Windmill Broadband Access

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LATEST NEWS

January 2016: Our two Virgin Media access lines have now been upgraded, and are operating at 360 Mb/s and 250 Mb/s respectively. When combined with our existing ADSL2 lines, this gives a total aggregate site capacity of more than 600 Mb/s downstream and 60 Mb/s upstream.

May 2016: We have upgraded one of our two ADSL lines to eFibre, but the increase was only marginal - from 8 Mb/s to 12 Mb/s. This is because our line is served directly from the Crown Alley, and not via a roadside cabinet like most lines, so the line length is still in excess of 1 Km instead of just a few hundred meters. C'est la vie...

Introduction to Windnet
Windnet is the name of the broadband Internet access service available to residents at The Windmill. It provides fast shared Internet access at an affordable monthly price. The service is non-profit, with all money received being used to improve the connection speed and quality.

If you are interested in signing up, please contact Eddy Carroll at eddy@windmillmc.com. Below are answers to some of the most common questions.

How much does it cost?
Installation is a once-off charge of €30. Thereafter, the charge is €15 per month. You may cancel the service at the end of any month. This is a non-profit service; all income received is used to maintain and enhance the network. Payment is by monthly standing order (recommended), Paypal monthly, or quarterly in advance if you prefer to pay by cash or cheque. We supply all the neccessary paperwork.

There is no minimum contract period; indeed, some temporary residents have signed up for the service for as little as 1-2 months while visiting during the summer. However, usage can only be purchased in whole-month increments.

If a previous resident already had Windnet installed in your apartment, then you won't need to pay a re-connection fee - just the monthly €15 charge.

What are the Terms of Use?
To ensure the service isn't abused, anyone subscribing needs to sign a Terms of Use agreement. This is similar to the agreements currently used by major ISPs. You can view an online copy of the Windmill Terms of Use.

Do I need an Eircom account?
No, the service doesn't require a phone account. However, if you already have one, then it will happily co-exist with your Windnet connection.

What equipment will I need?
Just a standard PC or laptop with an Ethernet connection (most modern PCs include Ethernet as standard). A separate Ethernet card usually costs €15-€20.

Some laptops use Ethernet chips which do not work well with anything other than very strong signals. If you have one of these, you may need to connect to Windnet via an intermediate hub or switch. A 5-port 10/100 switch costs about €25 and will allow you to connect several PCs to the Windnet connection at once.

Does this use DSL or wireless technology?
No, the service is based on 10BASE-T Ethernet, which is delivered directly to your apartment over existing building wiring. You simply connect your PC directly to a wall socket which is fitted alongside your existing telephone point.

Can I use my wireless laptop to access Windnet?
If you want wireless access within your apartment, you will need a small wireless access point to connect to the Windnet wall socket. A suitable access point is typically €40-70. What you need is a "Cable Wireless Router", sometimes marked "DSL/Cable" or "Cable/DSL" , i.e. one designed to connect to an existing cable or DSL router.

(You can also get all-in-one ADSL access routers, but these are generally not recommended -- we do not provide a direct DSL connection, only Ethernet. If you have one already, they can sometimes be configured to work - it varies according to manufacturer.)

The most convenient places to buy a wireless router locally are Argos or Curries in the Jervis Street shopping centre or Maplins on Jervis Street. Most smaller independent computer shops also stock them. If you have a car, any branch of PC World will have a good selection as will some of the larger Tescos.

This particular TP-Link model TL-WR841ND is on sale in Argos at the Jervis St Centre and elsewhere, and represents good value at €30. Check availability in all stores.

Many shops sell Belkin wireless access points and routers. While these can sometimes be made to work with a lot of effort, our experience has been that residents using Belkin equipment usually experience significant problems configuring them; we would recommend against buying any Belkin equipment.

If you connect a wireless access point, please take appropriate steps to ensure it is password protected. We recommend the use of WPA2 or WPA encryption, which is much more secure than the older WEP encryption still used in some places. If you are using Windows XP, make sure you have Service Pack 2 installed to take full advantage of WPA.

