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IT issues on 666 ABC Canberra Drive with Keri Phillips each Wednesday at 5:50pm
With Tom Worthington FACS, Visiting Fellow, Department of Computer Science, Australian National University
- Transact Optical Cable into Basement: The thin black cables carry the signals for all apartments in the building.
- Transact Node in Basement: This box connects Transact to apartments in the building. Note the wire sculpture on top of the cabinet. ;-)
- Back of Set-Top-Box: The basement cabinet is connected to a wall socket in my apartment and then by the red wire to the set-top-box.
- Set-Top-Box and remote control: Many of the buttons on the remote control do nothing.
- Black border fuzzy white line on digital channel: Note that this picture was taken from the TV screen and the picture quality is much better in reality.
The Transact broadband and pay TV connection for the Smart Apartment was installed on the morning of 1 May 2002 (it was ordered in late 2001). These are some impressions on the installation and initial operation.
Transact is installed by one of several contracted companies. I was offered two installation times: 8:00am or 11:30am, with the installation to take up to 3 hours. At 8:05am today the mobile phone rang. The installer was having difficulty finding the right location in the unmarked street of the new apartment building. At 8:11am two people turned up, conscientiously wiped their feet on the mat and came in to do the installation.
By 9:34am the telephone had been connected.
By 9:45am the set-top-box (STB) for digital TV had been installed. Unfortunately there was a note on the box to say it was faulty and should not be used.
By 10:15am a replacement STB had been obtained. TV and Internet access were working and I had been show how to use the basic functions.
By 10:46 am the first probe of my computer had occurred over the Internet.
The apartment building already had cabling installed, but even so there were some problems. While testing the cable the installers found that the wires in the lounge for the STB had "reverse polarity". The installers supplied the cables to connect the STB to the wall and one from the STB to my computer. Unfortunately the cables are bright red and don't fit in with the decor. Computer cabling comes in bright colors for easy identification in an office. Someone needs to make some in designer beige for home use.
There were no problems with the telephone connection, which is a conventional analogue telephone line. The Internet connection also worked and is VERY fast, but it is important to read the instructions supplied and follow them (I skipped a step the first time and it didn't work). Connection is easier than for a dial-up Internet connection.
It should be remembered that a computer is likely to be connected to the Transact connection for long periods. This increases the chance of attack by a hacker and some form of firewall software should be considered. The first "probe" of my computer occurred 35 minutes after the connection.
While the telephone and Internet parts of Transact worked well, there were problems with the TV service:
- Wrong box: The replacement STB was intended for another transact customer. It was set up with their identity and displayed their customer details, including their name, address and telephone numbers. It appears that I if ordered a video, they would get the bill.
- Complex Interface: The STB provides many different functions (regular TV, pay TV, video on demand) and these don't appear to have been design together. The remote control has a lot of buttons, many of which don't do anything. At one point I pushed "0" to exit and almost ordered a pizza (in some places you press "8" to exit and others "0"). The Pizza would have been delivered to the person who's STB this was supposed to be. ;-)
- Poor Digital TV Picture:The TV picture for regular free-to-air and Pay TV channels was very good. But for new digital channels there was a large black border with the picture taking up only about three quarters of the screen. Some of the digital channels had a fuzzy white line at the top. This may be a problem with the new digital TV channels in Canberra rather than Transact.
- Poor User Interface:The on screen information, such as the TV guide, has small text and is very difficult to read. The Transact people who designed this obviously have good eyes and a big TV screen. If my ANU students designed this interface for an assignment I would fail them. ;-)
But the system does work. There were no problems with the phone or computer connection, just the TV part. These appear to be teething problems which will be sorted out in time.
Comments and corrections to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © Tom Worthington 2001-2002.