Year-End Greetings from techCONNECT 2022
And that was the year! We have a few days left of what was a roller coaster ride of a year, and what a trip it’s been!
From the previous uncertainty of Covid lockdowns to the war in Ukraine that seemingly increased the price of everything to everyday consumers, the word “normal” has changed meaning in our vocabulary.
What challenges will we face in the coming year? Is China invading Taiwan? Another virus outbreak? Global warming, an energy crisis.
The emergence of AI (Artificial Intelligence) is a significant concern that we cannot ignore. AI is becoming ubiquitous in everyday life. Soon we will not distinguish a human operator from a robotic one.
Deepfakes can mimic the faces and voices of every single person on earth with a simple scan of your social media photos and videos. Be very careful what you place online, and be very careful not to believe everything that you read or see. It may not be real.
Follow trustworthy news sources. You are responsible for educating yourself on these technologies, as they will not disappear.
Turn off location and information tracking on your phones and smart TVs. You will be shocked at the amount of data they collect. Better still, please chat with us about setting up anonymous browsing.
They say that sometimes progress can be measured by simply putting one foot in front of the other. It’s felt like a slog, but the techCONNECT Team has been making steady progress. A very special THANK YOU to every one of our clients for sticking with us during these tumultuous times.
Due to the increase in load-shedding, we installed backup batteries at every one of our Wifi Towers. The increase in historic uptime is evident if you look at https://status.techshops.co.za/.
At techCONNECT, we like to distinguish ourselves from a client service/WIFI uptime point of view. We’ve installed seven new WIFI towers, with an average uptime of above 98%. All towers are running on 48V battery systems, with WA, Naboom and Pofadder being upgraded to solar soon.
We’ve been growing steadily by more than 30 clients a month, with a 60/40 split between businesses and residential clients. Our prices are a bit higher, but we need to be realistic regarding pricing as all costs have been rising, especially fuel costs.
We’ve had massive expansion into the Naas/Tonga area, growing our subscriber base by more than 250 clients in these areas this year alone. We’ve also opened a Tonga office to better service our clients in these suburbs.
Furthermore, our Greyvan tower is nearing completion, which will alleviate a lot of pressure on our single link from Lebombo mountain into Marloth Park. It will also provide a failover in case this link goes down.
I often get asked whether our competitors installing fibre connectivity in Komatipoort and Marloth Park have hurt our business. The short answer is “no”.
Simply put, FTTH or Fiber To The Home, is a farce. If you have a 1GB line shared by thousands of subscribers (commonly referred to as contention ratio), the effective speed that every subscriber receives on the line is less than 1 Mbps, not 100. Preseem’s Fixed Wireless Report states that the average subscriber uses 6 Mbps when active and speed plans over 100Mbps sit idle. Most clients use no more data as their speed plans increase. A summary of this information is provided on page 3 of the report, available here.
What matters most to clients is the quality of their wifi experience, that videos don’t buffer and that there is someone to talk to and can help them when they phone our support number (013 013 0310 during office hours and 072 261 4324 after hours, up to 10 PM). When a problem requires a technician to visit the site, we ensure that this happens within 48 hours.
I want to thank each member of the techCONNECT Family. Your never-say-die attitude epitomises the South African Spirit. You guys make me so proud to be a part of the Team.
And finally, to our loyal clients. Thank you for being so supportive. Thank you for your business. Thank you for being patient with us during the ups and downs of doing business in a challenging environment.
We will always be here for you and try our best. That is a promise.
May you enjoy time with your Family and loved ones, and if travelling, please do so carefully.
God Speed and Warm Lowveld Greetings
Arno and the techCONNECT Team
Power Failures and Other Stories
The year is almost halfway done, school holidays are around the corner and techCONNECT has been busy busy busy!
We are continually tweaking our network and massive amounts of work is constantly happening behind the scenes to make sure our infrastructure remains the best in the Onderberg. The purpose of this mail is to bring you up to date on the upgrades we are performing on our network to make it world-class.
We recently upgraded our equipment on the Lebombo mountains to state–of-the-art Mimosa sectors, the same equipment that is currently being used by our clients at the Komati Dry Port. We have made the decision moving forward that we will only be installing Mimosa radios as the speed is MUCH better, ranging from 180-550 Mbps. This will future-proof our network, enabling us to offer clients 100 Mbps+ connections with fibre-like speeds.
Furthermore, the Mimosa’s have a technology called “Auto Everything” which negates the dreaded interference issues which we are always talking about. Interference happens when our competitors decide to use the same spectrum that we are using. An analogy would be similar to two radio station channels, Jacaranda FM and LM Radio trying to broadcast on the same frequency. The result is static noise which seriously messes with our signal quality and your connection speed.
We plan on methodically upgrading our entire network to Mimosa equipment. This will come at a significant cost to us, but we are willing to make the investment to ensure client satisfaction remains at a premium. We will be starting with the Pofadder tower in Marloth Park first and will keep you updated on our progress.
On the 19th of July, we implemented a new technology called Airfiber which will significantly increase the quality of your browsing experience. Movies will load quicker and generally, you should see a significant improvement on all Internet-related activities. The system monitors your “quality of experience” and proactively checks whether your connection is stable and fast. We have already made important inroads into fixing bottle-necks on our network that we were alerted to by the Airfibre system.
All of these upgrades cost money, but Nico’s and my approach has always been to invest in technologies that make our network the best and guarantees customer satisfaction above all else.
We know for a fact that our network and service is snappier and superior and our reach is far better than our competitors and we plan on keeping it that way by investing in superior technologies. We want to be the BEST!
