Category: General

PLDT DSL/Fibr Speed Upgrade for 2016

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3 years ago(circa 2013), I experienced a free speed upgrade for my existing PLDT DSL subscription. I wrote about it on this blog post. It seems PLDT decided to upgrade their existing plans this year and I confirmed it on my existing Plan 3000 subscription. From 8Mbps its now 13Mbps on speedtest.net

So, I checked my friends, co-worker’s and neighbor’s connection and verified the following speed upgrades for other plans as well.

  • Bundled with Phone
    • Plan 990: From 1Mbps to 2Mbps
    • Plan 1300(Copper & Fibr): From 2Mbps to 3Mbps
  • DSL Only
    • Plan 1000: From 3Mbps to 5Mbps (confirmed)
    • Plan 2000: From 5Mbps to 8Mbps (confirmed)
    • Plan 3000: From 8Mbps to 13Mbps (confirmed)
  • Fibr
    • Plan 1000: From 3Mbps to 10Mbps
    • Plan 2000: From 5Mbps to 20Mbps
    • Plan 2900: From 20Mbps to 50Mbps (if you subscribe before Mar 2016, you get 100Mbps for 6 months)

The speed to price ratio is still higher compared to most of our neighboring countries. But im a glass half full kind of guy, so this a positive change moving forward.

Note that last year, I got around 9-10Mbps on the first few months of the upgrade, then settled to 8Mbps and stayed there. Thus the speed increases above may/may not change.

Did you get your speed upgrade already? Please post in the comments if you do!

 

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Pobox vs Forex vs MyShoppingBox vs Johnny Air Cargo – A Review Series (Part 3)

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Gone are the days when you only rely on your US relatives trip back home to PH to bring you your designer clothes, newest shoes, electronics and other items. Here’s a review of delivery companies offering forwarding services from the US to the Philippines.

This is the third part of my review of shipping companies that offers delivery services for items purchased from US online merchants to the Philippines.

Company: Forexworld
Website: http://www.forexworld.us
Shipping Type: Sea Freight
Transit Time: 30-45  days
Cost:

Published Rates for LA Warehouse
Box
Dimension
Shipping Charge
Green box (non commercial box)
24” x 18” x 24”
$65.00
Blue box (regular box)
23” x 20” x 17”
$55.00
Red Box (medium box)
23” x 16” x 17”
$45.00
Bulilit box
18” x 16” x 9”
$35.00
Any box smaller than the bulilit
$25.00
These rates apply to Metro Manila deliveries only.  Deliveries to provinces are available for an extra charge, depending on its destination.

Pros:

  • Offers different sized boxes, depending on how big your packages are, no weight restrictions. Quite cheap if you are ordering heavy items.
  • Accepts odd sized packages as well, gives you a quote on how much the cost is.
  • Free Item Consolidation, they remove the merchant’s boxes to save space! They can store your items for a maximum of 45 days
  • Online portal to manage your items, status of your box. Once you input your items online, allow 24-48hours and it will be updated automatically once they received it.
  • Delivered at your door at no extra fee.
  • If you plan to ship a TV, for a fee you can request to have it powered on once it arrives(to prevent dead on arrival units).
  • You can purchase additional insurance.

Cons:

  • Slow, specially on busy season(Black Friday sale, Christmas – expect 6-8 weeks.
  • Manual system for payment(bank deposits), PayPal has extra charge
  • Recent news of pilferage by US Customs

Sample Tracking:

So Forex is the mother company of PoBox as far as I know. Their shipping address looks similar(could be adjacent buildings), so I would presume this is owned by the same family or so.

Anyway, to make this short Forex > Pobox. In all aspect of the customer experience, Forex delivered better than Pobox. Forex’s online portal is way better than Pobox in terms of feature and its updated almost in real time. I inputted my items immediately after ordering and the entries were updated the same day they received my parcel. The portal also sends email notifications.  Another thing is that their customer service in PH is quite good. They respond to email updates within 24 hours and when you call them up, there’s no long waiting time.

My box departed US Nov 22 and arrived in PH Dec 23, with all 32 items(~$1000 worth) accounted for(I paid less than Php 3500, with extra insurance). I can’t wait to order my next box, yes from Forex from this time on.

