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Groogle

This page refers to the first attempt I made to use Telstra's “Big Pond” wireless to connect to the Internet in September 2007. It lasted about 5 months. Since then I have tried again and run into many of the same problems.

After moving to Dereel, Victoria on 9 July 2007, I was left without any broadband Internet connection, and that less than 100 km line of sight from the middle of Melbourne. After lots of bad experiences just trying to get a satellite installation, I heard about Telstra's NextG wireless Internet service, and on 14 September 2007 I decided to install it. It required proprietary Telstra software to run, and the quality was so bad that I couldn't keep the computer up for more than a couple of hours before the driver crashed it. Telstra refused to even try to address the issues, so I ended up cancelling the service in February 2008.

Since then I hear that Telstra has introduced new standalone modems and routers, so the software issues I describe here are no longer directly relevant, though I'll withhold any comment about the reliability of the new hardware until I've experienced it. On the other hand, I would be surprised if the atrocious level of customer support has improved. The description below relates to the situation as it existed up to 8 May 2008.

Summary

Pros

Cons

Supporting information

Apart from this document, there's also:

Non-Telstra support

Telstra only supply software for Microsoft and Apple, and the latter is barely usable. But they're not the only game in town. Both Daniel O'Connor and Steven (who doesn't want his surname mentioned) have pointed me at http://quozl.netrek.org/bp3-usb/. I haven't had time to investigate it yet, but it certainly looks like an attractive alternative to what I have now.

Log

This is an abbreviated version of the information in my online diary.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Went to a Telstra shop to investigate their wireless broadband offers. To my surprise, we're supposed to have coverage, so ended up buying a modem and an antenna—the rest happens on line.

Immediately on returning home, I started setting up the wireless broadband modem on boskoop. To my surprise I had discovered that I had a mobile phone signal in my office, but it wasn't enough for the modem, which failed with the information that there was no signal, though the LEDs on the device suggested that there was a weak signal, and even the installation screen showed one out of 5 bars. Grabbed tomato, my old G3 Mac laptop, and tried it there, not surprisingly with the same results.

Gave up at that point and over to Chris Yeardley's place for dinner. Took the modem with me and confirmed that it didn't work there either. More head-scratching.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Continued with the installation the following day, 15 September. Decided to continue my experiments with pain.lemis.com, the Microsoft incarnation of the laptop that usually runs FreeBSD as eucla.lemis.com. To my surprise, it worked out of the box, though the registration was annoying enough. It requires passwords with only letters and digits, but at least one of each, and between 4 and 8 total characters. Stupid! While trying to get a user name/password combination, it timed out on me and required me to restart the installation.

Further investigation showed that the connection works fine under Microsoft, but that under Mac OS it always came back and claimed that there was no signal. Finally called the tech support, which was impressive: almost no wait, and the bloke talked me through what I had to do. For reasons neither of us understood, I first had to reboot the machine, start the BigPond W...nd 2.0.app from the Applications window, and click on Options with the shift key depressed. This gave additional options, including Advanced:

 
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That registered and got me going. So finally I'm on the Net again! But only for a couple of hours at a time; then I got an unusual screen image:


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It proved that this is the way that Apple displays a panic. The machine paniced a total of 6 times between 16:06 and 22:28: These are the only panics I've ever seen on Mac OS, and I have to believe that it's the driver. More pain.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

I continued on Sunday 16 September, after the machine paniced overnight again. It's very clear that the Microsoft driver works, and that there are problems with the implementation for Apple. Called up BigPond tech support again, and spent 45 minutes on the phone. Here's what I discovered in the course of the conversation and afterwards:

After upgrading the firmware, I was able to continue running for more than 2 hours. But then the connection dropped out and tried to reconnect. What happened then boggles the mind:

It's difficult to believe that anybody would release software that does this sort of thing. Panics are one thing: I'd guess that the ones I've been seeing are due to race conditions, easy to produce with sloppy programming, but difficult to catch during testing. But what I'm seeing here is easy to check for if you understand even the basics of IP. How can any program grab the address from the wrong interface?

