PokerLeagueSpain.com

Posted 30th 2006f November 2006 by peteboucher
Categories: Business, My Sites, Web development

The very latest project I’m working on is a joint venture between a pair of professional gamblers and myself. PokerLeagueSpain.com is a pub poker league for the Costa del Sol. Playing poker for points (not cash) has taken UK pubs by storm as an alternative to quiz nights and darts tournaments. The game’s popularity has sky rocketed with the televising of the World Poker Tour and World Series of Poker on satellite TV and the rise in on-line gambling.

Our business aims to bring the same winning formula to Spain, we already have several tournament nights running in local bars from Duquesa to Marbella and we plan to expand as far as La Linea and Fuengirola before the first regional finals event.

Basically pub goers turn up on a tournament night, register with the tournament director or on-line to become a league member (for free currently) and play Texas Hold’em at purpose built poker tables with casino grade cards and chips. At the end of the night, the player with all the chips earns 1,000 point in the league (the player who came second – 750, etc.). If you’ve not player tournament poker before, there will be instruction before the games start.

My role is to develop the website. When it’s complete you’ll be able to view the Overall, Regional and Venue based league tables as well as quickly look up your own, or another players ranking. We’re also including a poker store for members to purchase the same equipment used in tournament nights, for their own home games.

I’m under a little pressure at the moment to get some of this functionality working as tournaments are already being held and score sheets and membership applications are piling up. At the same time it’s a balancing act between getting the functions to work smoothly and the site to look good, but I feel with some time and patience it’ll get there.

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Rural Internet Connectivity

Posted 14th 2006f April 2006 by peteboucher
Categories: Connectivity

It seems the further you move from the hubs of civilisation, the worse your connection to the Net becomes. We’ve moved from a busy seaside town where we were able to connect via 1Meg ADSL at 1Mb/s downstren, 250Kb/s upstream. Had we felt the need we could have got an 8Meg connection (actually about 7.2Mb/s, currently the maximum speed for copper based ADSL connections).

Now, here we are about 5Km from the coast and all we can get is a 56Kb/s modem connection. This means the phone line is constantly engaged during the day and all my Internet activity is reduced to a snails pace. You can forget about downloading Podcasts in iTunes or Internet video on Democracy Viewer.

We’ve tried petitioning our incumbent telco ‘Telefonica’ to install a DSLAM, along with around 40 other residents. We’ve also tried signing up to a new WiMax based Wireless ISP Avired but our terrain puts us out of their signal footprint.

As a last resort we’ve signed up to skyDSL, a satellite broadband service based in Germany. The system cuts cost by only downloading information through a normal digital satellite TV dish connected to a DBV receiver in your PC. All your uploads are sent through your modem line. So we now get 16Mb/s downstream and 56Kb/s upstream.

Sounds good doesn’t it? Twice the speed of the fastest available ADSL. Fixed monthly fees for unlimited traffic: 45€ for the skyDSL and 20€ for unlimited dial-up, works out expensive but when your business in web development, broadband is indispensable. We can now download large Podcast files at break neck speed. A 100MB file will come down the pipe in under a minute (depending on the web server).

The downside is the upstream bandwidth. When surfing the web you first have to request the page you want for example: http://www.apple.com, that request is sent up to the net via a proxy server on your PC which redirects it to a skyDSL server in Germany. skyDSL then resolve the DNS name into a web server address and download the actual page (or find it through their own proxy server). The data containing the Apple home page is tagged with my skyDSL subscriber number and waits for an uplink slot to be transmitted to a satellite (Eurobird 3), that bounces the data back down to the whole of south western Europe. My dish channels the signal into my PC, which recognises the tag and text an images begin appearing on my screen. If that sounds complicated, it’s because it is! Check out this visual.

The latency introduced by all this bouncing around and waiting for satellite time, means there’s a delay of up to 5 seconds between my requesting a page and the page actually beginning to download. This delay makes it impossible for us to use any Internet application that requires low latency (like Skype for making VoIP calls).

Another complication: I use a Mac, the skyDSL service is set up on a PC server connected to my LAN. I’m not sure if it’s just me but there doesn’t seem to be any way to tell MacOSX to use a proxy server for e-mail. That means all my e-mailing has to be done through web-mail services. The same with FTP. I have to disconnect the skyDSL and connect my Mac via the built-in modem to upload any changes to a website.

The upside to all this is that I’m seriously thinking about becoming a Wireless ISP for my area. I’ll let you know how that goes when it happens.

Fon router running

Posted 24th 2006f March 2006 by peteboucher
Categories: Web 2.0, Wireless Technology

Ok, the installation went smoothly apart from the 5 min window the firmware gives you to register. I was setting it up on the back of my Apple AirPort Extreme working as a LAN modem. I did it this way for various reasons (not least of which is the proxy server on my satellite broadband connection). After the 3rd attempt at powering up the router, getting an IP address on my iBook and then contacting the Fon registration server within the 5 minute time limit I completed the registration successfully.

I have now moved the router to my ‘in-laws, who have a standard, always on ADSL connection which is much better suited to a Fon hotspot. Of course I entered the new location details into my account in the Fon database. Unfortunately the location appears at maps.fon.com in the middle of the countryside about 5Km from my parents-in-laws house! It seems to be sitting right on top of another Fon hotspot which, according to it’s address is supposed to be situated about 4Km south in a nearby town. I can only assume that Fon’s systems are having a little trouble resolving our addresses and resorting to placing markers in the middle of the postcode area.

