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Live Wire: Stumbling at high speeds

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Live Wire: Stumbling at high speeds | Thaiger

PHUKET: People frequently ask me, what’s the best internet connection in Phuket? The short answer is… there’s no way to know for sure. Much depends on your exact location, and luck.

Over the years I have run a free speed reporting site, PhuketInternetSpeed.com, which is an attempt at quantifying the real-world internet international download speeds here in Phuket.

For quite some time, we had pretty good luck nailing down which providers were the fastest, which had intermittent problems, and which just weren’t in the running. With 30,000 individually reported measurements, running through the data divulged some worthwhile results.

Now, I’m not so sure.

The most recent problem started when TOT and 3BB found a way to skew our tests: we were all using a specific test to a location in Los Angeles. First TOT, and later 3BB, found ways to boost the results on that test, without noticeably improving their general service levels. We’ve tried to bob around a bit, testing to a different location, and using different tests, but the results have been spotty.

There’s a more fundamental problem.

Almost all internet speed–testing sites measure how long it takes to download one file over one connection from a webserver to your PC. Depending on where and how you download most files, that might be an accurate reflection of how well your internet connection is working for you. Or maybe not.

For example, all major browsers have download accelerators built in. (Free, third-party accelerators are also available as browser add-ons.) Accelerators typically download files over two or more connections — often without telling you that you’re using multiple simultaneous download threads. That makes it impossible to predict whether an accelerator is delivering a faster download over a given internet connection — and how much faster that delivery might be.

Torrents take multiple data streams as an article of faith. So your typical internet speed test probably won’t provide an accurate measure of torrent download speeds, which can depend on mostly uncontrollable factors such as the number of sites (or seeds) offering the file for download and the speeds of those seeding sites. More than that, downloading torrents in Thailand has the added unpredictability of the location of the seeds: if the file’s being offered inside Thailand, it’ll go faster than a file outside of Thailand.

All of the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Phuket serve up popular webpages more quickly by caching pages on their local servers.

If, say, 1,000 Internet users in Phuket are watching a Formula 1 race in Monte Carlo, the ISP doesn’t have to move 1,000 identical sets of bits from Monte Carlo to Phuket.

Instead, one stream of bits flows from the Monte Carlo race to Bangkok, and 1,000 streams flow to Phuket.

That saves the ISP money by reducing the international bandwidth they need to provide.

It also speeds things up for us customers. The caching takes place in the blink of an eye.

Caching is great for many reasons, but if you’re trying to measure your typical Internet speed, it can gum up the results. Some internet speed tests check for something called latency or ping time: it’s the time necessary to move one packet of data from your computer, to the destination and back. When a latency/ping test comes in faster than the speed of light, either there’s something fishy going on or your ISP has learned how to exploit a wormhole.

Here’s an example. Light travels at 186,000 miles per second, but in typical fiber it’s closer to 130,000 miles per second. The distance from Phuket to Los Angeles is about 8,300 miles. Real internet connections never travel as fast as the speed of light – there are switches and all sorts of intermediate disruptions. But the very fastest “ping” from Phuket to Los Angeles should take at least (2 * 8,300)/130,000 = 0.128 seconds, or 128 milliseconds.

If you’re near a computer, try running the speed test at speedtest.net. I just got a ping run of 62 msec. Although the people at OOKLA, who run the speedtest.net site, assure me that their test can’t be cached, at least that part of the test is being cached. Either that, or True has figured out how to move bits faster than the speed of light. The speedtest site says my download speed is about 9 Megabits per second, which is quite respectable for a 10 Mbps True ADSL line.

By contrast, the DSLReports speed test reports my ping to the Los Angeles server at 248 msec – a thoroughly credible number. But DSLReports says my downloads run about 1.6 to 1.8 Mbps, or one-fifth as fast as OOKLA reports.

Here’s the clincher. If I run a full-out download, with multiple streams of data to a very, very fast server in the US, I can hit just about 9 Mbps.

It gets worse. When I use MLab’s Network Diagnostic Tool, I get 7.3 Mbps.

When I run the Visualware test, I get 1.9 Mbps.

So which is it? Am I really getting 9 Mbps (OOKLA/Speedtest), 1.6 Mbps (DSLReports), 7.3 (MLabs), 1.9 (Visualware) – or something else entirely?