Monday, 17 September 2007

This morning, boskoop had paniced again. Chris Yeardley had a Microsoft box she could lend me, so over to her place with the modem, and while I was there. and out of interest, set it up on her main (Microsoft) machine, where once again it worked without a problem.

Back home with the Microsoft box (which I've assigned to the already existing name ugliness), and installed the software. I'm getting a bit of routine at this now; it's the sixth machine I've installed it on. This time, however, things didn't go smoothly. It couldn't register; for some reason it wasn't getting an IP address. Called up BigPond again (I'm getting routine with that too) and spoke with Joel, who told me that the behaviour of the Mac software was normal. Asked to speak to a supervisor, but it seems I have to wait for a call back. Decided to put in a complaint, for which he said he had to transfer me, but first we addressed the issues on ugliness. He gave me a few various mouse clicks to do, including setting up the authentication details manually, but nothing helped. Still, the “connection manager” window claimed that I was connected, though I had no IP address. Joel then asked me to see if I could “open” a web page. I told him that I had no IP address, but that didn't worry him; after connection failed with firefox, he made me start “Internet Explorer”. When that failed, he asked me to try changing settings. Finally I refused and tried to explain the way data goes across the Internet, and he accepted that he didn't understand enough to help. But where's the escalation of complex problems?

Then he connected me to the complaints department.

Once back in the technical support, spoke to Rhys, who told me that the Mac OS driver was “not fully supported”, though the web pages and advertising claim that it is. I detect a level of frustration with a number of these people. He finally took a complaint (Questus number 4833661). He also tried to help with the Microsoft issue. On further investigation (with Microsoft's ipconfig) discovered that the system did, in fact, get an IP address after a while, but one in a completely different range, with a netmask 255.255.0.0, and without a default gateway. My guess is that this happens during authentication, and that it's failing for some reason, but Rhys wasn't able to help there either. He suggested that I wait for the supervisor call.

So: a third day trying to get this thing to work. What a pain! Reverted to running on boskoop, which got its IP addresses confused again in the evening.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

boskoop had paniced again during the night, of course. Didn't even try to reconnect, but decided to use an almost virgin Microsoft XP image that I had found on tvremote.lemis.com, the lounge room machine that I use as an overdimensioned remote control for teevee.lemis.com. That came with the machine, and apart from a couple of months where Yana used it to play videos, it's been unused. That's a far cry from Chris' machine, which has had all kinds of networking software installed on it, including satellite software, so I was expecting less of a problem. But I had exactly the same problem as before. Called up BigPond yet again, and spoke to Daniel, who tried a couple of different things. In the process, it seemed reasonable to reboot ugliness, which showed the same problems as before—at first. Then, suddenly, for no obvious reason, it connected, and stayed connected. Nobody knows why, but it supports my theory that it has nothing to do with the local machines.

After that, things worked “normally”. I really hate having to access the Internet via a Microsoft box: firstly, there's the image problem, and more importantly, I don't have any control over the thing. How can I monitor what's going on? After 20 hours, the manager window tells me that I've sent 7 kB and received 23 MB; clearly that's wrong. How can I set up a proper firewall? Again, no idea.

Telstra isn't the only game in town. Both Daniel O'Connor and Steven (who doesn't want his surname mentioned) have pointed me at http://quozl.netrek.org/bp3-usb/. I haven't had time to investigate it yet, but it certainly looks like an attractive alternative to what I have now. Steven also pointed me to the Maxon forums (Maxon is the manufacturer of the modem). They have a forum on exactly this topic, and it looks as if better software for Apple is on its way. I can't wait.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Into the office this morning and failed to download my mail, though the indicator said that the connection was still up:

 
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That turned out to be a lie, as ipconfig shows:

 
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It's also interesting to see what the program thinks the transfer counts are. Clearly this software leaves a lot to be desired. I wonder what the source looks like. Later I checked my real usage on the BigPond web site and found, in succession,


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How can you trust data like that?

