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Huawei B535

So here we are, all working from home. Before the lockdown I used to work one or two days a week from home, but having now gone to the point where I'm barely stepping out of the door (apart from taking my daily government sanctioned hour of exercise), I thought that perhaps my 4G router could do with being a little more "robust".

I have to say that the MiFi I've had for the last year has performed really well. I stream Netflix, Amazon Prime, do the odd bit of online gaming and RDP to servers over my work's VPN, but having an improved router would definitely give me more flexibility and reliability. I've not been able to use my Pi-based cloud storage since moving house and using anything over ethernet has been out of the question. It's time the MiFi became a backup device.

Enter the Huawei B535. It's quite a nifty little 4G router, which looks more like the usual sort of thing you hook up to a phone line.

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No phone-line required: Bear shown for size-comparison purposes.

When it comes to getting things set up, it's as easy as the MiFi was. You just pop your SIM card in and switch on. The SSID name and password is on the back of the router (which I've obviously blurred out here). On your first connection, you're prompted for a few things to finalise the setup, but you can make things as complicated or as simple as you like. My network is hidden, is not the default, I've setup dynamic DNS and am routing HTTPS traffic to my Pi so my cloud storage is back in action. Virtually anything you can do with a normal router, you can do with this one. The only extra lights you'll see on the front of this router versus a "normal" one is the network signal strength indicator. It's a pretty solid device.

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Of course, that's not all. It's got four ethernet ports at the back and connectors for antennae should you want to boost the reliability and speed of your connection. Antennae can be either internal for a little boost, or you can get larger antennae that you can fix to the side of your house if you want a big boost.

For the moment, however, I'm happy. Apart from being able to use 3G and 4G, the router will also lock on to a 4G+ signal if it can get one - and this means I've been able to get some quite good speeds at times, as you'll see below.


Speeds vary depending on the weather, who else is using the mast, time of day and a butterfly flapping its wings in China, but my download speeds very between ADSL and Fibre broadband on a fixed line. My upload speeds always seem to surpass that. The ping is the only area that I'd say could do with some improvement, staying very similar to how it was before, but I've not noticed any issues whatsoever on the odd game or two of Fortnite, so perhaps that's less of a problem these days. The connection has hopped between regular 4G and 4G+, only once or twice dropping down to 3G, but even then I've still managed 6MB as a download speed. I really can't complain.

The most pleasing aspect of this, however, is that I now have unlimited data usage (well, it's 1000GB, but even I couldn't max that out) and it's just £17 a month. Most fixed-line broadband is more expensive than this. A quick look on uSwitch right now shows PlusNet as the ones coming closest on price at £17.99, but given how they've gone downhill in recent years, no thanks.

As I'm writing this I'm streaming music and downloading a game in the background - and nothing is stuttering. The router can handle up to 64 devices at once. Should I ever move house again, I'll just pick up the router and shift it without having to think about changing telephone lines. At worst, I might have to consider using an external antenna, but that's not the end of the world.

Should 5G ever come to my area then I can really see this becoming more mainstream as it becomes faster than a fibre connection. In the meantime, though, all I can say is that I'm extremely happy with the upgrade and would definitely recommend it. With the lockdown looking like it's going to carry on for at least another month or so, a good internet connection helps you connect with people, even if you can't go out and meet them. A worthwhile investment.
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The End

As you've probably gathered by now I have a lot of technology. Of all the stuff I've got, one device has been a godsend over the years, my MiFi. It's a wonderful little widget that's about the size of a bar of soap* and works as a mobile router, allowing me to hook up my iPad, laptop or whatever in the middle of nowhere. I've had it for approximately seven years now, with the only maintenance required being a new battery after about four years. It's been great, has got me out of a hole on a regular basis and has even allowed me to happily stream Netflix. Even now, when I show it to people, they still go "oooooh", like it's witchcraft. Some pieces of technology are wonderful, and this is one of them.

After seven years, I thought I'd have a look to see what deals were out there, whether a 4G version was available and whether I could get more bandwidth for my money.

Yes, it was. And yes, I can.

So, here we are. This is my third MiFi and it's a simple-beast:

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Like most mobile routers, setup is fairly simple. If you've got a smartphone, you can just take a photo of the QR code on the inside of the back cover, which will automatically setup and join the network once switched on. As before you can get to the web interface fairly simply and change the SSID and default password if you want. Huawei also have iOS and Android apps that allow you to administer the device once you've joined the network. It really is pretty simple. You then have a mobile 4G router.

The speed is most certainly good, as this Speedtest illustrates:

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This is pretty much the same as most people's ADSL connections. Sure, the ping isn't the best for gaming, but apart from that it's perfectly acceptable.

This brings to mind a question - has the need for a separate fixed-line and ISP now disappeared? Well, for me it has. The bandwidth allowance is generous enough that I don't have to worry about limits and because the tariff I'm on allows the streaming of Apple Music, Deezer and Netflix without deducting from my monthly bandwidth allowance, it's a no-brainer. My only minor niggle is that I'd like to see dynamic DNS support, but given that the device is pretty small, perhaps that's asking a bit much - and I guess that if you're a family that spends its time bingeing on YouTube, then this probably isn't the device for you, but it's worked pretty damn well for me.

This costs me just £8 a month for 20GB, with the above exceptions not cutting in to my allowance. I've streamed, I've worked from home through a VPN and done loads of general browsing and have to say it's pretty great. I think this could be The End for something, the end for BT and Internet Service Providers. Perhaps the future has finally arrived.

Now, where's my flying car?

* Quite obviously, soap is the benchmark by which all technology should be gauged. More of a Cusson's Imperial Leather than a Lush affair, though.
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History

Today I was doing my backups, as all good I.T. people do. As I waded through the many years of crap I keep on my hard-drives, I noticed that I still have most of the data associated with the previous sites I administered. My first (still available on the web if you know where to look) was about the Acorn Computer demoscene. My second was dedicated to my love of travel and the spotting of ladies who wear black and white.

Yes, that's right - nuns. Who doesn't love a nun?

So, in an effort to fill in the gaps in my internet history I've decided to republish Nunspotting, which now exists on its own subdomain. Please don't take it too seriously, but instead look on it as a period in the history of the internet where things were pretty good. Broadband lines were starting to become commonplace, Web 2.0 wasn't really a thing and people didn't continually take photos of their lunch. Happy times.

I used Nunspotting as a way to record my travels around the world, as well as photograph those wonderful ladies of the cloth. Bear in mind that there's probably all sorts of broken links, inaccuracies and cruft within this site, but back in those days nobody really cared. Enjoy.
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G.I.N.Y.F

Jumping the Google bandwagon…. Read More...
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Fudge

I was talking to a friend not long ago, who made me realise that I’ve been using the internet in various guises for nearly 21 years. It’s strange now, to think that there are people born who have been in existence for less time on this planet than the internet - which started to make me think about my college days, as that’s where it all began for me. My friends and I were a pioneering bunch. We had no setup CDs, no tech-support lines and no forums to visit. We fudged - and when I think back to it, we fudged well. So here’s a story about lots of fudging. If you’re not interested in acronyms, technology and my geeky history, changes are that this isn’t for you. Read More...
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Mistakes...

...I’ve made a few. I wish I’d done it my way. Read More...
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MiFi

A look at Three’s MiFi wireless broadband access point... Read More...
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Cheeky

Buying stuff online can be a bit of a lottery... Read More...
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