I struggled with that question when I was writing my latest Top Story for Windows Secrets Newsletter and I didn’t come up with a definitive answer. Each of the sites produces different results. Remarkably, they’re all replicable: I get just about the same speeds regardless of which computer I use, what operating system, which browser. The main variation I see is from day to day, and hour to hour.

A friend of mine has been watching his download speeds, too, very carefully. He’s discovered that his downloads peak every night about midnight: at 11:59 pm, he’s getting 2 or 3 Mbps, or even less, then at 12:01 am, he’s up to 9 or 10 Mbps. And that happens every night, like clockwork.

Next week I’ll tell you how the US government is handling dichotomies like this one – yes, the Feds see the same sort of speed differences that we see here in Phuket, although that midnight spike is unique as far as I can tell. Next week I’ll also step you through a few methods for trying to track down what’s happening to your line.

But the original question – which internet service is best – remains unsolved, and I don’t have a good way of making measurements that can be replicated across the island. (In the best of all possible worlds, the testing method would be something that regular everyday internet customers could perform.) If you have an idea, or a testing method that isn’t well known, I’d sure like to hear from you! Shoot me email.

We’re running informal computer clinic roundtables every Sunday morning at Sandwich Shoppe Chalong, located 1 km north of Chalong Circle on Chao Fah East road. If you have a Windows problem that needs to be solved, or a question about internet service in Phuket, drop by and ask one of the assembled gurus. Sponsored by the Phuket Gazette and Khun Woody’s Sandwich Shoppes.

Live Wire is Woody Leonhard’s weekly snapshot of all things Internet in Phuket.

Follow him on Twitter, @PhuketLiveWire, and “like” the pages at facebook.com/SandwichShoppe, facebook.com/phuketgazette.net and now Google+, or send him mail at — Woody Leonhard

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Hotel blog suggests Phuket should push ahead with July reopening despite Covid surge

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Hotel blog suggests Phuket should push ahead with July reopening despite Covid surge | Thaiger
PHOTO: Hotels and other tourism business are hoping the July 1st reopening goal can still be achieved.

A hotel information blog is claiming that, despite growing Covid-19 numbers, Phuket should stick to its schedule in reopening to travellers without quarantine in July. That’s only 2 and a half months away.

In an interview with the Director of Travel and Tourism Consulting at GlobalData, they stressed that while it is crucial to rein in the spread of Covid-19 and the B117 strain now menacing Thailand, the risk must not overshadow the need to push forward with vaccinations and the march towards eliminating the quarantine by July in order to save the tourism industry and all those dependent on it.

“The Phuket pilot program is essential in creating a path towards economic recovery for Thailand, a country heavily dependent on tourism. More than 17% of Thailand’s gross domestic product is attributed to tourism and the Covid-19 pandemic has lead to the worst economic free-fall in over 20 years”

The blog acknowledges the inherent risk and possible appearance of foolishness to prioritise the plans to reopen and carry on with the same rollout schedule. But they urge Thai authorities to consider that July 1 is still 2 and a half months away, leaving ample time to recover and make progress towards the approaching Phuket reopening. A vital aspect of the reopening plan lies in vaccinating over 70% of Phuket’s provincial residents, a sizable task, but one that brings great benefit with or without the scheduled reopening.

“Pushing ahead to achieve this goal puts Phuket on track to welcome back tourists, perhaps in a “bio-bubble”, and restart the economy. The economy is desperate with household debt growing, pushing the government to enact emergency decrees to provide relief. These households need the return of tourism and the influx of cash international tourists will bring.”

The blog hopes that Thai authorities can balance the necessary Covid-19 safety measures in Phuket to protect the Thai population with the economic need to bring back tourism. They believe that with sufficient measures in place, vaccinated locals could welcome vaccinated international tourists back to Phuket reopening safely in July.

SOURCE: Hotel News Resource

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

UPDATE: Field hospitals being established in Covid hot zones around Thailand

Tim Newton

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UPDATE: Field hospitals being established in Covid hot zones around Thailand | Thaiger

UPDATE: The field hospital in Bangkok’s Bang Bon district, west of the Chao Phraya river, had its first 10 Covid patients today. The director of the medical services office of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration says that the 10 patients into the makeshift hospital, located at the Chalerm Phra Kiat Stadium, will enable assessment of the performance by the medical team, before more patients arrive – Thai PBS World

ORIGINAL STORY: Despite the confident posture and Songkran going ahead, amid restrictions, there is a lot of background activity which suggest the authorities are getting ready for a surge of new infections at the end of the Songkran break, officially this Thursday (but in reality, next Sunday at the end of the weekend when most people who travelled home will return for a resumption of work).