Friday, 21 September 2007

Open letter to Telstra

After the letter from Helen Coonan last week promising “broadband” within two years, I received another letter today—correctly addressed, presumably because I'm a customer—from Geoff Booth of Telstra, telling me that the letter from Helen Coonan was recklessly attempting to mask Telstra's broadband service offerings, and claiming that they were exemplary. He even gave a number to call, which proved to be BigPond's signup line. Telstra doesn't seem to have an address, so I can't reply directly. Instead, here's an open letter to Geoff Booth.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Received an antenna for the wireless modem in the post. It didn't look promising: the packaging looked like an afterthought, and was damaged, and there was no kind of padding inside:


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That was only the start, though: the documentation (a poor photocopy) appeared to refer to a different antenna (COL 1790 instead of CD 1798), and it referred to components not supplied, such as the mounting tube, and the hose clamps supplied seemed to be far too big. It also referred to phones, but not to the modem. The modem has two antennas; this is a single antenna. At least it has the correct connector, but what do you do with the other one? Leave the old antenna on there, or remove it? Are the antenna connections even equivalent? You'd think so, but how can you be sure?

Taped the antenna high on the outside wall and tried it out. The only measurement I had was the five bar scale on the toy display. Results:

In other words, it didn't work at all, heightening my suspicion that it was the wrong item. Rang up Big Pond technical support yet again (133 933, menu codes 1,3,1 (the last to indicate what kind of modem I have)), and spoke to Mitesh, who told me that my account had been aborted. After I assured him that this was not the case, he changed his mind and asked me what kind of modem I had. Finally I was able to explain what my problem was. He asked me what kind of antenna I had, and what the gain was (something not mentioned on anything that I had at my disposal). I replied that I didn't know, and that it should have been in my account, since it was sent to me from them. He appeared unable to determine the type, and though I had told him it was a roof mount rod antenna, he continued asking about other kinds of antenna. Finally he put me on hold and came back to tell me that he had spoken to the technical support people (I thought that's what he was supposed to be), who said it was a very high gain antenna and needed professional installation. He was unable to explain why professional installation is needed for high-gain antennas.

I asked to be connected to the technical support people, and was finally connected to Zack, who asked all the questions over again, and finally told me that “antennas get installed”. I explained that this had been sold to me as a self-install antenna, and he decided that maybe he should connect me to the technical support people. After a while, I was connected to Mikaele (Me: “Who am I speaking to?”; Mikaele “Me”), who went over the whole thing all over again, and finally told me that I should call the technical support people on Monday. I asked him to have them call me back, but that wasn't possible.

It's clear that all three people completely missed the point. My concern was that the antenna is defective, ineffective, or just plain the wrong model. They seemed to think that I was too stupid to install it, and Mikaele effectively said so. Finally asked him to put in a complaint, which he first refused to do: the one I put in on Monday as Questus number 4833661 has now been reentered (yesterday!) as reference number 112743918. He said that that should be enough, though that complaint referred to the bugs in the software supplied for Apple. Finally he took a complaint, or told me that he had done so, and gave me the reference number 20070922. I pointed out that this was today's date, but that didn't seem to worry him.

I'm left wondering what really goes on there. It's clear that nobody I spoke to has the slightest idea about these antennas; but one of them sold it to me, and I'm wondering if it will do any good even if it's the correct one and not damaged. But I've wasted another hour talking to people who can't hel at all, and it looks as if I need to persuade Big Pond to take the thing back. How I hate Telstra!

