Spot the difference!
Given fair test conditions, everyone knows wired network connections are faster than wireless, right?  How about when your wired connection crawls along at 1/5 of the speed of your wireless connection?  What’s happening?Below are two CAT 5e Ethernet cables, of the type you’d typically use to connect a router to a modem, or perhaps your PC directly into your router instead of using WiFi.  You might connect up other network-capable devices in your home too, such as a PVR/HDR, Blu-ray player and even your TV.  In doing so, you may pick up an old Cat 5 cable “you had spare” to do the job.

Beware, that not all Cat5e is the same!
If you look closely below, you’ll see that the lower, grey cable is type 568A, whereas the upper, black cable is568B.  Ethernet cables come as UTP or STP (Unshielded or Shielded Twisted Pair), meaning that each pair of conductors (wires) inside the outer sheathing are twisted together.  This helps cancel noise and improve transmission.

The difference between A and B is in the way these twisted pairs are paired up.  If your router has N-Way negotiation on its network connections, it should be able to work around using the two different types of cable.  But on my router, with N-Way negotiation, this didn’t appear to be the case.

Testing this using speedtest.net with cable type A, I got a paltry 5Mb/s down and 4Mb/s up.  Over wireless, I got 20Mb/s down and 17Mb/up.  It turned out that my router can’t handle type A cables very well.  Using a type B, I got 44Mb/s down and 18Mb/s up.  More like it!

So the next time your network is running slowly, check your cabling.  Even if it’s a well-known brand (my type Acable is a Belkin Cat5e), it may be causing a drop in performance which is easily, and cheaply, corrected.
H/t +Bob Beattie 
#networking   #speedtest   #cat5e  

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ThinkPad T420.  Shiny and new.

It is with incredible reserve that I discuss my new Lenovo ThinkPad T420, such is my excitement.  As a natural born geek, software developer and sysadmin, there is something about a ThinkPad which is “just right”.

The lure of a ThinkPad is unquestionable.  It’s the promise of your best bit of code ever.  It’s the idea that it’ll be with you for years; your faithful companion.  It’s the reassurance of industry-leading build quality and top-spec engineering, using high quality components.  But it’s more than that too.  It’s an identity, a bit like that of Apple users – but thankfully in more self-respecting way.  You have a ThinkPad, you join an elite.  It’s everything you want.

You want this so badly that it comes as a bit of a surprise when all is not quite what it seems.

Branded accessories – one of those indulgences.

Better the devil?

As Lenovo only offer such spiffing hardware bundled with a throwaway operating system, you must suffer the wasted hours and ridiculous horseplay that ensues from such choices being made for you.  We are all too familiar with this scenario… so, I’ll continue!

Here is my experience, abridged:

  • Unbox, connect battery, plug in power, switch on.  It switches itself off.  And then back on – phew! 
  • Windows 7 starts up and completes its install process.  You are prompted to answer a few questions along the way:

  • Do you wish to use Norton to protect your PC?  I choose No.  
  • It prompts again: “Are you really, really sure you don’t want to use Norton???”.  I really, really confirm that yes, I don’t want to use Norton, thanks all the same.  
  • Further into the installer, you are prompted to accept the Windows EULA (end user licence agreement).  At the same point, you are also prompted to accept the Lenovo warranty terms.  You cannot proceed if you choose only one.  I imagine that this is another Microsoft “initiative”, a bit like Restricted Boot, which attempts to force people (through fear, usually) into sticking with Windows.
  • Finally, it finishes setting up Win7 and loads up the desktop.  On the offchance that there is a warranty issue, I decide to make a backup using Windows Backup.  Unbelievably, the Windows partition (C drive) contains 26.39GB of data.  WHAT??!!  This is a freshly installed operating system.  How on earth can it consist of so much… bloat?!  There is also a system partition (1.6GB, of which 900MB or so is used) and a Lenovo recovery partition (17GB, of which 9GB is used).  So, I have 36GB of disk space used up for a fresh install of Win7, plus some Lenovo utilities and Google Chrome (installed by default – the only good software choice made by Lenovo so far).   Hesitantly, I begin the backup process to Verbatim DVD+R discs.
  • 3 hours later, now on the 4th disc, the back-up process fails.  The error given is unspecific.  I now have a collection of 4 shiny new drinks coasters.
  • I dig into the Lenovo software and find that I can install “Rescue and Recovery” software, presumably from the Lenovo recovery partition into Win7.  I install it, which takes about 4-5 mins on this core i7 2640 machine.
  • Oh, wait a sec, what’s that?  Some pop-up just appeared above the clock in the right hand corner.  Something about Norton doing something, was that?  Oh, it’s gone.  So, despite being really, really clear that I did NOT want Norton installed on my machine, er, there it is.  Installed on my machine.  Poor Lenovo, poor.  And it gets better.
  • Creating recovery media fails.  Classic.
  • I fire up R and R and find the option: Create Recovery Media.  This looks more promising.  I fire it up, stick in a DVD+R (still have 6 left, hopefully that’s enough..).  It starts off, “extracting files”.  And then stops, and fails.  Apparently, in this instance, I may be able to expect Lenovo to ship me out some recovery CDs.






  • Not to be

    So far, any reasonable, sane person would not feel very confident using Win7 on this machine.  The dream probably wouldn’t be shattered, but clearly the software configuration is dysfunctional, ignoring user preferences and showing some worrying reliability issues out of the box.

    Luckily, being part of an elite means that you don’t follow the masses.  The throwaway software, bundled with the machine, is designed for people who don’t, won’t or can’t think.  It’s also designed for those who blythely accept it, probably “because it’s safer”.  Well, luckily for Windows users it must be a lot safer now that Norton is installed, regardless of your wishes!  Phew!

    To be

    Fedora 16 live CD, running on this T420.

    The alternative, as always, is to not accept what you are given.  Instead, seek a better solution that you can feel confident in.  For this ThinkPad T420, the better solution is GNU/Linux, Fedora 16 flavour.

    Here is how easy Fedora is:

    • You download a live CD, burn it to disc and restart the computer.
    • The CD boots up into a “live desktop” (this doesn’t affect any data on the hard drive).
    • From the live desktop, you run software (e.g. Firefox) as if it were installed on your computer.  On the ThinkPad, all hardware is automatically recognised and usable immediately.
    • From the live desktop, you have the option to install this software to your hard disc.  How refreshing: choice.

    But don’t take my word for it, try it yourself.

    If, that is, you have the mind to.

    Thunderbird and Firefox are GTK+ apps.  GTK+ is a windowing toolkit that GNU/Linux application developers tend to use when creating software on the GNOME Desktop Environment.

    If you decide to switch to an alternative desktop environment, such as KDE, the default settings for GNOME/GTK applications may be ignored.  This is because KDE uses the Qt windowing toolkit instead.

    To fix this, you need to do it tell KDE to pick up the GTK settings and apply them to your GTK apps.

    In Fedora/CentOS, this is simple:

    # yum install qtcurve-gtk2.x86_64

    Then in KDE, point to Kicker (the application menu) > system settings > Application Appearance > GTK+ Appearance

    Change the Widget Style (dropdown) from Redmond to qtCurve.

    More information for Ubuntu users is here: