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Live Wire: Stumbling at high speeds

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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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Visa

Phuket Immigration handing out ‘conditional’ 14 day visas, pending investigations

The Thaiger

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Phuket Immigration handing out ‘conditional’ 14 day visas, pending investigations | The Thaiger

Confusion reigns. It was predictable and many people, despite months of warnings, have left their visa extensions to the last minute. Meanwhile Thai immigration don’t appear to be making the process easy as The Thaiger has received multiple comments from foreigners visiting the various immigration offices around the country and encountering ‘local’ applications of the published guidelines and, in some cases, demands for additional paperwork.

A note to The Thaiger, we won’t publish the person’s name, from Phuket where a person applying for an extension to their visa has been given something less than the 30 days promised by the government.

“On Monday Phuket Immigration was only giving 14 day ‘conditional’ VISA extensions from the date of application, not from September 26. They announced this was to allow time to “investigate and verify” the need for the extension.

So basically we paid 1900 baht for a 14 day extension. After announcing this many people left as many que numbers were called and nobody came up. They said if that were the case they would come back later in the week.

So we have to go back on October 5 (or a few days later is ok they announced) to see if we’re approved for the 30 day extension from September 26. If not we would be immediately “overstaying” at 500 baht/day.

Thank you
C

Another writer, speaking about the same matter, said that they were still being charged the non-refundable 1900 baht fee for the 2 week extension….

“They still collected the non refundable 1900 baht fee.”

Yesterday a person, who had been living in Bangkok under the auspices of the visa amnesty on a lapsed Non Immigrant B (Business) visa, ended up visiting three different offices to get his paperwork sorted out. This is after first contacting immigration by phone to confirm the particular office to attend. He had a letter from the US Embassy explaining that he would be unable to return to the US at this stage due to lack of flights and the current Covid-19 situation in the US. He made an appointment online, as instructed, and it still didn’t go very smoothly.

The instructions he received….

If your Visa was cancelled during the Covid-19 crisis, and you are currently under the amnesty grace period set to expire September 26, you will need to schedule an appointment online to queue in with the Immigration Division 1 at Muang Thong Thani (near Don Mueang Airport). You will need…
  • Online appointment with Immigration Division 1
  • Passport
  • TM 6 Departure Card
  • 1,900 Baht fee for short term extension
  • Letter from embassy specifically stating inability to leave Thailand due to lack of repatriation flights and or a high risk of contracting Covid-19 in one’s home nation.
  • US Embassy letter request can be made online here
  • Portrait photo to affix to short term extension application 3.5 cm x 4.5 cm in dimension

After going to Counter K and Counter J (2 separate buildings), he ended up being asked to go to the Chaeng Wattana office instead, and then was shuffled off to yet another office. Additional paperwork was also requested, beyond what had been asked for. After nearly a full day he ended up with a visa stamp for a 30 day extension in his visa.

He also noted that there is NO ATM around the Mueang Thong Thani immigration offices and our reader had to take a 60 baht motorcycle taxi ride to get cash.

Probably worse, he said that the Immigration officials (clearly overworked at this time), were “extremely rude” and that the facilities (apparently temporary) are “less-than-adequate”, especially the Counter K, which was basically a parking garage with seats… no fans.

Additionally, contrary to the clear advice on the Thai Immigration website, most people getting their extensions were from the date of their visit and NOT the end of the September 26 amnesty.

Phuket Immigration handing out 'conditional' 14 day visas, pending investigations | News by The Thaiger

The moral of this tiny microcosm of stories is that it’s probably the busiest week for Thai immigration in history. The officials will be stressed and stretched, there will be long queues and there will be confusion. We should also mention that we’ve had a few foreigners contact us saying that things went very smoothly for their extensions, so well done to all concerned in those examples!

Be prepared, take ALL your paperwork, expect to asked to produce more evidence, make sure you have all your photos and copies of your passport, TM 6 departure card, plus filled-in applications before you head to the Immigration offices.

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Video & Podcasts

Thailand News Today | Protesters face arrest | Phuket “in a coma”| September 22

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Thailand News Today | Protesters face arrest | Phuket “in a coma”| September 22 | The Thaiger

Thailand News Today with Tim Newton. Daily news from around Thailand.

Struggling airlines to get reprieve through small loans, extension to fuel tax cut

Airlines in Thailand are being offered a financial lifeline, as the Government Savings Bank announces soft loans for carriers left struggling as a result of the current Covid-19 ‘disruption’.

The GSB is offering the loans over a 60 month period, with an annual interest rate of 2%. The bank’s chairman says the proposal will be put to Cabinet for approval.

Airlines have been left financially devastated by the fallout from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, with countries closing their borders, passenger numbers plummeting, and carriers forced to slash the number of flights on offer. The services available, including the food services, were also curtailed early on as a preventative measure but that restriction has since been lifted.

In a further effort to ease the financial crisis faced by Thai airlines, the Excise Department says it will extend the fuel tax cut for low-cost carriers by another 6 months from the end of this month.

Protest leaders face charges for violating Thailand’s lèse majesté law and for installing the plaque

Leaders of the weekend’s pro-democracy protest in Bangkok are facing charges for violating Thailand’s lèse majesté laws and for installing a symbolic plaque at a “registered historical site”. Police filed complaints to between 10 to 16 protesters.

It’s unclear how many protesters will be charged, but a Royal Thai Police spokesperson says charges will be pressed against those who “pulled the strings.” Under Thailand’s lèse majesté law, it is illegal to insult or defame the Thai Monarch or royal family. Police say they will take the strongest legal actions possible against those who undermined the Monarchy, although earlier this year the Thai PM said that His Majesty had requested that such charges not be brought against Thai citizens.