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Michael (no surname) responded to my report of problems with the modem antenna pointing to the RFI catalogue, which on page 45 refers to a COL 1798 antenna that looks pretty much like mine (which is inscribed CD 1798). So possibly that part of the story is OK. I wonder what the problem is; maybe it was really damaged in transit. One thing's interesting, though: the gain is given as 6.5 dB, hardly “high gain”. I wonder if that would even make any difference to the number of bars on the modem display.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Today had an 84 minute phone call to Big Pond technical support which brought effectively nothing. After establishing that the help desk knows nothing about the antennas, I had hoped that I would be connected with somebody who did. Instead, I was answered by Laura, who wanted to know the IMSI and IMEI values for the modem, though it had nothing to do with the modem. Finally she connected me to Darrell, who was in the high gain antenna department. That, of course, meant 14 dB Yagi arrays, so he was unable to help me. There's every reason to believe that the gain of the rod antenna won't be enough, though, so I noted the phone number: 1 800 305 307.

Darrell connected me to Jamie in sales, not quite the person I wanted, but at least he confirmed that I could get a refund if I decided to go for a Yagi antenna. He then connected me back to the entry menu of the technical support. After choosing the options again, was connected to Brendan, who wanted to know what kind of antenna I had. I said “CD 1798”, but he didn't know what that meant. He connected me to Jay in Telstra satellite activation, who of course couldn't help either, though he is apparently also responsible for installing Yagi antennas. I get the distinct feeling that the rod antennas are not taken seriously.

He connected me back to tech support again, and this time I was connected with Kathy, who told me that all they had about the antenna was a sheet of paper—I suspect it's the same one I have. She wasn't able help me, she wasn't able to connect me to a supervisor—“They're all out on training”, and she wasn't able to find anybody else to help me. Clearly the management structure and escalation procedures are completely inadequate.

Of course, she also wasn't able to answer any questions: What do you do with the other antenna connection on the modem? Are the antenna connections even equivalent? How many dB between the bars on the modem? Finally, I gave up and asked them to take the antenna back. Was connected to Tara, who wanted to cancel the entire account, but I think I talked her out of it. She then connected me on to Michael, who promised to arrange a bag to send the antenna back. I wonder if he hasn't been told the size of the antenna.

So, back to square one. Should I order a Yagi? At least it would be installed by a technician who would not be able to leave it there if it didn't work, but would it make enough difference? It occurred to me that I have an old Yagi TV antenna (300-700 MHz) which I could rebuild for the 850 MHz band, and conceivably I could get more than 14 dB out of it. Hugh Blemings pointed me to some antenna design programs, but unfortunately they all cost money, in fact in the same order of magnitude as buying and installing an antenna from Telstra. More to think about.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Strange letter from Telstra's Customer Relations department in the mail today, telling me that Telstra regret the problems I've been having and have credited $450 odd to my account, leaving a credit of $28. That's all the more puzzling because it was dated 21 September, at which time I had just put in a complaint about the completely broken driver software for Apple, and at the time the letter was written my total debt to Telstra was about $50. Tried to call up the maybe toll-free number they mentioned, but got a recorded message telling me the hours of operation, and that I should call back later or maybe leave a message. Did the latter.

In the meantime, got a message that a new release of the driver was available, so installed that.

Some hours later got a call back from the author of the letter, Diana Booth. It eventuated that she had mixed up my case with another, so sadly no $450 for me. At least she was a sympathetic listener and sounded horrified when I told her of the problems I've had with Big Pond technical support. For reference, they are:

All this must be very frustrating for the personnel themselves.

As if to emphasize the issue, got a call from Steven Honson reminding me to read a mail message he sent me a couple of days ago, referring to a mailing list thread on the subject of connecting antennas. It seems that, indeed, the two antenna connections are not equivalent. Seen from the front, the left hand one is marked “primary” and the right hand one is marked “secondary”. This was exactly one of the questions I asked Telstra support staff over the last couple of days, and which they couldn't answer.

Of course, I had connected my antenna to the secondary antenna, which is only supposed to be used for searching for alternate signal sources. And that's the one I had connected the antenna to. Took it back outside, lashed it high up on the house, and tried the primary antenna. It worked, but the difference in signal strength didn't seem to be anything like the “from one bar to 5” that some people mention. I've been looking at the verbose log, and it includes information like:

[25 Sep 07, 14:13.56] CMaxonCHU628.OnQmiInformation: RSSI: -96

I'm assuming that the 96 is a dB value. In that case, it might have added 1 to 2 dB, certainly not the 6.5 dB that they claim, and not enough to make any difference to the number of bars displayed on the modem. Presumably the antenna is really defective.

