plan I’m on only counts downloads.

Normally it would be expected that uploads would be much less than downloads, but I don’t know what my upload traffic is like. Maybe my modem/router knows, but I don’t see the option anywhere to tell me. Netgear DG834G — anybody know?

Still, it’s unlikely to be anywhere close to 30Gb down+20Gb up… so I might switch anyway.

(Some people are raving about TPG’s unlimited $59.95 plan. It would cost me a connection fee, but worth looking into… though I don’t know if I could meet the system requirements. Apparently you need a PC with something called a 3.5″ 1.44MB diskette drive, and their support is limited to Win 98 Second Edition, 2000, ME and XP only.)

Update: I decided to go ahead and switch plans. Given the new plan includes uploads in the quota, the Usage tool is now quoting my total downloads and uploads.

Period/Classification Downloads Uploads Total
Normal Traffic – Peak 31240 Mb 16559 Mb 47799 Mb
Normal Traffic – Off Peak 2742 Mb 11320 Mb 14062 Mb

IP (v4) addresses have run out

In the 90s, phone numbers were going to run out if we didn’t take the plunge and switch from nine digit 0x-xxx-xxxx numbers to ten digit 0x-xxxx-xxxx numbers. The telecommunications industry (led by… was it Austel?) got everybody switched over okay.

(In the US, they decided not to expand the number of digits for local numbers, instead using multiple area codes per city. New York City for instance has five different area codes. Which I assume means you’d increasingly have to dial (xxx) xxx-xxxx to make a local call. Confusing.)

Now IP addresses are in short supply.

The Number Resource Organization (NRO) announced today that the free pool of available IPv4 addresses is now fully depleted. On Monday, January 31, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) allocated two blocks of IPv4 address space to APNIC, the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) for the Asia Pacific region, which triggered a global policy to allocate the remaining IANA pool equally between the five RIRs. Today IANA allocated those blocks. This means that there are no longer any IPv4 addresses available for allocation from the IANA to the five RIRs.

Free Pool of IPv4 Address Space Depleted

It’s happened because of a huge expansion in IP addresses allocated to everything from home computers to laptops to portable devices to fridges. Technologies such as NAT help share the addresses around (for instance all the computers in your house sharing a single IP address visible to the world, allocated to your router/modem), and will be important at least until the switch is made to the new standard.

The problem is it’s not so easy to get everyone to switch from the old standard, IPv4 (eg 123.456.789.012), to the new one, IPv6, which has a lot more capacity.

Newer computer operating systems cope fine with the new standard. If I “ping localhost” (eg ping my own computer) it doesn’t tell me it’s looking at the old familiar IPv4 address of 127.0.0.1, but instead calls it [::1].

Pinging IPv6 vs IPv4

Pinging it by name (Tintin) gives me the full IPv6 address. But pinging anything out there on the internet gives me the old IPv4 address. [See picture]

Part of the problem is, as Wikipedia notes:

Because the headers of IPv4 packets and IPv6 packets are significantly different, the two protocols are not interoperable.

I assume that means that for a switchover, every device, including all the routers and modems and equipment at ISPs and elsewhere on the network, needs to make the transition across to the new standard.

It’s likely to be invisible to consumers, who will continue to use domain names (eg example.com) rather than IP addresses, but it could get messy for geeks having to implement the changes.

Perhaps, unlike phone numbers, it takes the old addresses running out to force the switch to happen.

Update: Computerworld has an article comparing where different Australian carriers are up to in adopting IPv6.

ISP shopping

I’m ISP shopping.

I’d been considering it anyway, as I’m still using ye olde ADSL1, and in the past couple of years, ADSL2+ has become available in my neck of the woods.

I’ve been using my current ISP, Netspace, for about 7 years, I think. Over that time they’ve been pretty reliable, but not without fault.

My two major beefs with them have been:

  • Every so often they’ll revise their plans, and a new plan which is cheaper and better will start up. But they don’t upgrade their customers; they don’t even mention it. Unless you go looking to see what the latest offer is, you wouldn’t see that you could change and get more bandwidth and a lower monthly fee.
  • In an outage, the authoritative place to check the network status is their Newsdesk page. But that’s not accessible from mobile phones; at least not my mobile phone — in part because it’s behind a logon screen which doesn’t seem to work in some phone browsers. So you have to be at a computer, connected to the net to find out why you can’t access the net. (Or of course you could waste time ringing them up to check.)

Reliability on Netspace took a battering this week, when the service went down on Tuesday morning and stayed down all morning, coming back up after lunch. There was another, shorter outage in the evening, and again on Wednesday afternoon. This wouldn’t bug me normally very much, but I was working from home on Tuesday, and had a bunch of stuff to get done.

I ended up getting a “tethered” connection via my mobile phone. Surprisingly easy with the N95, using Nokia PC Suite, though it drained the battery pretty fast. I don’t have any kind of data plan on the phone, so it could get quite expensive if done on a regular basis, but the connection was rock solid, and fast.

So anyway I’m ISP shopping.

The two that were recommended by the most people: iiNet and Internode.

Internode get a good rap from a lot of people, though it looks like they can’t give me ADSL2+, only ADSL1 or “Fast ADSL”. A speed upgrade would end up costing me a fair bit more than I’m paying now.

In contrast, with iiNet I may end up paying just marginally more, but for more bandwidth and a much faster connection:

ISP Current: Netspace
ADSL1: 1500k/256kbps
iiNet
ADSL2+: Up to 24000kbps
Cost 30 Gb (15 peak+15 off-peak)
$59.95/month
Shaped. Off-peak is midnight-7am
60 Gb (30 peak+30 off-peak) $49.95
Shaped. Off-peak is 2am-8am
Pros Pretty reliable in the past Network status publicly available
Cool advertising
Free content including ABC iView
They’re fighting the good fight
Cons Not reliable this week
Status page hidden behind logon
Dunno. Anyone know?
Phone Telstra Homeline Budget Phone 1
Cost $21.95/month
Unlisted number $2.93/month
Caller ID $6/month
$29.95/month
Unlisted number $2.93/month
Caller ID $6/month
Call cost Local 30 cents Local 20 cents
Total
inc 30 local calls/month
$91.83 $94.83

I haven’t looked at setup costs (including a new modem), cancellation fees, or costs of non-local calls, since I hardly ever make any on my home phone.

What’s been stopping me? Inertia, until this week. And perhaps fear of losing my connection for a few days.

I know this is like asking everybody what car is best, but has anybody got any comments? Any drawbacks to this plan?

Any other contenders who have fast ADSL/2+ in Bentleigh?

(Whirlpool says other companies with ADSL2+ DSLAMs installed at the Bentleigh exchange are Primus, TPG and Telstra. I notice Highway1 uses iiNet’s DSLAM; once upon a time circa 1996, they kindly hosted Toxic Custard.)

Update: Clarification thanks to Twitter people: Internode’s “Fast ADSL” is in fact up to ADSL2+ speeds, re-selling access from Telstra. So it would be just as fast as iiNet’s ADSL2+, but is more expensive, about double the price.

Update Mon 8/2/2010: I certainly can’t complain that Netspace ignore their customers’ concerns — they’ve been in touch to discuss things. Will post an update when the dust settles.