OK, now that I’ve built this super-nice technology sandwich, it is time for the groveling to commence.
Yes, I know we have been experiencing some downtime and we’re truly sorry about it. To say that the electricity supply in Komati town is erratic would be the understatement of the year. When I see the Eskom truck pull up to the manhole across the street from our shop, I want to start hurling stones at them.
Our 5KVA UPS that used to last 4 hours now only lasts fifteen minutes. It’s a year old and due to be replaced. To make matters worse, in the middle of Eskom’s load shedding cycle, our generator belched a huge plume of black smoke and decided that life wasn’t worth living anymore. It is now being used as a very uncomfortable chair in our office until we decide what to do with it. Anyone know any good generator mechanics?
We replaced the ex-generator with Nico’s one that he had lying around at home. Our clients’ uptime is much more important than having a functioning aircon at home during a blackout. I hate the thing because you have to pull a rope to get it started, the old one worked with a key. Hey, beggars can’t be choosers (and I’ll convince Nico to start the thing because it’s his and I don’t want to break it when I apply my superior muscle power to the pully thingy to get it started).
Our shiny new UPS has arrived and we will schedule a couple of minutes of downtime to get it swapped out soon. Then we’ll have another heavy metal object to take up unwanted office space. You may have noticed that I have separation anxiety with stuff in the office since we threw Louise Thiart’s monitor away (I still get nightmares about that one).
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the rest of the year and the cooler weather. Summer is around the corner! And please remember that you can monitor the status of your tower at status.techshops.co.za. Give us a ring if you’re unsure about which one you’re on.
Warm Lowveld Greetings
Arno and the techCONNECT Team
Online Gaming: A Social Evil or a new bonding experience?
In the next couple of articles, we’ll be looking at how the internet affects our daily lives and what impact (positive or negative) it has on us.
This is a complex subject with many caveats, but today I’m going to hone in on online games, the good, the bad and what to look out for. First and foremost, let’s get the negative aspects out of the way so we can wrap up with the positives.
A recent study at the university of Oxford has found that addiction to online gaming and gambling should be classified (and treated) as a mental disorder. Personally, I know some fellow gamers who have spent tens of thousands of Rands on mobile games. Clash of clans, a “free” mobile game, has an annual turnover of $2.3 billion. Why? Because you can spend money in the game to advance in the game at a quicker pace. The game counts on our impatience to advance in the game to make money. And once you are hooked and have forked out some dough, you’re addicted.
A couple of weeks ago my business partner installed Minecraft on his daughter’s iPad. He was in for a nasty surprise when he found out that they were chatting to a random person who was asking very personal questions. Were they a boy or a girl? What was their address? It’s a scary thought that a stranger from anywhere in the world could have access to your children. Please monitor the games your children have installed on their devices, and install an app like Net Nanny to block malicious websites.
But let us not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I love playing online games. Some of my closest friends I met by chatting to them on my headset while trying to beat them in an online game.
Recently my kids have joined me online to compete with their dad. Seeing first-hand how my nine-year old rushes around on the map, builds walls to use as cover from enemy fire and doing all of this while avoiding friendly fire amazes me.
Our online gaming sessions have become great bonding sessions and have presented me with an opportunities to teach them the finer nuances of taking orders from superiors, taking charge of situations and making split decisions to save your troops from harm.
Social and leadership abilities are some of the most important life skills you can have as a person. Hand eye coordination is also very important and to see their dexterity with a controller in their hands is awesome.
To wrap it up, as with everything in life there is the good and the bad. Monitor your kids’ online activities with the multitude of awesome apps that are available, and use online games as a tool to bond with your kids and teach them some life skills. With mature mentorship and solid rules, online gaming can be a very positive influence on any child’s life.
Warm Lowveld Greetings
Why is my PC slow?
Arno Joubert – Another question that we get asked a lot and yet another subject that novels could be written about.
Something that we see quite often which could cause a slow or hanging PC is having multiple anti-virus programs installed. We often find that clients have AVG or Avast and McAfee running at the same time. This causes the anti-virus programs to continuously scan the hard drive, literally working against each other. If this is the case, we usually uninstall McAfee.
Secondly, the dreaded Windows Updates are a major culprit as well. When Windows Updates run, we’ve observed that the hard drive utilization starts spiking at 100%, literally rendering your PC unusable. Because a Windows 10 update could be several GB’s in size, and depending on your internet connection speed, it could take a couple of days for the update to complete. This is absolutely frustrating as your PC is rendered into a large brick that’s only good enough to be used as a doorstop.
You have one of two options to remedy this problem. The first thing you could do is to temporarily disable Windows updates. Press the Windows Key and “R” simultaneously, type services.msc in the run box and search for a service called “Windows Update”. Right-click on the service and select “Stop”.
We would recommend that you allow the update to complete properly, though. If you need a fast internet connection, you are welcome to plug your laptop into our superfast network to get the update through. We won’t charge you and you can enjoy one of our famous ground bean coffees and some good conversation while waiting for the process to complete.
Sometimes all a PC needs is some TLC. To give your beloved PC the much-needed attention it craves, we recommend that you download a maintenance script such as Tron. Tron will run through various routines like a disk defragmentation, file and registry cleanups as well as virus and PUP (potentially unwanted program) checkers. Consider this a “oil change” for your PC. Please note though that the script could run for up to 8 hours, you will have to be patient and wait for it to complete. You may download the script from here: http://www.bmrf.org/repos/tron/
There are numerous other factors that could affect your PC speed. If you need help with diagnosing your slow PC issues, please give us a ring and we’ll gladly point you in the right direction.