What did happen, though, during the changeover was:

 
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That in itself might not be so surprising, but it didn't go away. The same screen shot shows the signal to be 2 bars, and in fact everything was working fine. In addition, the outgoing traffic values are still completely wrong, less than 1% of the real value. Clearly the new software hasn't removed all bugs.

As if that wasn't enough Telstra for one day, got a call from Shane to tell me that I couldn't get ADSL. That was a foregone conclusion, but he gave me a different reason from others: it's purely a matter of line loss, not equipment like pair gain systems. Although there are pair gain systems in the area, our line doesn't have one. And of course Telstra aren't planning any upgrade in the foreseeable future. He also stated that Alita's claim that they would keep the application for 6 months was wrong: I should try again in a month or two.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Another call today from Diana Booth at Telstra, telling me that yes, indeed, I can keep the $450 that she accidentally promised me last week. That's nice to hear, though I wonder how it will work if they haven't actually credited it to my account, but it still doesn't solve the broken Apple drivers. Diane promised to ensure that the problem was escalated; let's hope it works, but as I said, this should be done for everybody.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Telstra never fail to amaze me. Today, as promised, I got a bag for returning the antenna, atypically supplying not one but three different postal addresses in three different states:


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The antenna is the rod at the bottom. Again, there are no instructions for how to fold it. Instead, I got a letter regretting that I'm canceling my Big Pond service and asking me to return my modem, ADSL router, Wi-Fi adapter and cables, but not the wireless modem or the antenna. At least, though, it gives me a chance to send them something in writing, so I'll do so, along with those components which fit in the bag. Sheesh!

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

It's becoming clear that Telstra's wireless broadband software has even more bugs than I have noticed before. Maybe it's something to do with the recent update, but I've seen:

While it was down, decided to upgrade the software on boskoop.lemis.com, the Apple machine: after all, they claim to have included bug fixes. Got the machine up and running, and it took about 10 minutes before it paniced. I can't see any improvement there. Called Big Pond technical support, where Said told me that a Macintosh is not like a real computer, and that nobody had ever complained to him about this kind of problem before. I suggested that maybe he had just started working for Telstra. He took a bug report, which I suppose will end up in /dev/null like all the others.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Another Telstra firmware upgrade today. I suppose it's typical that the installation process started up a Microsoft “Internet Explorer”, though my default browser is Firefox, and presented data without proper certification:

 
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I suppose it's normal enough for this quality of software for the documentation to show a picture of the standalone modem (with the antennas incorrectly aligned) and then ask you to eject it and reinsert it:


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Thursday, 11 October 2007

Into the office this morning to find that the wireless Internet had disconnected again and not tried to reconnect, despite the settings asking for that. Reconnecting worked, up to a point: I got an IP address and a gateway, but I couldn't transfer any data. Tried calling BigPond's “support” line, despite my recognition that they don't know how to escalate network problems, but while waiting the network connection finally came back.

Clearly I need to improve on this. Decided that today was the day to try out Quozl's Maxon on Linux instructions. That meant installing Linux on a new machine, of course, and there again the limitations of the network made themselves known. Six months ago I would have downloaded a DVD ISO from Internode's mirror server, but the only free downloads I get from Big Pond are advertising, and downloading a 4.7 GB ISO would cost me $700. Instead, took a look at the free DVDs I get with my subscription to APC; last month they distributed a complete Fedora 7 distribution.

That was easier than it sounds. The distribution, only about 2.7 GB—is that really all it is?—was a single ISO file. But: there's a limit of 2 GB on files on ISO 9660 file systems, and accordingly my FreeBSD system refused to access it. The Apple didn't have quite that problem: it just reported that the file had a negative size, and couldn't access it either.

