Irish Broadband/Blueface Experiences

Notes on using IBB Ripwave in Ubuntu Linux in a 1st Floor Apt on Mountjoy Square. Also experience using Blueface VoIP over this.

Initially, we got a USB modem which doesn't work with linux (there is a linux diagnostic tool but no usb modem driver to the best of my knowledge). Then we got that swapped for an ethernet modem which worked but we couldn't get >4kbps.

Got replacement ethernet modem (presumed faulty). Worked much better, got normal speeds like 25-50kb/sec download. Upload speeds still very poor (22kbps).

Much mucking about on the phone with Ripwave support guys resetting preferred BTS, resetting modem etc. We concluded that best location is on the window sill and the nearest BTS is Sir John Rogerson's Quay.

We found we could sometimes get orange light to come on but generally red light (the worst working connection quality). The windows debug tool told me that the strength of connection is good (90%) but the quality is very poor (30%). The supplied linux debug tool requires very old C library so couldn't get it working. This is despite it being apparently written in Java.

Speaking to phone support I mentioned we couldn't get linux tool to work. Got transferred on to the "linux geek" on the support desk. He says he got it to work on Debian Woody so apparently woody meets the old library requirements. We briefly discussed how the device works (as a bridge). Apparently the tool connects to port 3859 on

At that point I gave up on the debug tool and mentioned to the IBB support linux geek that my main problem is really that we have an acceptable download speed but the upload speed is killing us, particularly as we want to use VoIP. I mentioned that the burst speed was low. IBB's linux geek twigged something and said something along the lines of "there's a setting on the device to request a certain upload speed. I'll change it,". As instructed, I unplugged for 1 minute, plugged back in and got 70kbps upload. Testing with Blacknight's ISP speed tester, the absolute upload speed still varied between 25-80kbps but the burst speed has gone up substantially (was 30kbs, now >60kbps). I don't really know enough about this kind of thing to speculate but perhaps the burst is what has helped VoIP.

It seemed that our connection was a poor quality one, but did work. VoIP with Blueface worked with varying success, quite usable to landlines. You did sometimes get drop-outs, much like using a mobile in a dodgy coverage area.

I've been looking at ways to improve the signal and find out more about how Ripwave works. This forum of Australian Fipwave users is vey interesting. This afternoon I decided to try the Pizza Box Deflector. This is a really nice, simple little trick which really works and could be done by a ten year old. Once the cornflakes box and aluminium foil are in place I get a constant orange light on the modem (indicating a medium quality connection). Blacknight's isptest now shows 150-300kbps down and 90-110kbps upload.

VoIP now seems to work better, though not perfectly across IBB. The available bandwidth seems to fluctuate considerably so it can work well at times and not at others. So, for Eur19.75 per month, we have a slightly patchy land line (with far cheaper calls) and flat rate net access (not sure if I'd really call it broadband) in one package.

IBB seemed to have fairly patchy uptime in the evenings and at weekends (Sunday particularly). This seems to be getting better but I haven't really been monitoring it properly. I suspect our problems stem mostly from the height we're at (1st floor) and all the buildings in the way due to this. I've found it works far better from the 5th floor of the Mater Hospital which is much further from Sir John Rogerson's Quay, although I don't know what mast it's using so this may not be a fair test.

My only complaint with Blueface is that I can't yet get a free software SIP phone (eg linphone, kphone) to work. I suspect this is a matter of me putting time in though and I'll document it if I manage it. I've been using the proprietary XTen Lite for Linux up to now.

Update! Following this suggestion from Caolan I compiled and installed Ekiga, the new, renamed version of GnomeMeeting with improved support for SIP over NAT, etc. It's currently a bit of a chore to compile but it's a nice SIP client and works well with Blueface. You just skip the Ekiga account set up and add a new account with:

  • Registrar:
  • Username: <your_sip_username>
  • Password: <your_sip_password>
I have hit a couple of small issues with compilation on Ubuntu (note opal currently needs compiling with --disable-iax). I also compiled ekiga with --disable-avahi. You need to install a bunch of -dev packages for standard libraries but that's normal enough. Once it was compiled and installed there is some permissions issue relating first to gconf and then to opening a listening port. I'm not totally clear what causes it but up to now I've needed to run Ekiga as root.

gmccullagh at gmail dot com.
Sun Jan 15 21:16:37 GMT 2006