 

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How to benchmark your DSL speed?

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“What’s the best way to measure my DSL speed? Am I getting the speed I paid for? These questions are being asked to me a lot of times so I decided to write something about it. Note that i’ve made a few references to PLDT because it is my current provider, but technically these tests will apply to any ISP.

There are a couple of Internet speed measurement websites around. I primarily use 2, SpeedTest and TestMyNet.  I use SpeedTest most of the time since it supports local speed tests, which I will explain shortly. I only use TestMyNet to troubleshoot some issues I have with my connection. To measure true Internet speed, I use a mix of regular download and torrent download.

There are 2 speeds you have to be aware of  with regards to your residential Itnernet connection. First is the speed from your home, to your ISP’s data center. I call this “local speed” and my own personal criteria is that these should be close by a margin of -5%(low) to +15%(high) from your DSL plan speed. Example: You are on PLDT Plan 1299(2Mbps, 2013), you should be getting 1.7Mbps-2.1Mbps local speed.  Speedtest.net have local servers for most of the major PH ISPs. A local server is a speedtest server hosted by your ISP. Speedtest allows ISPs to host their own server so their subscribers can measure the speed from their home to their data center.  So if you open speedtest.net, pick the server of your ISP. Below is my local speed at Plan 3000 using a server hosted by Smart(PLDT), this goes from 8Mbps to 9.9Mbps depending on the time of day.

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Now, what’s affects local speed? Primarily, DSL signal degrades over distance. The farther you are from the ISP, the lower your DSL signal is and proportionally, the higher your DSL signal noise. Also, if you have worn out and rusted cables, grounded lines and the likes, this will affect your local speed. From inside your home, this is something that you can check and verify. Check the PLDT drop lines outside your home, is it properly grounded? Check the junction box – are the contacts free from rust? Check the splitters etc.  So before calling your ISP to bitch and moan that you aren’t getting your speed, make sure you have those items checked.

The second type of speed you need to be aware of is your actual “Internet speed”. This is the speed you get when you download files off the Internet. Compared with local speed, the files you’re getting to test Internet speed is beyond your ISP’s data center.

There are 2 ways to check your Internet speed, see below. I primarily use Linux disk images(from centos.org) as downloads since they’re hosted on large data centers

1. Use a download manager(I use the one from freedownloadmanager.org) and download a file from a good source. A download manager creates multiple connections to a site to download the file. Here’s my average download using a download manager at my speed:

downloadmanger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This translates to roughly 9.1Mbps, which is pretty close to my “local speed” from speedtest.

2. Second way to test is to download a file using bit torrent. Bit torrent is a file sharing protocol(when you download a chunk of a file, you also upload a chunk of it to others), thus, the more people downloading a file, the faster your download speed will be. It’s like using test #1 but this time you’ll have multiple download sources(see below, i’m downloading from 56 sources!), thus your speed is highly maximized. Here’s my torrent speed – roughly 9.9Mbps.

centos

 

 

 

So to sum up:

  • Use speedtest.net to get an overall view of your speed(local speed). When you encounter sluggish internet, go to speedtest.net first and check if your speed is down from the usual readings. If it does, it might be a physical issue or a local downtime perhaps. If it doesn’t, it might be a DNS issue or the site is having problems. Register for an account on speedtest.net so you can have a history of all your speedtests.
  • To measure your real internet speed, download a file using a download manager or using bit torrent. This is what matters most since this is the speed you are paying for.
  • In any troubleshooting task, isolation is the key. Make sure you have reliable local speed when testing Internet stability. When measuring actual throughput, rely on your Internet speed more than local speed.
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Windows 8.1 and Lenovo Thinkpad T410 Sleep Issues

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I just installed the GM version of Windows 8.1 from my MSDN subscription on my 3 year old Lenovo T410 and decided to revert back to Windows 7(Yes, I skipped 8.0). The most pressing issue I encountered is that the laptop won’t wake up from sleep. When you close the laptop to put it in sleep mode, it won’t wake up after you open the screen. The laptop seems to initiate very few IO, then decide to just sit there idle(no screen display, no disk activity). You have to power cycle the laptop to get it working again.