So maybe Microsoft ignores this bug? Who knows? The Microsoft box I have here has a CD drive, but no DVD drive, so I couldn't try it out. Decided to put that into the “too hard” box.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Bill from Telstra today. Still no sign of the refund of $450 that was promised on 25 September. Instead there was a deduction of the sum of $105.95. for a “one-off adjustment”. Spent some time writing up a collection of the complaints I have lodged with Telstra, then called them up and was told that their computers were down, and no, they would not call me back: I had to call them again. Grrr.

Monday, 3 December 2007

My wireless Internet link went down this morning, for the first time in over 3 weeks. That's a record. As usual, it didn't recover, and I had to power cycle the modem, restart the program and manually connect, though it is configured for automatic configuration. What a mess! Then somebody discovered that I had moved to Queensland, as a traceroute out shows:

=== root@eureka (/dev/ttyp5) ~ 97 -> traceroute freefall
traceroute to freefall.FreeBSD.org (69.147.83.40), 64 hops max, 40 byte packets
1  ugliness (192.109.197.172)  0.459 ms  0.193 ms  0.227 ms
2  172.18.112.195 (172.18.112.195)  304.321 ms  128.644 ms  129.804 ms
3  172.18.70.14 (172.18.70.14)  109.955 ms  129.110 ms  129.997 ms
4  CPE-61-9-210-8.qld.bigpond.net.au (61.9.210.8)  129.916 ms  118.829 ms  129.940 ms
5  TenGigabitEthernet7-3.woo4.Brisbane.telstra.net (165.228.107.193)  129.975 ms  118.245 ms  100.013 ms
6  Pos0-0-0-0.woo-core1.Brisbane.telstra.net (203.50.6.202)  120.024 ms  119.747 ms  118.919 ms
7  Bundle-Ether2.chw-core2.Sydney.telstra.net (203.50.6.1)  140.096 ms  123.073 ms  139.884 ms
8  Port-Channel2.oxf-core1.Sydney.telstra.net (203.50.6.2)  149.915 ms  127.696 ms  290.371 ms
9  10GigabitEthernet6-0.syd-core04.Sydney.reach.com (203.50.13.34)  129.652 ms  130.043 ms  138.614 ms
10  i-5-0.paix-core02.net.reach.com (202.84.143.205)  304.261 ms  288.626 ms  300.025 ms
11  202.84.251.98 (202.84.251.98)  299.814 ms  276.011 ms  299.837 ms
12  yahoo.paix05.net.reach.com (134.159.63.22)  299.956 ms  288.628 ms  299.992 ms
13  g-1-0-0-p151.msr2.sp1.yahoo.com (216.115.107.79)  301.968 ms
    g-0-0-0-p141.msr1.sp1.yahoo.com (216.115.107.51)  307.552 ms  287.807 ms
14  ge-1-42.bas-b2.sp1.yahoo.com (209.131.32.35)  302.665 ms
    ge-1-47.bas-b2.sp1.yahoo.com (209.131.32.53)  288.182 ms  288.619 ms
15  freebsd.org (69.147.83.40)  299.996 ms  288.861 ms  300.031 ms
Thursday, 10 January 2008

Today I received another letter from Telstra's Customer Relations department, who seem to operate completely independently from the rest of the company. They gave a reference which apparently was supposed to be a complaint reference number, but one I had never seen before, and told me it had been closed. How? Why? So far Telstra has not resolved a single problem that I have had. Wrote a reply, also sent to my MP. I have little hope that they will resolve anything.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Called up my father, but ran into not completely unexpected problems: a couple of days ago, encouraged by both the improved reliability of my satellite connection and the electricity bill I had received, I powered off ugliness.lemis.com, which I had been using for the wireless Internet gateway, and redirected homephone.lemis.com, my Sipura SP 3000 ATA, to go over satellite. Technically that worked, but today was the first time I actually tried it out. The connection was almost unintelligible.