How fast is it?
Currently, Windnet is connected to the Internet by these lines:

  • Line 1: Eircom Business ADSL2 (11 Mb/s download, 0.67 Mb/s upload)
  • Line 2: Eircom Business eFibre (12 Mb/s download, 1 Mb/s upload)
  • Line 3: Magnet ADSL2+ (14 Mb/s download, 1.2 Mb/s upload)
  • Line 4: Virgin Media Cable (360 Mb/s download, 39 Mb/s upload)
  • Line 5: Virgin Media Cable (250 Mb/s download, 24 Mb/s upload)

Each apartment is automatically routed out one of these lines; we regularly review connection speeds to ensure that the best use is made of available bandwidth.

Individual apartments are, however, limited to 10 Mb/s download and 10 Mb/s upload. This limit is imposed by the building wiring. In practise, it acts as a natural limit to ensure enough bandwidth exists for everyone to share fairly.

Most of the time, you should see close to the full line speed, at least for web browsing and email, but at busy times, you may find the service slower. We use an automated performance monitoring system to help ensure the network does not become overloaded.

As the number of subscribers increases, we continue to add additional line capacity.

Does the service include email?
If you have an existing email account with Eircom.net, you can send and receive mail from that account. You can also access any web-based or other commercial email service, such as Hotmail or Yahoo Mail. There is no dedicated Windmill mail service, however.

Why can't I send mail from my Eircom mail account?
If you use eircom.net or indigo.ie for your email, Eircom's mail server will only allow you to send mail when connected over an Eircom Internet line. Two of our lines use Eircom, but the third uses Magnet Networks.

If you get an error message about your domain not being supported, then your connection is probably being routed via one of our non-Eircom lines. We can fix it by simply ensuring traffic from your apartment always goes over one of the Eircom lines - email eddy@windmillmc.com to sort this out. Note that this won't affect you if you use the web-based interface to access your email; it only occurs when using a local mail client like Outlook or Outlook Express with an Eircom mail account.

How many PCs can I connect?
As many as you like (within reason). Each apartment is allocated 100 IP addresses. If you are connecting more than one PC, you will need a small network or wireless hub or switch to allow them to share the connection

Do I need to install a firewall?
The service is protected from the Internet at large using a secure firewall already. Individual apartments are also blocked from accessing other apartments by default, so you don't need to worry about neighbours being able to view your files. You can of course install a firewall on your PC if you wish, but it's not required.

Can I play games or share files with my friend in another apartment?
Sure, if you both agree to it. Although apartments are normally isolated from each other, two apartments can be added to the same network segment to allow direct access at 10 Mb/s.

This is cheaper than the commercial services. What's the catch?
By leveraging the fact that there are a large number of residents in close proximity, we can buy one fast Internet connection and share it between everyone for less money than it costs for each resident to buy their own dedicated slower connection. For casual Internet use (web surfing, email, instant messaging, etc.) this works very well. If you are a hard-core Internet user that likes to download continuously however, you may find the service is not for you.

How many apartments are signed up?
As of January 2016, 95 apartments have had the network installed -- about 90% of residents. If you have just moved in, there is an excellent chance your apartment already has the required NET socket in either the living room or bedroom.

At present, there are about 45 active users on the system.

How long did it take to build the network?
The first users were connected in Block C (89-106) in July 2004. Block B (73-88) was connected in September 2004, and Block A (1-24) followed in November 2004. In April 2005, we added Block A (25-30) and at the end of July 2005, the network was extended to reach Block B (55-72). The next addition was Block F (31-42) which came online in September 2005, and we completed the final phase, Block E (43-54), in mid November 2005.

What else is in the pipeline?
We hope to add additional network services over time. Remote security cameras, accessible by anyone on the network, are one possibility. Voice-over-IP telephony is another. Suggestions are always welcome!

Anything I can do to help?
The installation of core infrastructure (underground cabling etc.) has now been fully completed. Thanks to everyone who assisted with this, in particular Simon, Richard, Tommy, Con, Kelvin, Sean, and Anne.

We are looking for someone to help share the day to day responsibility of running the network. If you are a permanent resident, with Unix administration and networking skills (especially OpenBSD), we would love to hear from you. The system is very low maintenance, but does occasionally require updating & tweaking.

If you have web design skills, and would like to apply them to the Windmill website, this would also be very welcome.

If you have any further questions, please email eddy@windmillmc.com.

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