Broadband Speed Test

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I live in a rural area where conventional broadband is just not worth paying for. When I moved in, a neighbour asked what I did for a living and winced, telling me that the BT speed was terrible and it takes up to five minutes to log-in to his banking and pay a single bill.


But there was an answer!

Alton Broadband is a community internet based group set up by a few people who needed better broadband in the village. They purchased the infrastructure and installed radio repeaters with a feed from a good connection in another village to provide a faster service than the ‘twisted pair’. With repeaters on larger houses, the church and the pub, locals can benefit from this service at an affordable cost.

Speed testing onlineI live in a small hamlet coming off a unique feed separate to the main incoming signal. I was experiencing issues and losses, so the mangers asked me to do some periodic speed tests.

Using the Speed Checking Tool needed me to remember to do it and then email it to them – and I kept forgetting, for weeks on end!

I suggested using a Raspberry Pi to automate this and they liked it. With the excellent coding skills of Vincent Wilcox, a Raspberry Pi, SD card and power adapter we are giving Alton Broadband a Christmas present.

Vincent has made some code that carries out an automatic speed test every hour. The data is saved to a Raspberry Pi and then uploaded to an email address at 2am each morning. A few adjustments have been made and developments that I don’t understand, but Vincent assured me it would make the whole package stable, consistent and accountable. 

Raspberry Pi Broadband Speed CheckerI purchased a case on-line, Vincent kindly burnt the SD card with an operating system and added his code that runs when the Raspberry Pi starts up. A small buzzer was added to the GPIO pins so that a ‘success beep’ can be heard if the RaspberryPi boots up OK. There is no monitor needed, no keyboard or mouse in the USB, just the Ethernet cable for access to the router for the speed test. It’s intended that the Alton Broadband team can give anyone the box, plug it in to the power socket, plug in a patch cable from the Raspberry Pi to their router and leave it to start up and do the test every hour, on the hour.

Vincent has also burnt the code to my own Raspberry Pi and I will leave it running here at home, emailing Vincent, myself and the Alton Broadband team the results each night. The other one can be loaned to ‘customers’ experiencing difficulties to measure how their broadband is performing for as long as it’s plugged in. It won’t check the WiFi, just the internet coming down the feed from the Alton Broadband service and doesn’t need any attention or commands, input or management on-site.


Do you want the code?

In the true theme of Raspberry Pi and open source, Vincent has put all of his code on-line and he is working on a new and improved device. He has also expanded his code, to use a permanent ink screen to show results, maybe when talking to a customer service rep about your broadband speed and you can see it working here.

Here is the link to the code that Vincent has very kindly shared for you to use on your own Raspberry Pi to test your own internet connection

Are you interested in the Raspberry Pi and the kind of stuff that Vincent does? Why not come to our next event in Ipswich –

Thank you to Vincent for his time an efforts making this all possible.

Zello PTT app Ptt Screen

Zello PTT on iPhone

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Being an amateur ration licence holder means I am very interested in radio. I saw the benefits using UHF radios when volunteering with Suffolk Lowland Search and Rescue, but being a Community Responder there is a great interest in Airwaves radios as they use a far superior network, with better coverage and Geo-location on the system. I have been through the journey of two app’s for iTunes myself and I am always impressed (and envious) when I see a good job and want to share a good app if it’s free!

Zello App on iPhoneWhile we aren’t supported (CFR’s) with the Airwaves network that Police, Fire and Rescue and Ambulance service are provided with, the PTT over the internet option does interest me. With Airwaves, you are connected to the mobile phone network and a bridge to the internet and as long as you have a phone/radio signal; you are on the network. Airwaves radios also have a small ‘stubby’ external Ariel and get better gain for a better send and receive signal over standard phones.

The Zello app is one of the many that I have tried that I have bothered using, sharing and promoting as Zello actually works really well. If you want to speak to one person, you should call them by dialling in the normal way of course. But what if you wanted to ask a general question, set up a rendezvous with many people or have an open dialogue or debate with more than one person? PTT app’s are very good and behave in a similar way to the Airwaves system with groups, peer-to-peer and password channels.


So why do I use it?

I have two friends down in Kent and we are always collaborating on stuff, going down, meeting them out and about and arranging events and projects. Sometimes we need 3 or 4 of us to chip in and have an answer. Only one person can speak at a time and distance is not a limitation so a PTT type conversation is perfect if you have 3G or WiFi. We have our own channel set up on Zello, just for the four of us, that I monitor and can see if they’re logged in or not, or set to ‘busy’ so I know they might not answer if I call.

