Finally back on fibre broadband..

.. and better than ever thanks to an upgraded Virgin Media Hub (I had the 4 before it got destroyed in a power outage; now I have the Hub 5 with Wi-Fi 6 and a 2.5Gbs ethernet port). Combined with my Nighthawk RAX1200 router’s configurable WAN port, I’ve chosen to use the 2.5Gbs port directly to the Hub’s. I can now achieve full download speed whereas it was limited to around 930Mbs before:

And via

The certainties of life…

It’s amazing to think one can go to bed one evening and wake up the next morning to discover their tax bill has shot up over £1,000 thanks to PPI compensation. On the other hand, it could have been a lot worse – and I’m glad this incident has come to light when it has.

Back in 2019-2020 I clawed back some payment protection insurance refunds through a specialist company. Now, I thought that the banks paid the interest on the sum that they calculated they owed me, would send me a cheque, and I paid the specialist company their cut. This is what happened (well, the sending of the cheque and paying the specialist PPI company at least). It worked out well (enough to buy a 32Gb, 4Tb SSD Intel Core i9 MacBook Pro outright – the last one before they moved to Apple silicon). After that, I forgot all about it.

Last month I received a notice from the specialist PPI company to say that they partnered with a new firm to claim back tax from those payments. Thought I’d give it a go given how well things had gone before.


I’ve heard back from HMRC directly to say that I now owe them £600 for the tax year 2019-2020, and £430 for 2020-2021. I hadn’t paid enough income tax. But having been digging around emails (as the original paperwork is now long gone – remind me to do a better job of keeping important financial documents by scanning everything in for future reference), I think I know where things have gone wrong (it’s 5am as I type this – brain working overtime).

There was a statutory 8% interest paid on the PPI reclaim – e.g. interest owed on what I paid into the PPI scheme over the years. It’s that interest that was taxed – not the final sum that I got back from the banks. Hence, it’s highly likely that I should have declared those figures to the HMRC at the time. If that’s the case, I wasn’t well informed by the specialist PPI company!

I’m still trying to get some information out of the company dealing with the PPI tax compensation (as I’m sure I’ll enjoy trying to speak to the HMRC) – but I’ve a feeling this is going to be something I’ve just got to take a hit on – apparently it has to do with the tax rate at which I pay – I don’t think either the original PPI compensation company or this tax company took that into consideration. PAYE really spoils you in that you don’t have to think about tax as often as, say, somebody who is self-employed has to. Or if you’re American – how I’d hate those tax returns 😉

As the old saying goes – there are only two things certain in this life: death and taxes.

In other news – I’m rejoining Virgin Media broadband (Gig1 tier) which should supply their new Hub 5 which uses a newer, better (lower latency) chipset than the Hub 4 and is hopefully less liable to die during a power outage. Which reminds me I really must buy a cheap UPS with surge protection. While I’ve been enjoying the o2 mobile broadband with the Nighthawk M6 mobile router – but the latency is a killer – especially if I want to use GeForce Now to play a game of Fortnite or Death Stranding PC.

Broadband on the Go: Nighthawk M6 and O2: It’s all Arabic to me (literally)

My expression when confronted with the M6’s default Arabic language setting

On Saturday I got my Netgear Nighthawk M6 4G/5G Mobile router along with the unlimited data O2 nano SIM to go with it. I unpacked everything, inserted the SIM and booted it up.


The built-in touchscreen LCD displayed text in Arabic only – with no option to switch languages unless one had a pretty good grasp of the Arabic language. So, I did a bit of Googling and found that Netgear had a Netgear Mobile app for this kind of router. I downloaded that to my iPhone, connected the iPhone to the M6’s Wi-Fi network and then used the Netgear Mobile app to connect to the router’s admin interface – in English – where I could then change the LCD display’s language from Arabic to English.

Before all that, however, I tried to fumble my way through the Arabic interface and ended up updating the firmware for the router entirely by accident. Had to be done anyway. But it still doesn’t explain why the sealed device shipped with Arabic as the default language. Has O2 been dealing with Trotter’s Independent Trading?