What should I do? The obvious thing was to turn on ugliness again, but that was complicated by the fact that it didn't have a monitor, so decided to move my laptop (pain or eucla, depending on the operating system) to its place. That required installing the software, of course, but that wasn't a problem: I had done it dozens of times before. This time, though, it didn't work; apart from these stupid messages “the wizard has detected another network connection. The modem may not work correctly”, it claimed to be connected, but ipconfig showed nothing, and there was no traffic. Decided that it might be due to the fact that the CD from which I installed was an older version, and there had been a firmware upgrade since then.

Recabled a monitor and fired up ugliness. It worked, of course. But what then? I didn't want to leave the machine running all the time, not just because of the power consumption, but because of the traffic it generates: for some reason it continually sends out NetBIOS name server requests for Chris Yeardley's server machine, even though I've disabled everything obvious in the configuration:

10:52:02.895681 IP CPE-124-186-14-82.qld.bigpond.net.au.netbios-ns
 > CPE-124-186-14-83.qld.bigpond.net.au.netbios-ns: NBT UDP PACKET(137): QUERY; REQUEST; BROADCAST
10:52:03.645755 IP CPE-124-186-14-82.qld.bigpond.net.au.netbios-ns
 > CPE-124-186-14-83.qld.bigpond.net.au.netbios-ns: NBT UDP PACKET(137): QUERY; REQUEST; BROADCAST
10:52:04.396905 IP CPE-124-186-14-82.qld.bigpond.net.au.netbios-ns
 > CPE-124-186-14-83.qld.bigpond.net.au.netbios-ns: NBT UDP PACKET(137): QUERY; REQUEST; BROADCAST

It's not quite once a second, but pretty close. Why the address I got is in the domain qld.bigpond.net.au. (which indicates that I'm in Queensland, thousands of kilometres away) is unclear, but in keeping with my experience with Telstra. Clearly I don't want that traffic, anyway.

24 January 2008

Where is this traffic on ugliness coming from? Fired the machine up today to make a phone call, and saw the traffic increasing all the time. Fired up wireshark, which in itself is a pain: Microsoft doesn't seem to have the notion of interface names, so the interface selection window looks like this:

 
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It almost takes guesswork to work out which interface is which. What a pain!

The “connection manager” window was showing gradually increasing incoming traffic, not the outgoing NetBIOS name service traffic that I had already noticed; possibly this was being stopped by a firewall, since there was no kind of response. But then, since it's broadcast, that's probably normal anyway. So, what was the incoming traffic? There was none! This “connection manager” is lying. It's already clear that it's not in agreement with the statistics published on Telstra's web site, but they're not reliable either. And they're charging money based on this broken software!

27 January 2008

On 10 January 2008 I wrote a letter to Telstra complaining about their treatment and demanding satisfaction by 25 January. I received no response, so spent most of today documenting the problem, writing another demand—over $900!—and preparing a complaint for the TIO. What a pain!

7 February 2008

While calling Wideband support heard a voice mail message, left this morning, from somebody at Telstra calling about my complaint, and promising to call back.

11 February 2008

Letter in the mail from Telstra, apparently from the person who called me last Thursday, and written the same day, claiming “Due to my not being able to contact you”. I suppose it's typical that “contact” means “call on the phone”, but where's the attempt to call me back? In typical Telstra fashion, it had the date wrong and ignored most of what I said. In particular, there's no commitment to fix the broken software, neither the modem driver nor the billing software. And after all the trouble I have had contacting them, and the fact that they didn't do anything at all until 11 days after I wrote my letter, they gave me 10 business days to answer or have the matter closed. Or maybe it was even worse—the letter also states:

If I do not hear from you by close of business on the 12 July 2007, we will consider this matter resolved and your complaint will be closed.

Started writing a furious letter, and then decided to cool down first instead.