To help Foneros out with finding hotspots I’ve started a Frappr map where we can position our markers more precisely. It’s also become popular with Foneros outside Spain and the US who are not yet catered for on maps.fon.com. So far we number 99 members 🙂

My Fon router has arrived!

Posted 2nd 2006f March 2006 by peteboucher
Categories: Wireless Technology

I’m happy today. There’s a nice, boxy UPS parcel sitting on my Wife’s desk with my name on it. It contains a Linksys WRT54GS Wireless Router. No not your typical wireless router, I already have an Apple AirPort Extreme and I’m very happy with it; I’m blogging this right now via its built-in V90 modem. This particular wireless router was bought, direct from Linksys, for 50€, by a fledgling company called Fon. The small but hardworking team at FON’s corporate office in Madrid then wiped it’s firmware (it’s brain) and installed their own firmware which has some very cool features: Fon’s firmware will allow me to share my internet connection with anyone in range of the router’s WiFi signal, granted I could do this with my AirPort by deactivating WPA encription and making it an open access point. But the Fon router also allows me to limit the speed of shared connections so that I always have a reasonable connection to the Intenet even when the users sharing my connection are downloading big files. Also the Fon router allows me to see logs of who has connected, and lets me block users who I consider have abused my offer of shared Internet access.
But the greatest feature of all of the FON service: I can go on-line using anyone elses FON router for free! Gratis! There are about 5 members of FON (Foneros) within a 30 minute drive of my home, and I’m sure they’ll all be recieving their brand new FON routers shortly. If they haven’t already bought Linksys routers and flashed them with the FON firmware themselves.
Oh yes, and this faboulous router and Fon’s connectivity costs me only 25€, half the wholesale price of the router itself!
I have to go into Gibraltar for a job this afternoon but I will blog on the Fon router setup as soon as it’s up and running.

For more info and news from Fon read their company blog.

Intel iMac

Posted 2nd 2006f March 2006 by peteboucher
Categories: Apple/Mac

On Tuesday I got a call from Patti, her old iMac (CRT) had died, propably a hardrive falure, but like all sensible computer users, she has a fairly recent backup of all her work (Gulp!). I reccomended an Apple Centre that I know does good work: Newton Systems in Gibraltar, but Patti went shopping and came home from FNAC with a brand new Intel iMac 🙂
But now she needed help, what could have gone wrong? Here’s a short list:

  1. She couldn’t print to her new printer.
  2. She couldn’t get on-line.
  3. She couldn’t open some of her backed up files.

The printer she bought with the new Mac came with 2 driver CDs both for Windows! Patti went back to FNAC and they helpfully downloaded the Mac OSX driver for her printer and burned her a driver CD. Unfortunatly this turned out to be the “Mac OS X (PowerPC)” driver and not the “Mac OS X (Intel)” driver which is burried a little deeper on the Epson site. Epson are obviously playing the numbers here; making the powerPC driver easier to find avoids confusion for the vast mayority of Mac users, but at the same time throws down a hurdle for the few early adopters of MacIntel out there. The solution was to download the new “Intel” version of the driver, but first we need an Internet connection.
When I arrived at her home, Patti’s boyfriend was on the phone alternating between arguing in Spanish (not his native, or second language) and being put on hold by an ISP customer service centre. They had decided to upgrade from dial-up to 2Meg-ADSL for the new iMac, but their current ISP had come back with problems with their phone line that would limit them to a 1Mb/s ADSL connection. In the meantime as the upgrade had alredy been put into effect their dial-up account had been deactivated. Now they had no connectivity and were considering ADSL offerings from alternative ISPs. The temporary solution was to connect Patti to GoNutsForFree a “free” dial-up ISP I use whenever I can’t get a better connection in Spain. Now we were able to download the correct driver (very slowly) and get her printer working.
None of this would have been possible if Patti hadn’t also purchased an Apple External Modem on her second trip to FNAC as the new iMac does not have one built-in. I understand why Apple are phasing out the internal modem: It’s the same underlying philosophy they followed when they dropped the internal floppy disk drive with the G3 range.
The issue with old files not opening was an OS9/MacIntel incompatibility. Patti’s old iMac had a dual OS configuration and unfortuatly OS X for Intel does not support OS9 emulation, we did however manage to open almost all her old documents and pictures by right-clicking or ctrl+clicking their icons in the finder and choosing a Mac OS X programme to open them. Patti can now resave her files from OS X applications to have them open normally when she double-cilcks their icons next time.
This is just another example of how being an early adopter of new technology can hurt. I think they call it: Being on the “Bleeding Edge”.

NetDisaster

Posted 21st 2006f February 2006 by peteboucher
Categories: Web development

I like this site; finaly a cool use for AJAX technology that relieves stess!
Try it, I could play with this all day 😀
NetDisaster.com

FON gets backing from Google, Skype and VCs

Posted 6th 2006f February 2006 by peteboucher
Categories: Business, Wireless Technology

This Madrid based start-up that I’ve been keeping my eye on has just announced a $18m Venture Capital deal with Google, the founders of Skype, Index and Sequoia (2 ‘Valley VC firms).
FON is a great way to share your broadband connection without leaving your home network open to attack and do some social networking at the same time. I’ve signed up already
Congratulations Martin!Join the FON movement!