Category Archives: telecommunications

A bit of telecoms history off to recycling

This time I really am going to do it. About 4 years ago I had a grand clear-out of my office and decided that my archive of telecoms software and manuals had to go. I offered them to anyone who was interested and a few items were snapped up. The rest are still sitting here in a box and I am offering them again to anyone who might be interested for historical reasons, research or whatever. You do not have to take the whole lot. Let me know if you are interested. Closing date  is 28th May 2012 when they are definitely off to recycling.

Telecomms software manuals

Database/information provider specific

Mercury Business Intelligence (MBI) User Guide Version 1.1. A5 ring binder
MBI Launcher v 1.2 (Windows) 3.5″ disk + hardcopy installation guide.

FT Profile freeway user manual (Windows 3) + 3.5″ disk

DialogLink for Windows Operating Systems Version 2.0 1993
User’s Guide + 3.5″ disk

Radio-Suisse DataMail Guide 1991-1992 (Guide to setting up and using DataStar’s online DataMail service)

General telecomms software

Odyssey User Manual spiral bound + 3.5″ disk. 1990
Odyssey for Windows A5 User manual + 3.5″ disk 1995

Crosstalk for Windows User’s Guide + Crosstalk for Windows CASL Programmer’s Guide 3X 3.5″ disks, 3x 5.25″ disks. 1992

Deputy User Guide. A5 ring binder + 3.5″ diskette 1992, version 3.04

Procomm Plus User Manual + Aspect Script Language Reference Manual + 2x 3.5″ disks, 3 x 5.25″ disks. 1991.

Procomm Plus for Windows User Manual (EC Version) + Windows Aspect Script Language (EC Version) + 3 x 3.5″ disks, 3 x 5.25″ disks. 1992

Procomm Plus Very Connected 3.0 user guide + CD

Hayes Smartcom for Windows 1993:

Read Me First!
User’s Guide
Quick Reference
Editor Reference
SCOPE for Windows Technical Reference
Communications Reference
4x 3.5″ disks
4x 5.25″ disks

Sage Chit-Chat 2.6 for IBM PC/XT
Boxed set of user manual, installation notes, 3.5″ disk, 5.25″ disk

QuickLink II Fax and telecommunications Windows & DOS 1993. User manual + 3.5″ disk

QuickLink Message Center: voice, fax & telecommunication. Windows. 1993. User manual + 3.5″ disk

Checking broadband availability and speeds

Whether at work or at home, a fast and reliable internet connection is an essential for many of us. An increasing number of people spend at least one day a week working at home, some run their businesses from an office at home and, like it or not, the UK government and utility services are pushing us in the direction of managing our business and personal affairs online. There are numerous broadband providers touting their wares and trying to persuade us to switch to their super duper fast services with promises of  24 MB downloads, but the speeds achieved in reality are often far less. In some areas there is no broadband access at all. The problem is that should you discover you have been sold a very expensive dud you could be stuck in a 12 month contract with no easy way out. If you are moving house or thinking of switching provider you need to know what is possible in theory, which providers are available in your area and the speeds that people are actually getting.

First, can you get any broadband at all? For a long time after it was introduced I was unable to have broadband. The length and quality of the cabling from the exchange to my street was such that it was doubtful I would maintain even a 256 KB connection. And, no, I do not live in the middle of nowhere but in Caversham on the other side of the River Thames from Reading. I kept checking the BT broadband availability page ( and finally, after a major line and cable upgrade, I discovered I could have 1-2 MB – possibly. I went with an Eclipse business package – recommended by several colleagues – and muddled along with around 1MB download speeds for a couple of years. The only major issue I had was the time taken to download software and BBC iPlayer programmes (around 1.5 hours for a 45 minute broadcast). A few weeks ago the availability checker had good news: my exchange had been upgraded.

BT Broadband Checker

Eclipse upgraded me and I am now whizzing along at 11-14 MB download and 500-600 KB upload.

The second matter is that of speed, and I do not mean what the providers claim on their web sites or in their glossy brochures. Broadband Speed Checker at allows users to test their actual line speed. As well as running the speed check you can add your test results to a Google map by giving your postcode and see other results for the surrounding area. If you are moving house or just want to see what is available in a neighbourhood go straight to and enter the postcode.

Broadband Speed Check

Speech bubbles mark the approximate location of the speed tests and give the name of the provider with the average download speed. Results are based on tests at the location over the last 6 months. Click on one of the bubbles and you can view the individual test results. Some have only one whilst other people seem to run them regularly. The broadband package, price and advertised speed are given but this might not be totally accurate. My own business package was not listed so I had to pick the closest home package in terms of speed and price. The maximum speed advertised for me is 24 Mb but I was told by my supplier that I would be unlikely to reach that. At 11-14 MB I am not complaining – it is at least 10 times what it used it be. I do feel sorry, though, for those poor souls who are paying for 20 MB and barely reaching 1.5 🙁 It is probably why they ran they tests in the first place. Evidence with which to confront their provider!