Only later did I look at the date more carefully. It had expired more than 6 months previously.
19 February 2008

Finally got round to doing at least one thing on my “to do” list and called up Telstra about my complaint. Prithie told me that she had, in fact, tried to call me a number of times over several days. Somehow that doesn't ring true: I'm almost always here, and nobody else has trouble calling me. Agreed to the financial settlement, and that I would terminate my contract “without penalty”. What penalty? Telstra haven't fulfilled their contract. But when it came to taking back the modem (which can only be used with this service), she had to contact her supervisor, who, as usual, wasn't available. She promised to call by the end of the week—why these long times on their side and short time requirements from me?

20 February 2008

Another letter from Prithie at Telstra in the mail today, dated 18 February, and written 7 business days after the previous one. It's interesting for a number of reasons:

Clearly there's a big discrepancy between what they do and what they say.

27 February 2008

More Telstra pain

Also received a letter from Prithie Naidoo of Telstra, agreeing to cancel my contract “without early termination feeds”, and warning that I would lose my email address. How stupid these people are. Of course no early termination fees apply, because Telstra is in breach of contract, and the fees are a contractual matter. And how can they take my email address back when it doesn't belong to them? She means the name I had to take, grroogle@bigpond.com, of course. But that's not my email address. I could understand her confusion, except that I made this point very clearly a couple of weeks ago.

More to the point, though, she refused to refund the cost of the modem. The reasoning she gave is confusing and based on “facts” that are either incorrect or the veracity of which are part of the complaint. She writes: “the month February [this month] where you have used over half GB”.

That's just plain wrong. I haven't used the service at all this month. Looking at the usage graph today shows that they have registered about 2 GB of traffic, apparently when I fired up ugliness on 7 February 2008 to try to access the broken web server in my satellite modem. If she has now seen “over half GB”, then the accounting system is worse than I thought.

But what does this have to do with refunding the cost of the modem? It's part of the contract, anda I can't use it without the service. On the other hand, I sense myself getting really angry about this matter. Is $250 worth so much anger? I decided not and wrote a letter pointing out the discrepancies in her letter, asking her to reconsider, but in any case to cancel the service and refund what money she is prepared to do. And, of course, based on prior experience, to confirm with me.

5 March 2008

Last week I wrote a letter to Prithie Naidoo of Telstra accepting their conditions and asking them to cancel the contract immediately and confirm. Of course, she didn't, and I was able to confirm that the account was still active. sigh Why are these people so terminally incompetent? Wrote another, more stiffly formulated letter giving Telstra until the end of the week, and rather pointedly stating that I was available on the phone, despite her claims to the contrary.

6 March 2008

Had barely finished that when I got a call from Prithie Naidoo of Telstra, telling me that the service had been cancelled some time last week. I got her to check, and of course it was still active. I then asked her why she would not refund the modem, and she repeated the nonsense she wrote in her letter of 25 February. I suggested that she had not read my reply, and of course she claimed she had—but was not able to mention what I had said, let alone (obviously) come up with a counterargument. At one point she said “I know this has taken a lot of your time. It has taken a lot of mine too”. I had to point out to her that, unlike me, she was being paid for it. In the end, with help of the mention of formal complaints to the ACCC, and that the accounting is all wrong, she agreed to refund the modem, the fees from 1 February on (“please contact me if you have any trouble with the accounts”, presumably because she couldn't see any billing for that time), and the sums offered in her letter of 7 February. Hopefully that'll finally be an end to it.

14 March 2008

A letter in the mail from Telstra today, enclosing a cheque for $901.93, without further comment. The cheque was dated 10 March (Monday), but the post stamp was Wednesday, 12 March, the day I wrote my last letter asking Prithie to clarify things. I didn't get a clarification, and in principle the cheque would be good enough—except that it's not for the full amount: a sum of $8.24 seems to be missing, not to mention two months' fees. Why are these people so difficult to deal with?

8 May 2008

Telstra has finally paid up in full! Or at least they tell me they have: it'll be credited to my phone bill. I had to write three letters to them, none of which were answered (this one just said “Custumor feedback such as this, whilst [sic] unfavourable, is appreciated”). The fact that it was the writer's own incompetence is, of course, not mentioned.


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