This morning, I spoke to a fellow Community Responder over in the next Village about who is going to be on call today. If another Responder fancied doing it, he/she could have chipped in and offered to do the afternoon slot for us. We can also arrange swapping over kit and talk about consumables used. We have two new members that are starting calls next week and they can have the Zello App on, calling us if they are waiting at home on call or when they get back home from a job for a de-brief and support. We can all listen in and offer support, even messaging each other, or turn the channel off if we are sleeping or don’t want to be disturbed. (We do have a password on the channel and do not share any sensitive information). You can also have more than one channel open/monitored at a time.

Using it for work or safety.

Zello Channel and moreWhile I don’t see a use for call-outs from Ambulance Control, as the signal is poor in rural communities and it wouldn’t be adopted by the East Anglian Ambulance Trust as it’s not secure or robust, one of my friends does use it commercially for his business. Zello do have a commercial subscription service for business but the free download does all you would need. My friend has one office in Kent and another in Suffolk and all of the staff are now connected in an open way, as if they are in the next room without the limitation of distance. Staff that wouldn’t normally collaborate are now sharing resources and saving costs. You might say that someone could approach Zello and ask them for a version adapted for Community Responders? They have already done the work, have the technology and resources but it’s that Airwaves Radio, with great connection and an external Ariel and made specifically for the job that ensures your transmission makes the trip.

If you’re planning a trip, from many parts of the country all travelling down to the same place, setting up an event with people or just fancy messing around I would recommend the Zello app as it really works well. You can also listen back over conversations you have had in the past, if you missed some critical information. It works!

Give it a try and call me up! – search for Prockie in Zello. (Check out the Night Owls Truckers Channel)

Some of the products sold on-line

Evance and flowers!

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I recently did 10 weeks e-commerce consultancy for a Felixstowe based Weddings and Flower craft importer.  Their existing website just wasn’t up to scratch.  The director Chris, saw my BBC video and that I had posted my CV on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and got me in to update and help with the company’s on-line presence. I am now a director of the company and looking forward to the new opportunity.

E-commerce is a simple thing, but knowing the business of selling, as well as how websites are made is a real bonus.  If you can tie all of this up with the people that need to administer it and getting sales – you’v cracked it.  Once you have the sales, if you can deliver the goods efficiently you’re half way there. The rest of the success is planning, financing and running the business. While someone else manages the money and I do the ‘techy’ stuff, it’s going to grow and grow and I am looking forward to being part of something amazing.

Some the products we sell on-lineThe old website for the company was on Zencart and the developers struggled to get the databased of products and customers of it. It seems very clunky and sales weren’t forthcoming at all.  We have chosen Evance for the platform. I am aware of Shopify, and Woo Commerce and have used Big Commerce for many years but the fact that they are based in Ipswich means that we have have a face-to-face relationship. Evance has a lead developer who is a great communicator and listens to development ideas and input making you feel part owner of the improvements in some way. Having used the platform, I love it!

The photography has been hard and is still ongoing but I have (of course) managed to get a Raspberry Pi involved with a stepper motor and a co-directors Lazy Susan and that will be a blog for next time!  Evance has a fantastic 360 imaging tool and something was needed to help automate and standardise this – so I got the soldering iron out and made something to help with this (see blog)

Work goes on and you can see the website live here


Andy Proctor on the BBC

BBC Film about me.

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The BBC came and filmed me about the iDataTruck RaspberryPi project in early December 2014 and it was shown on the home page of the BBC website on Wednesday 14th January 2015.  It was the second most watched on-line video that day, often being the most watched a few times during the day.  It had 196,00 views in 24 hours and was re-tweeted to over 3.5million people within 48 hours.

This website ( saw 10,000 hits in the initial 72 hours with a very strong bounce rate. My own website had 750 new users in 96 hours and mostly from the UK.  (there is a link on the bottom of the IDataTruck website to my own website, as I made the website myself).

35 people Googled “Andy Proctor” to find my website (and 28 stayed).  My own bounce rate on this website has suffered as a result though. I wouldn’t say that I have had any more work for websites from it, but I have had over 25 emails offering tools, support and services from Universities, Businesses and individuals wanting help and support me with my RaspberryPi projects.

I am very excited and humbled by the contacts, tweets and people saying that they have shown my video to classes, presentations and seminars on programming, self development and motivational sessions as one-to-one and large groups – all because of the YouTube video I uploaded and the BBC seeing this and contacting me about making this film.

The video is below and can also be watched on the BBC website.

Dave's review about volunteering at YoungVoice

A review to be proud of – Mentoring.

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Dave, one of the YoungVoice successes has left a lovely review on LinkedIn and I wanted to share it here in this post.  I am very proud of him indeed and thank him for his kind words.
“I attended a job fare at the university campus in Ipswich to see if there were any local opportunities with my skills after graduating from Bucks New University (Ba Hons Digital animation and interactive design).