Who phoned?

Having just come back from two weeks holiday, one of my first tasks was to check the phone messages on both my land line and my mobile.A handful of callers left messages, several did not and were number ‘withheld’ or ‘International’, and a few rang without leaving a message but are known contacts in the “phone book” so their names were recorded in the log. About half of those who did not leave a message were just logged as a number and some made repeated calls.There is no point in calling most of these numbers back because you usually end up at a switchboard. Even if you do get the individual who rang they have long forgotten the purpose of their call. But I am a curious person and I like to see if I can track down the identity of mystery callers.

I first search the various contact lists on  my computer using Copernic Desktop Search. Sometimes that throws up a long forgotten contact. A straightforward Google search on the number may also work. If those fail I run the geographic numbers through a program on my desktop called CodeLook. This will tell me the area, exchange and telecoms operator but not the identity of the owner of the number. It can be enough, though, to jog my memory about a friend, relative, or customer. The program is part of a subscription service for  members of Magenta Systems’s UK Tariff Comparison web site but there is also a free online version at

There is one type of caller that drives me mad: the call centre. They ring repeatedly, hardly ever leave a message, and often there is no-one at the other end when you do pick up. For these numbers Whocallsme is a godsend. This is a user supplied database of UK phone numbers of:

“telemarketers, non-profit organizations, charities, political surveyors, SCAM artists, and other companies that don’t leave messages, disconnect once you answer, ignore the Do-Not-Call List regulations, and simply interrupt your day.”

On this occasion, Whocallsme identified two of the repeat callers. The first was a British Gas call centre. They repeatedly phone me trying to persuade me to change my gas supply to them (I already have my electricity supplied by them). Asking them to cease and desist has no effect whatsoever so they will now be added to the automatic “Choose to refuse” list on my land line. The second was a mobile number and turned out to be Orange. I have a four month old dispute with their billing department so that number was definitely worth pursuing and following up.

All this might seem like a lot of effort to track down who phoned you but it can be worth it if only to identify and filter out the junk callers.

UK Mobile Phone Directory

Update: February 4th, 2010. This directory is no longer available

UK mobile phone numbers are now available in an online directory at, which claims to have 15m numbers in its database. 118 800 obtains the numbers from market research companies who contact individuals and ask if they would be prepared to allow their numbers to be used for commercial purposes, from online businesses who ask customers to opt in their numbers during the course of online transactions, and from brokers who buy and sell lists of phone numbers. To search for a number you just type the name and location of the person into the 118800 website. You may be asked to supply further address details to confirm the identity of the person you wish to contact. 118800 then texts the person you wish to contact asking them if they are prepared to accept the call. The service costs £1.

There have been serious concerns raised about this service and its potential use by spammers, and also about the accuracy of the data. See the BBC web site at and also 118 800: First UK mobile phone directory doesn’t connect with us – Crave at CNET UK

If you wish to be ex-directory, go to then click on ‘Ex Directory’ at top right hand side of the page. You will be asked for your mobile number and to type in letters from a CAPTCHA (those horrible distorted letters and numbers that take at least three attempts before you get it right). You should then receive a text message from 118 800 with a number that you have to type into the 118 800 web site to complete your opt-out. The FAQ says that it can take up to 4 weeks to make you ex-directory (why so long?)

Thanks to Bert Washington, membership secretary of CLSIG (Commercial Legal and Scientific Information Group), for circulating a reminder about the directory.

Say no to 0870 – alternative telephone numbers

Say No to 0870 has been around for a while but it is only recently that I have had to make serious use of its database. I have been researching hotel business meeting facilities and was amazed at how many still use 0870 numbers. My middle name ought to be ‘Scrooge’ because I resent having to pay for a phone call when I could be connecting using my mobile’s very generous free minutes (geographic numbers only) allocation. When that is used up, I have various VOIP services that I can use for a few pence.

This web site gives alternative geographic numbers for 0800, 0808, 0844, 0845, 0870 and 0871 numbers. Search on the company name or its non-geographic number and you are offered alternative geographic numbers. Sources include web sites and contributions from users. You may wonder why freephone numbers are included: these often take you to a central call centre or redirect you to a branch location based on your telephone area code (if available). You then spend what seems to be forever trying to get connected to the right branch or location. “No I don’t want to book a room …. and, yes, I know I am phoning from Newcastle but I want to contact the Events Sales Manager for Whizzo Hotels in Oxford!”