The Thai lunar new year celebrations – Songkran – are the largest mass movement of Thais each year, a source for a huge leap in road deaths and accidents. And, this year, a potential super-spreader event.

Quietly, at least 3,000 extra beds have been prepared in 10 field hospitals around Bangkok. The government has also confirmed that additional field hospitals are being set up in other potential ‘hot zones’, including Phuket, Chiang Mai, Chonburi and Hua Hin. Some of them were set up last year, and since closed, and now being prepared for new positive infections.

One Thai person who had been in one of the field hospitals put together a check-list of things to take IF you end up as an invited ‘guest’ HERE.

The CCSA say they are looking for additional beds in hotels and previous state quarantine facilities (where repatriating Thais were housed for their free quarantine) to be used if needed.

This year’s Songkran had bad timing, coming just a week after a number of major clusters were identified around some of Bangkok’s popular nightlife areas in 3 key inner city districts. Even before Songkran these isolated clusters had already spread into the provinces. In the weekend before Songkran the government had already listed 37 provinces which had instigated some form of paperwork or restrictions for people who had been in any of the 3 Bangkok districts.

The government also leapt on the source of the new outbreaks – bars, clubs and entertainment venues – and promptly shut them down for at least 2 weeks. At this stage it looks likely that that ban will be extended beyond the 2 weeks and, depending on the extent of new infections following the Songkran holiday, additional restrictions will also be added.

Even today the Civil Aviation Authority published a number of new in-flight restrictions for passengers – another blow to the hard-hit domestic aviation sector.

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Chiang Mai

Tourism officials slash Songkran travel expectations by half

Tim Newton

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Tourism officials slash Songkran travel expectations by half | Thaiger

The TAT, ever the optimists regarding anything tourism related, even domestic tourism, predict that the Bangkok clusters that have emerged in the week before the Songkran break could reduce traffic and spending by up to half.

Today the CCSA is reporting 789 new infections and one additional death. 522 were local infections, mostly walk-ins to Bangkok hospitals, 259 were discovered through track and tracing. The remaining 8 were found in quarantine from overseas arrivals. In Phuket, another 17 cases have been reported today, taking the island’s week total to 43.

Tourism officials slash Songkran travel expectations by half | News by ThaigerGRAPH: Worldometer figures for Thailand, up to April 9

A 68 year old man from Nakhon Pathom province died on April 4 but wasn’t reported until today. The CCSA report that he died from Covid and “complications”. 33 other former patients have recovered and been discharged.

Last week the TAT estimated 3.2 million domestic trips would circulate 12 billion baht for the Thai economy. But the Tourism Authority has now slashed their estimates by half after hotels, airlines and bus companies reported mass cancellations in the last few days. Other provinces are reporting less than 20% cancellations. Although this weekend will see a lot of travel, Songkran doesn’t formally start until next Tuesday and the TAT expect there could be additional fallout as travellers decide to have a staycation for Songkran instead heading home.

Bangkok Post reports that 70% of travellers to Prachuap Khiri Khan and Hua Hin have already cancelled hotel bookings. Similar cancellations have been reported in Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai. Many other provinces, particularly in the north east and north, are also enforcing quarantine on arrivals or additional paperwork to try and protect their provinces from any of the Bangkok clusters.

8 north eastern provinces rare now requiring 10 or 14 day quarantine periods for anyone arriving from areas where new clusters have been reported. Chiang Mai provincial officials say that tourists from Samut Prakan, Nakhon Pathom, Bangkok, Pathum Thani and Nonthaburi – basically Bangkok and surrounding provinces – must complete a 14 day mandatory quarantine or conduct a test for Covid when they arrive.

The reality is that the travel and quarantine changes are outstripping the ability to communicate them all. Anyone crossing into other provinces in the next few day, especially if you’re travelling from Bangkok and surrounding provincial ‘red zones’ can expect some additional paperwork or a Covid test. Or even quarantine.

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