I spoke to an advisor and said I was interested in going freelance as a web design/graphic designer and perhaps starting my own small design business. She introduced me to Andy and he kindly welcomed me into his office and spoke to me very openly about his business Andy Proctor Ltd and his charity project YoungVoice, and asked me what I did and where I hoped to go with it. It was inspiring to actually meet someone doing what I hoped to be doing one day (Building websites for actual customers for a living and not just for fun).

After Andy gave up over an hour of his time talking to me and sharing, what I now believe to be invaluable information in the field of web development and good business in general. He offered me a volunteer position with YoungVoice, where I could work on real projects and at the same time, offered to be my mentor.
I accepted the offer immediately as I could tell that it was an amazing opportunity for me, plus I could tell that Andy was a really friendly, knowledgeable and honest guy that I would enjoy working with and being mentored by.

It was an absolute pleasure and an awesome learning curve working with Andy, from the start I felt that he trusted me and had faith in my skills which boosted my confidence right from the off. I was building websites for YoungVoice on day one, which is what I wanted to be doing (so was invaluable for me). I knew WordPress fairly well before meeting Andy, but he taught me lots of tips and tricks that I wasn’t aware of.

Andy also recognised my graphic design and animation skills, and went out of his way to find me many graphic design and animation jobs and promote my skills amongst his many contacts in various industries, which was ideal for me as it gave me a chance to work on my full range of skills pretty much daily.

Andy’s positivity and determination was infectious and really motivated me.
Without fail, at some point each day he would stop what he was doing and kindly take time out to share valuable knowledge, not only specific to the web design industry but business in general, eg negotiating, tax, Admin e.g. Pitching, quoting, invoicing, correspondence and much more.

Within Three months of working with Andy, I set up my own Business Starfuse Design. I know this would not of been possible so soon without the masses of support and encouragement from Andy. Every step of the way he was there and happy to help.

I don’t think I could ever have learnt the skills I learned while working with Andy, at university. (Especially the practical skills like negotiating, pitching and admin).
Thank you Andy.

David Letts.

See Dave’s company here

Why is Google Places For Business Important

Google places for business

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One way to be sure to ‘help’ your business, community or groups website get found on Google is of course doing the things that Google asks of you. We all understand that having Google Analytics installed will give you the results you need for the visits you have had and that Webmaster Tools will tell you how many times the ones you aren’t being found for are used, but what tools can we use to help our rankings?

Using free tools is of course a good start. Using Googles tools keeps them happy and also shows them that you are doing what you should be with your website, as your doing this, where others may not be.

This is the important bit!

Google places for business is linked to your gmail email account (Google account) and you need to create your listing for your location on Google Places For Business maps. This regionalises your search and you can put a radius that you operate on it as well as opening hours. I find that putting your business hours of opening actually helps with your website being shown at the right time of day for your business as well as the actual map listings results with the red pin on the map in the search results. The radius makes your website shown in the right area, not wasted nationally affecting your bounce rate.

So, if your business is not on Google Places for business you can do this yourself and need to do it.

For more support and advice, I have another blog with more about how to get found on Google.

How to think of the customer when blogging

Boring Blogging – For Business

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So we all hear how important it is to blog.  And this is easy right? – How many of us sit at our computer, and think “must blog”.  You are right and regular ‘relevant’ updated content is very important for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and of course marketing through engagement and return visitors also works for some websites.

Next time you blog, make it engaging and entertaining but make sure you use the right language to make it found and achieve a better bounce rate for your website.

My most inspiring and rewarding interjection in my training that has the most outcomes is asking staff or stakeholders how their customers describe their products or services.  This week I worked with an industrial paint company and their task seemed easy as all the customers are ‘trade’ and therefore use trade words (to find them).  But what if they are painting something new?  They know that they need a Prima, Epoxy based powder paint and an oven to bake it in, but what would they Google (and connect with the company) if they had never painted this material before?

The language you use, may not be what comes off the end of your customers fingers!

I found out that when you paint a shipping container, you need a specific type of paint.  So if someone who has never painted a shipping container before looks for the paint they need, they may enter “Shipping Container Paint” or “TEU 40ft Paint”… Where on the website, do they have “40ft and 20ft TEU Metal Shipping Container Paint” on a page talking about metal paint – or a product in their store with this in the description?

Seems easy right? –

Well it may be if you’re from the outside looking in, but it’s hard if you’re in that industry to be your customer with their own unique language and words (maybe even slang)

If you’re looking for keywords for what people use to find your products and services, maybe the sales team need to put some pages, blog and content on the descriptions – but maybe the people that answer the phones, the van drivers and guys in the warehouse need to have a say in this from their alternative environment.  Perhaps an open and active learning session with the staff, for the webmaster to have more vision of the needs of wording and long tail keywords on the website and product descriptions is needed?

