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Catch up

I'm finally getting into the swing of my new hours. Still tired a lot, but now beat by midnight and up at around 8am by clock. It seems to me that I get up, go to work, come home, do little, go to bed, get up, go to work... what? Where'd my day go?

Anyway, I'm catching up with stuff from the past few weeks. Here's the first story:


Livebox bang

August 19th. Went to a vide grenier. It wasn't very good. Partway through, there was a loud blast of lightning off in the distance. One.

Getting home, no electricity. It had tripped. Turn back on, no Internet. Looking at the Livebox... well...

Lightly toasted Livebox

Looking at the ADSL filter, there was no mistaking what happened.

Burnt out ADSL filter

I contacted the Orange support line and explained the situation. The girl on the phone told me I had to plug in the Livebox to tell her what indicators were on and/or off. I said I can't, it doesn't work. She told me I must. I told her I am a programmer so I have some technical knowledge, and I can assure that it does not work. She told me to plug it in anyway. I said "listen please" and shook it. There's a component (looks like a capacitor, I didn't open the box) rattling around inside.


Je comprende.

Orange has a remarkably bad line quality for a telco. Sometimes I could hear the girl well, sometimes barely at all. Sometimes there were loud bursts of noise (like a hundred people shouting at once) and sometimes it was so quiet I thought she'd hung up on me.

After taking some details, I asked for the replacement to be sent to a "point relais", a pick-up location. It's either that or we drive into the city.


Roll on Saturday. At a local bar (Mick, if you're reading, you know the one) which was also the pick-up point. Waiting in the queue, a delivery man comes in and drops off a box. Mom comments that that could be my Livebox. I say that would just be weird.

It was my Livebox, arriving at the same time I was there with my old one to return. Yeah. Weird.


So, here it is:

New Livebox 2

It isn't terribly quick at starting, but it is faster than the Livebox Mini (v1.2) I had before.
Other changes:

  • 4 ethernet ports instead of two; would have been cool but seeing as the lighting strike destroyed my Livephone and the walky-phone, I'm extremely reluctant to plug anything into the WiFi. I wanted to run a RISC OS server - I think I may look to getting a RaspberryPi as the Beagle is too nice/expensive to leave hanging off the Livebox!
  • WiFi 'n' instead of just b/g. Means I connect at all sorts of odd speeds, and in some cases the signal seems better though I don't think its range is as good as the previous box. I don't know why Orange just doesn't build one with an antenna hanging out the back.
  • Printer/USB storage sharing. And unlike the rubbish in the old user guide, this one actually works!
    USB mass storage on a Livebox
    I can access USB storage as "\\livebox". Haven't tried printer sharing, I'd imagine it would be much the same idea.
  • As you might have noticed from the picture, this one speaks French and English. ☺
  • WPS is provided, but since it is an abhorration that never should have been invented, I disabled it.
  • There's an actual on/off button on the side. Useful to reboot to just press the button twice instead of unplugging the power.
  • There's also a new idea on the WiFi authorisation button (the Livebox won't permit WiFi connections (even with the right insanely-long-key) unless it is in pairing mode; though I'd imagine a MAC spoof could bypass this? Anyway, if you hold down the button for a short time, WiFi will be disabled/enabled. Useful for townies to turn on WiFi when they need it.
  • I wonder how many clueless ex-pats this will trip up - there's a little button marked "reset". Never push it. If you want to reset the box, just switch it off and on again. The reset button is an extremely literal interpretation, and will reset back to factory defaults. Everything. All knowledge of connected devices, options, settings, dyndns client, and of course your internet login ID/password. It'll all be wiped as the box is "reset".

The Livebox 2 itself appears to be a variant of the "Sagem F@st 3504". The processor seems to be, as would be the case for Liveboxen, the Ikanos VX160 IKF6836. It is some sort of integrated router chip running a RISC core (MIPS?) at 200MHz. It works but it won't set the world alight.
The ethernet hub is 10/100mbit. Sufficient for home users, but for demanding users they might miss the opportunity to have Gigabit networking.
The WiFi is provided by a first-generation 'n' Atheros mini PCI card.
There are two VoIP ports, only one of which is available for use at this time.
Memory - 128MiB DDR and 32MiB Flash (as opposed to the 64/16 in the Livebox Mini).

There is nothing new or particularly exciting in the box. Doing a quick rummage, the tech is about half a decade old. Like the older Livebox, and Sky receivers (etc), this box is intended to be a fairly inexpensive means-to-an-end. It does its job. That's its design criteria. It is a little sad to see that as an upgrade to the Livebox Mini, it is really a Mini with some added stuff (an extra USB port, two more Ethernet ports, and a WiFi n card); however it is nice that this time the firmware seems to do the sorts of things the handbook promises.

I quite like the flat box design. The slightly-open-book idea of the older Livebox was quite nifty, but suffered horribly in that there were few ways to place the thing that didn't have plugs sticking out in awkward ways. With a flat box, there is no such problem. In fact, it goes a step further in that there's a little slide-on thing that hides several of the cables once they're hooked up. It's a nice touch that makes for a cleaner design and something less objectionable on the mantlepiece...

The power question isn't quite so hot. It has been measured as being 'ready' (WiFi ready, VoIP ready, no ethernet devices, no USB devices) at 8.2W, rising to 10.9W for VoIP traffic, and higher for traffic between two devices using the device as a router. If we assume 10W is an "average", then this device will run for 100 hours for one kW/h unit. There are 8760 hours in a year, 100 hours/unit, this means we ought to count on 87.6 units per year. If we can work on a unit being about €0,12, this will be about ten euros fifty to run the Livebox. Then add tax... ☺


Some interesting things...

  • replies:
    Model=Sagem Livebox

  • replies:
    (yes, it appears to happily send out the WiFi security key - WTF?!? (fail! fail! fail!))
  • replies:
    (as with the previous, you see the source - DocType fail?)

In use, it seems stable and so far reliable. Mom does report, though, that it seems to reset itself around 12:10. I guess that could be one way to work around the bugs that used to afflict the Livebox Mini (after a lot of data transfer, it sometimes (too often!) would slow down to around 6k/sec; a power-cycle was needed to fix it). I would have liked to have chosen the reset time (surely 5am would have been better than just after noon?) but if the thing is set to reboot itself daily, I'm cool with that. Whatever makes it work better.


Lightning is SCARY!

The storm that fried my Livebox was a "dry storm". It builds as a thunderstorm without any storm part. A nasty looking cloud, but that's about it. I heard one crack and, well, the finger of fate smacked my Livebox (but that finger never points at me on lottery draw night, meh...). About two hundred miles south-west and about two hours earlier, a woman on the beach was struck down by a bolt of lightning [like with us, the sky didn't look too good but there wasn't anything like a thunderstorm around]. It entered a boob and out through her ankle, and didn't touch or adversely affect her friends standing around. She survived, but there's a question as to whether or not she'll cope with thunderstorms in the future. And can you blame her? Good grief!


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