Charges are also being brought against the protesters who installed a commemorative plaque in the forecourt of Sanam Luang, next to the Grand Palace. The Fine Arts Department and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration have filed complaints with police over the installation of the plaque, saying the protesters broke the law by causing damage to an archaeological site.

Phuket’s governor calls for help in restoring island’s economy

The governor of Phuket has likened the southern province to a “patient in a coma”, as he pleads for help to restore its devastated economy. The governor highlighted the economic crisis caused by the ongoing ban on international tourists. The island’s international airport closed in April, cutting off the supply of international tourists, and cutting off the flow of international money coming into the island’s tourist economy.

The latest figures show that Phuket has lost over 400 billion baht since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The island’s economy is, either directly or indirectly, 90% reliant on a steady flow of international tourists, and has seen a massive tourist infrastructure boom over the past 20 years.

Governor Narong predicts the province will face similar hardship next year, and is calling on the government to organise conferences and other events that could attract more visitors to the province.

Sri Panwa Phuket getting social media flak after owner criticises pro-democracy protest leader

Meanwhile, the owner of the Sri Panwa Phuket resort is facing a social media storm after condemning the current pro-democracy movement and one of its main organisers. Taking to Instagram, Vorasit Issara, owner of the five-star Sri Panwa Phuket Resort, singles out the female protest leader saying “she should be in prison”.

“This bullshit has got to stop. She is not Thai. Who is she working for?

Sharing a photo of Panusaya, he adds, “arrest this child.” Vorasit incorrectly asserted that Panusaya wasn’t Thai. In fact she was born in 1998 in Nonthaburi and IS a Thai citizen.

His post has since gone viral, prompting outrage from those who support the anti-government movement. A hashtag calling for a boycott of his Sri Panwa Phuket resort has taken off on Twitter, at a time when almost all hotels are battling for survival, especially on Phuket.

Myanmar’s Covid-19 spike causes mass lockdowns as Thai authorities scramble to seal the border

Myanmar is currently suffering a wave of Covid-19, causing concern in Thailand as its western border authorities bump up security measures and patrols.

Burmese authorities have been introducing increasingly draconian restrictions to control the sudden spread of the virus over the past 4 weeks. Whilst the case load is still relatively small, the concerns are focussing on the porous western borders of Myanmar onto adjacent Bangladesh and India, as well as the spike in cases in the largest city Yangon.

Yangon is now under a very tight lockdown as the city is quickly turning into the country’s hotspot of Covid-19.

There were 610 and 6 new deaths in the past 24 hours. Yesterday 671 new cases of Covid-10 were reported

Indonesia’s economy shrinks for the first time in 22 years

Indonesia’s economy will contract for the first time since the Asian financial crisis in 1997/1998.

Gross domestic product is forecast to decline over 1% this year according to the country’s Finance Minister. He said…

Southeast Asia’s largest economy is struggling to contain the coronavirus pandemic as the number of new cases each day continues to set records. The worsening outbreak prompted the renewal of social-distancing curbs in Jakarta, measures that had battered growth in the second quarter this year.

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Tourism

Phuket’s governor calls for help in restoring island’s economy

Maya Taylor

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Phuket’s governor calls for help in restoring island’s economy | The Thaiger
Shuttered businesses along Bangla Road in Patong yesterday

The governor of Phuket has likened the southern province to a “patient in a coma”, as he pleads for help to restore its devastated economy. According to a report in the Bangkok Post, Phuket Governor Narong Woonciew was addressing a Public Health Association forum, where he highlighted the economic crisis caused by the ongoing ban on international tourists. The island’s international airport closed in April, shutting off the supply of international tourists, and cutting off the flow of international money flowing into the island’s tourist economy.

The latest figures show that Phuket has lost over 400 billion baht since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The island’s economy is, either directly or indirectly, 90% reliant on a steady flow of international tourists, and has seen a massive tourist infrastructure boom over the past 20 years, including accommodation, tours, tour boats, tours buses and passenger vans, international shows, new roads, restaurants and rentals – all aimed at the many levels of traveller budgets.

Governor Narong predicts the province will face similar hardship next year, and is calling on the government to organise conferences and other events that will attract more visitors to the province.

“So far, the province has invited 15,000 village health volunteers in the south to travel and spend time in the province while today’s seminar is bringing in 10,000 attendees and followers and will relieve some of the hardship.”

Meanwhile, PHA president Prapat Thamwongsa, says the forum gives those attending the opportunity to share knowledge and advice on tackling the spread of disease, with presentations and competitions addressing all public health activities.

Phuket usually receives around 14 million visitors every year, with around 10-11 million arriving from outside Thailand. The airport usually welcomes up to 300 international flights a day but is now only receiving around 80 flights a day, since the ban on foreign flights started in April. Narong says an estimated 40,000 of the island’s workers are now unemployed, while those still employed have taken hefty pay cuts of anything from 20% to a hefty 90%. Less than 30% of the province’s hotels are currently open.

“Phuket is like a patient in a coma in ICU. So, it is necessary for all stakeholders to help restore Phuket as quickly as possible.”

The Cabinet recently approved a long-stay visa (the Special Tourist Visa) for tourists who wish to visit the Kingdom, although critics say the strict requirements, coupled with the extortionate cost of the mandatory 14 day quarantine, make it unworkable. The new visa is also insisting that travellers will have to arrive on restricted charter or private jet flights, adding further cost and restrictions.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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