This is a big flaw for me. I don’t shutdown my computer and basically just put it in sleep when I don’t use it. I am in front of my computer mostly throughout the day and it makes no sense shutting it down as it slows me down. I only reboot/shutdown when i’m on vacation or installing some patches.

I’ve tried everything from updating the BIOS to installing the latest power management driver from Lenovo. I will update this post when I find a solution to this issue. Stay tuned.

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Access your Android phone’s SMS from your Android tablet and PC

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mt_2a

Since the first tablets arrived circa 2010, my daily phone usage(on the aspect of using the none phone features) has gone down. I mostly use it now only for SMS and calls and do the rest of the stuff on my tablet(browsing, movies, music, reading etc). The release of a special class of devices called phablets bridged the gap but in my case, I don’t really like its form factor. I feel it’s too big of a phone and too small of a tablet.

At home, my Nexus 7 is always with me more than my phone. The phone stays in my room, while the the Nexus goes with me in the Living Room, Bedroom, Dining Room, Comfort room, you name it. The problem is, having all my attention on my tablet, I miss SMS and calls from the phone since it’s out of physical reach.

And then I found MightyText. This is a free solution that allows you to send and receive SMS/MMS from your Android tablet and PC/Mac. Just install the Android app and use your google account to register. Install the Chrome plugin and you will be able to do the same from your PC/Mac using the browser. You can also view photos that you took on your phone(optional, and disabled by default).

The app requires Internet access to work, though it would be nice if it could also support bluetooth as a backup. The app communicates to a cloud server using your Google account which in turn notifies all your connected devices when an SMS/call is received. Sending SMS basically works the opposite way, your device send the message to the cloud, then the app in your phone receives it and send it via SMS using your carrier.

It’s a perfect app for me, but one of my concern is privacy. Since your SMS/call information/contacts and even photos is routed to their server, they have access to your private information. I’m still considering if I will use it full time. I just hope they offer a paid service where my data is encrypted using my key on their servers. This will make me use their service more.

 

 

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OSCP – Offensive Security Certified Practitioner. A lot of fun, a lot of learning, this is what a certification is all about!

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First, a little bit of history. I’ve entered the Security domain of Information Technology about 10 years ago, and back then IT certifications were so well sought, everyone thrived to add letters after their name in their business cards. Microsoft probably started it all, as they begun the era of OS certifications. Security certifications were not that common those days. Most of the certs came from firewall vendors like Checkpoint/Netscreen(now Juniper)/Cisco. I remember how some of my former team mates pride themselves for earning a new 4 letter suffix after their business cards. I pity them, they’re not even close to what I expect them to be.

Back then, Microsoft was the most taken certification. I guess mainly because, most of the companies utilize Windows in their back end and new IT managers have so much IT budget, they require all their staff to have it. They buy exam vouchers in bulk in discounted rates and push their staff to study. Everyone knows how braindumps help them pass. For those who does not know, dumps are exam notes, actually they are exam questions with answers. They came from people who took the exam and have photographic memory(sarcastic), they are able to write down their questions including the choices and answers! Now all you got to do is memorize the dumps and surely you’ll pass. Imagine, if this is how doctors get their title.

Fast forward 10 years, and I was looking for a worthy security training for myself. I’ve taken RHCE a few years back and it’s one of those certifications that I find special compared to the usual question/answer type of certification. Passing the actual hands on exam was really a very good experience, you’ll really feel that you’ve gained the title.

And so, I go scoured the web and found OSCP. To be honest, I’ve never heard of Offensive Security before, but as I searched and found feedback about the course and the founder(muts), I registered for the online course and little that I know that it’ll change the next 3 months of my life forever(gained me XP on sleep deprivation).

The course provides a training module composed of a PDF book and training videos that you can follow along. As a pentesting course, it provides a lot of practical examples and exercises for the student. It will give you the basics first and build upon that foundation to learn more complex methodologies. I would say not everyone will like this course, specially the ones that would like to be spoon fed(remember those braindumpers?). The course was designed for you to be frustrated and you as a student needs to learn how to be able to channel that into a positive attitude. Yes, “Try Harder” will be your motto. Once you get the point, you will learn one very important quality of a good pentester – to be persistent.