There is much more to blogging, like structure and tagging and thinking why you are blogging that day for the right attraction, but the language of your customers is one that I wanted to share with you, so thanks for reading. – And no,  I was not thinking about the language that people would use and put it on this page when I wrote it (maybe I didn’t know what it was!)

Here is another blog about how to get your website found online.


E-commerce website Ipswich

Random Google Day.

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As many people know, I am an e-commerce retailer of kitchens, worktops and Formica sheets as well as making the websites for other on-line retailers and business.  I have a turnover of 100 units a week with one of my products, the “Formica sheets” that I sell.  This ticks along nicely and it’s a great product as my supplier boxes and rolls them and then the courier collects and delivers for me – Drop Shipping.

However, something very strange happened yesterday.  I was booked to go and see someone about furthering the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) potential for the website yesterday at 11am.  We sent back and forth a few emails, for me to add him to my analytic’s so he can see the current traffic and arranging the meeting.  As it transpired, we would both rather put back the meeting until 3pm as we had other tasks that needed our immediate attention and we did this.

Then something odd happened…

I started to get phone calls, orders and contact form submissions from the Formica sales website…  Why was this random event occurring?  I was so very busy processing orders that I was glad that we had put back the meeting, as I simply couldn’t leave the office.  In fact, that 100 unit weekly turnover was smashed in one day!  It seems odd that I am about to go and see the SEO guru to get more sales and then this happened – too ‘odd’ to be true in fact.

So, I went to the 3pm meeting with the phone still ringing on the seat of the van, to meet with the man that I was going to thank for whatever trick he had pulled for the last 4-5 hours and lay down and be tickled in to buying in to his wonderful strategy – Clearly a listing on a 3rd party site, or maybe he had put in £50 to a very well refined PPC (pay per click campaign).  But no, he had done nothing!.  He had to hold his hands up and confess he could not take the credit.

Then today, half past 12 and no orders…  Sometimes it’s just the luck of the drawer, or is it?  How very frustrating when you have to put yourself out and wait for a bite.  But that’s Google for you – or is it?  Was it something on a make-over program last night telling everyone that you can use Formica to rejuvenate your worktops?   Did I change something without realising, but why is it not working today?

I guess your looking for the answer, well that, would be the mystery that is Google.  My honest advice is just be honest and relevant with your website, build on it and they will come.  You also need to look at your analytics’s.  You will get spikes and low points with your website and your analytics’s should be able to tell you this and if you spend time looking over the analytics’s, you can see what happened, but not what will happen and that’s a shame!  What I will do this weekend, is look at Wednesday’s visits and see what worked, and then build on it.

Thanks for reading and good luck with your website – Check your analytics’s! 

Good luck everyone!

Belkin Switch

WeMo Switch

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The history of my interest starts when I left school and while I was doing my apprenticeship as an electrician, it was the start of intelligent lighting by remote switching and clever signals in the power cables that switched lights remotely. It was an awe-inspiring concept that the refrigeration engineers could log-in to the fridge packs from home on the lap top (via a 56k modem of course) and turn units on and off and change settings.  This is something that I was very interested in and things have been developing lately!

You can play with automated systems in your own home or office

So with the developments in cheap parts and access to the internet being faster, things have become more accessible to the home user like the advent of the WeMo from Belkin, now available here in the UK.

WeMo Swtich for iPhoneYou are now able to control home appliances with this modular system via your mobile phone, email or social media with many more possibilities being available each week.

This was so very easy to install.  I had to plug in the unit, go to settings on the iPhone to find the plug, then give it a name and as you can see, an image.  I can then control the plug from the iPhone.

The software on the phone also has time of day rules so the drinks fridge is set up to come on half an hour before we open.  You could have the slow cooker ready in the kitchen and turn it on when you are 4 hours from home.    Maybe that toddler on the landing can turn on the light somewhere?

You can also use IFTTT to control the lights by Twitter.  When I tweet from my account #Flash it makes the lights flash.  I have also installed a third party app that looks at my Geo-location and turns the Boiling Hot Water boiler on when I pull up outside.

This has practical uses as well as being fun, as you can also get a WeMo detector that can pick up movement.  In effect you could set it to text you, tweet, post something on Facebook or simply turn on a light when someone or something enters the room.  My next project is an amber flashing light every time my e-commerce website gets an order as it comes in via Gmail, something that you can also connect to the WeMo via IFTTT.

I purchased the 3 pack of plug controllers for use in the office for around £100 with delivery but you can also get single and twin packs here in the UK.

Try it out and remember to connect it to IFTTT too!