Once I was in properly, I changed the admin password, configured the DHCP settings to match that of the previous set-up (although Netgear omits the ability to set reservations), changed the settings on the Nighthawk RAX200 router that I was using with Virgin Media to become an Access Point only, disabled the Wi-Fi on the M6 and rebooted everything (including the Netgear switch).

Everything came back online as if my broadband never died in the first place. I had internet access for all my devices again, and there was an initial flurry of competing devices as to download updates, etc. which rendered internet access from the laptop almost impossible for several hours as O2 doesn’t have the greatest range or performance in this area – max. of 30Mbs (but usually around 10Mbs) download and 5-7Mbs upload. It took a while for everything to settle down before it was all usable again.

The M6 unit is much smaller than I expected, but everything is easy to get access to. It operates in three modes – battery optimised mode (but less performance), performance mode (with battery) and maximum performance mode (but you have to take the battery out). I’m currently running on maximum performance mode without the battery. When I travel, I’m going to need to get a case for the unit and battery along with the USB-C cable to power everything with. The supplied power dongle is a bit flimsy – but thankfully I always carry a UGREEN 100W wall charger with me that should be able to replace that on my travels.

I’m still going to need fibre broadband here as multitasking with different apps and devices puts a real strain on available internet bandwidth – and 4G connectivity (no 5G from O2 here – yet) can’t compete with that. But’s infinitely better than nothing, and better than tethering the iPhone to the one device. The big bonus of using the M6 is its replaceable battery (with additional batteries charged at £34.99) which makes it a much more viable option when travelling (along with sharing the connection with your phone, tablet, and other devices that you might be carrying with you – ideal for couples and families!).

Tip for manufacturers: NEVER put “latest” on these things. We’re up to Wi-Fi 7 now (well, ALMOST – just around the corner – but Wi-Fi 6E is the “latest”).

Toob invests £13 million for FTTP in Woking

Openreach may have no clue as to when they’re going to get around to installing the infrastructure needed for Fibre-To-The-Premises in this area, but I just found out courtesy of Thinkbroadband that the ISP, Toob, will be investing £13 million to bring FTTP to Woking.

The only problem I have with Toob is the web site doesn’t go into too much technical detail, but from it does say is that the 900Mbs transfers are symmetrical (e.g. download AND upload) and they can seemingly provide a static IP address – exactly what I need for both work and leisure. All this for £25/month (on an 18-month contract).

Whether this would allow me to change broadband providers after the minimum term is complete is a different matter – but while I still have wall space in the front room, I’d be happy to have Toob and Openreach FTTP units installed (alongside Virgin Media’s fibre termination which I already have).

It’s suggested that customers won’t be connected until the end of the 2023, but given we’re in August, that’s not long off. If the O2 mobile broadband thing works better than expected, I may cancel EE to save a bit of money and just wait for Toob to get back to me to say they can give me their broadband. Yes, of course I’ve registered my interest – this is a breath of fresh air for FTTP. My other concern is that I hope their network has plenty of capacity to run at full speed as I remember all the problems Virgin had back in the day. We’ll see.

5G/4G Broadband Plan of Action

This Saturday will see the delivery of my Netgear Nighthawk M6 5G mobile router and unlimited data O2 SIM. I cannot wait. Very excited. I intend to:

  • Disable Wi-Fi on the M6, change the DHCP settings to match current subnet and enable In-Home Performance mode. Ensure DHCP reservations for the Netgear switch (did I mention all my networking at home is Netgear?) and possibly the RAX200 router (will need to check the MAC address first).
  • Turn the current Netgear Nighthawk RAX200 router into a Wi-Fi access point and plug that into the M6’s ethernet port. Reboot everything (especially the switch with all the wired gadgets). Test by logging into admin interface and verify existing Wi-Fi devices can reach the internet.

Everything should then work.

That’ll buy me some time until Openreach activate the line and EE Broadband is installed. I’ll then relegate the M6 5G router as a failover (it has the ability to do this with existing connections, apparently). If I’m travelling or staying at hotel, I’ll take it with me to avoid horrendous Virgin Media Business performance and charges (the irony being O2 and Virgin are now the same company).