The course will give you access to a lab via a VPN connection. After you’ve finished the lecture(which probably will take 3-7 days, depending on your free time), you will access a very interesting company network(s). The lab access is what gives this course its value. The lab is comprised of several(I won’t tell how many) interconnected subnets of servers and workstations(around 50-60 I guess, I think I got 50+ of them). Your mission is to root or get admin access to all the machines you can find. The machines have varying degree of vulnerabilities in them, sometimes multiple and you have different ways to compromise them. There are several ways to expose the other networks as well.

You will document your pen testing effort and submit it at the end of the course. Report writing is not left out, as it is one of the most important task in pentesting.

There are really easy ones(Alice), which will be the first machines you’ll be able to compromise. And then there are the evil ones – gh0st, sufference, pain etc. These last few machines gave me a lot of sleepness nights and it specially gratifying the get a root shell after 24 hours of marathon hacking.

And then comes the exam. You will be given a day to compromise a small number of machines. You will be given points based on the complexity of the compromise. There are easy one, which are worth 10 points and difficult ones worth 25 points. You will have to pick which ones to root and you need 80 points to pass. I would say this is the most engaging assessment exam I’ve ever taken. And after I received the email that I passed, it brings a lot of pride and joy, like the time my daughter was born!

I know a couple of local folks who also took the course but were not able to pass the exam. I wouldn’t be surprised as I know it is difficult. You need to take a lot of practice and be able to solve the difficult machines in the lab. Believe me, once you learned them you’ll never regret the time and effort you took to root them.

Here are my tips to the folks who are looking into taking OSCP:

  1. Time is of the essence here. The more you get engaged in the labs, the better. So I recommend taking the course/exam during the time of the year when work is not that busy(December perhaps?). Invest x amount of hours each day.
  2. Do not run exploits you don’t understand. Most of the exploits in the internet are in source code format. You never want to ran an exploit that wipes your partition table don’t you? If you are using BackTrack in VM, make scheduled snapshots.
  3. Be organized. Document all your findings as you will need it to write the report later. Make a database of passwords and hashes you’ll find along the way and use them to guess passwords on some hosts. Believe me some of the hosts are accessible only from information from other machines you’ve compromised.
  4. Before the exam, make sure you get plenty of sleep, as you won’t be able to sleep that much during the exam. But I do encourage to take naps to replenish and freshen up your brain. If you are not making any progress for the past 2 hours or so, take a rest and return. Sometimes the solution appears in your dreams. ^.^
  5. Offsec has an IRC channel where you can talk to other students and let go of the steam once in a while. It’s a cool place with cool and not so cool people. Make friends and block out the rotten ones. I assure you, you’ll different types of people in the chat.

Overall, I think this is one of the best pentesting certs out there. The course is well thought, the lab is well designed and you’ll definite miss the guys(Mike, Alice, Bob, Pain, Tricia, Sufference etc, etc). I am taking OSCE by end of year and will update you with the experience as I go and venture to the unknown.

 

 

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How to use Netflix in the Philippines – VPN service or DNS redirection? Know how to pick which service works best.

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Since PLDT just upgraded my bandwidth, I thought it’ll be fairly decent now to stream movies and TV shows using the upgraded connection. I’m now getting 10Mbps max on my Plan 3000 subscription and streaming HD content works fine on 5Mbps the last time I tried, although occasionally the stream reverts to SD content. I thought the extra 5Mbps of traffic would probably sustain the HD content longer.

Netflix/Hulu are US only services. However, there is a way to access it outside the US. There are several ways to do this, but I’ll only discuss what tricks I’ve tried.

First, by using a VPN service(I tried HideMyAss VPN). A VPN service creates a tunnel between your home connection and a VPN endpoint. The tunnel is created by using a VPN client software, where you configure with the VPN endpoint’s IP address and some authentication parameters. The VPN service provider has a list of servers located in different countries around the world. You pick which country to connect to and all your traffic will be redirected to that server as if coming from that country and not in PH. Location aware application like Netflix will then work, since the IP address from your request will now be coming from the VPN endpoint(which has a US based IP address)

Advantages of VPN:

  • If you want to surf anonymously, VPN will hide your IP address from the website you are trying to access.
  • Some websites restricts access to a specific region/country. If the VPN service has a VPN endpoint in that country, you can use VPN to access that website.
  • Connection between your PC and the VPN endpoint is encrypted.

Disadvantages of VPN:

  • Performance. Although VPN service offers different ways to connect(PPTP, L2TP or OpenVPN), I generally find it slow.  
  • If you want all your home network under VPN, router config is a bit tricky. You need to have a supported router(dd-wrt, openwrt). If you want tunnel for a specific machine, then VPN clients for different OS is available.
  • Once you establish the tunnel, all your Internet based traffic will be rerouted to the VPN endpoint. This is a pretty useful feature of VPN, because this allows it to connect networks together(imagine head office and remote office VPN), however for this application(using Netflix in PH), it would not make sense to route all traffic.

Second way to use Netflix in PH is by using DNS redirection(I tried unblock-us). Instead of using your ISP’s DNS server, you point your PC/router to the service’ DNS servers. Now the trick is, your request to Netflix will not be routed to Netflix directly, because they will redirect it to their server, which will then forward it to Netflix. Since they’re in the US, Netflix will work.

Advantages of DNS redirection:

  • Performance. You can utilize your entire download throughput for the streaming experience.
  • Easy to setup. You can even configure your router so that all device under your home network will have the service. Although I won’t recommend this.

Disadvantages of DNS redirection:

  • Security. Although some of them says they will not log/filter your traffic, who knows? Traffic is unencrypted. So I don’t recommend utilizing this on all your machines – only use this on your media center PC.
  • If your router changes its WAN IP address(fairly common on DHCP connections on DSL), you need to reestablish the connection using a browser.

So, this summarize the services I’ve tried to make Netflix work in Manila. On the next post, I’ll document my experience on using it on an Apple TV. Stay tuned!

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Updated! PLDT MyDSL Speed Increase for 2013? Confirmed, see post below

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Update: Here’s how you can check for your Internet speed.

A couple of days back, my PLDT DSL modem suddenly won’t get the DSL light steady, which simply means that my connection is down.  I called 171 and got a support ticket for the issue.

The next day, I checked the DSL modem light back up and sure enough, the connection is back.  I thought it was probably a maintenance thing in my area. Just like any geek would do after a restored Internet connection, I immediately did a speed test and lo and behold, my download speed was up from 5Mbps to around 6Mbps.  Upload speed was from 0.7Mbps to 0.9Mbps!

My neighbor had her 1.5Mbps increased to 2.5Mbps as well!

Anyone experiencing this sudden speed bump? I heard that PLDT will be having a 60 day speed boost for new subscribers, but i’m not a new sub. I just hope this is a permanent speed upgrade.

I’m at Plan 3000, but i’m getting 6Mbps, far from 10Mbps speed boost advertised below. So you can make your own conclusion, but I guess I just have to enjoy the speed boost as long it last! 🙂

pldt

Updated: July 7, 2013

2 days ago, I got an email from PLDT(see new speed plans below) which confirms the speed upgrade. I should be getting 8Mbps now but it seems im capped to 6Mbps at the moment. I won’t call them yet and wait a few weeks until its formally announced.

Way to go PLDT! Continue to innovate and bring the power of Internet to the masses. 🙂

pldt2

Updated: September 3, 2013

I’m now getting 9.1 to 9.9Mbps from Speedtest.net. After a few quirks from the old modem i’ve been using for ages, they replaced it with a new one and I have stable connections that would hold for several weeks. If you have disconnection issues and have the old Zyxel modem, ask the technician for a modem replacement.

Modem profile:

speedprofile

 

 

 

Speed tests:

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downloadmanger centos

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Everything Techy Now Signing On!

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Today marks the start of a new Pinoy Technology blog focusing on anything about technology.  Get the latest news on gadgets, gaming, computing, science – anything a geek craves for. (^.^)

Stay tuned for more!

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