Thursday, 30 October 2014

Freedom of expression

This is from a reply from my MP...

"A future Conservative Government would like to go further still, and the next Conservative manifesto is likely to contain a commitment to introduce Extremist Disruption Orders (EDO), which seek to restrict the harmful activities of extremist individuals who spread hate but do not break laws. This will be a civil order, imposed by a High Court upon application by the police." [my emphasis]

Note, "do not break laws". Even article 10 of the EHCR talks of restrictions prescribed by law.

I can't see that sort of thing being abused or suffering feature creep! Can you?

Oh, I hate mushrooms, and you should to - so I can expect this blog to be shut down as I "spread hate".

Monday, 27 October 2014

Not a terrorist!

LAX flight delayed after WiFi hotspot name prompts concerns!

Someone saw a WiFI SSID of "Al-Quida Free Terror Nettwork" and reported it, the result was people kept on the plane for 3 hours.

There are so many issues with this, it is quite unbelievable. What amazes me is the reactions to the post with some people thinking it was right to report or take action. To add to the surprise my wife thinks it was right under the logic of "what if there had been a terrorist and they had ignored it?"

I am sorry, but no. This has gone way way too far. I have no idea why someone had that on their phone. Could have been done in jest long ago and still like that. Lots of people have silly SSIDs. For a while I had "Darth Vader's private AP" but that does not mean I am in fact Darth Vader of have access to a Death Star with which to blow up a plane. Nobody in their right mind would think so.

I do actually have a device with an SSID of ☢ (ionising radiation sign) and one of ☠ (toxin sign, skull and crossed bones), both of which are internationally recognised hazard symbols - will that get me strip searched next time I go near an airport? If not, why not?

It seems 100% clear to me that a terrorist would not have their phone / device labeled "Al-Quida Free Terror Nettwork", especially as that is not even how you spell Al-Qaeda. Indeed, I would think that a terrorist is far more likely to have a device named "iPhone4". Should we stop planes every time that device name is seen as more likely to be a terrorist than one labeled "Al-Quida Free Terror Nettwork"? After all, what if there really was a terrorist and we had not checked someone with a phone labeled "iPhone4"? The logic is not there!

Even if the phone belonged to a "terrorist" that had some how forgotten to change his SSID (yeh, let's assume the paranoia is valid for a just a second). What then? Airport security does not try to stop a terrorist getting in, it simply tries to stop a terrorist getting in with the necessary tools to do anything terroristy. And if those measures work, as they presumably want us to believe, how is it that one with a silly SSID poses any more threat than one with a normal SSID? How exactly?

Seriously, if there is something that actually suggests a terrorist, or criminal of some sort, then please do investigate. But for something which simply could not possibly indicate a terrorist, or indicate a threat in any way, why the hell inconvenience a plane full of people - really, what is the point?

The only purpose is to undermine any public confidence in the security and ridicule the authorities.

P.S. Changing phone to �� ("Bomb") or possibly just "U+1F4A3".

Saturday, 25 October 2014

When adverts change

I try not to watch adverts, but it happens, as you know, and they always annoy the hell out of me.

I have just watched Dave Gorman "Modern Life Is Goodish" - and it is excellent. I love that he does not just take issue with the crap we all face but does practical things to test it like changing a Finish powerball to a smartie or making a fabric conditioner Jesus (Noel Edmunds). He did a lovely one on some adverts with survey results, and saying stuff with as low as "20 of 99 women agree" in them. As he says, how is that even allowed?!

I tend to notice what they don't say in adverts, and I am pleased to say that my kids are just as cynical. The exact wording used is important.

But one thing that does hit me with adverts is when they tweak the wording. This means I have seen the advert more than once, and the fact that there is a new version is noticeable to me. I hope I am not alone in that.

Now, some times it is just a matter of making it shorter. This is normal as first run is normally the full version, and as people know the advert it is run in a shorter form. The kitkat* advert used the phrase "share an ill designed driveway" (I think) and now says "share a driveway" for the two halves of the kitkat*! This is simply making it shorter.

But some times they change wording in subtle ways that makes me notice even more. Now, I have to say, if they were clever, they would do that deliberately, as otherwise I would not notice the advert.

One hit me today - BT now advertise "Our most reliable wireless signal". This is different to the wording they used before where they claimed that no-one gives a more reliable wireless signal.

This is that bit more honest - others are better. A&A are better. It is a subtle change and I doubt it is because of my blog, but it is a good change.

Now, if that was the original advert it would trip my "what are they not saying?" alarms as they say "their" most reliable, not "the" most reliable.

Tell me I am not alone in having such changes leap out at me.

Update: *It is Twix not Kitkat, which shows how much adverts sink in - I did not even remember what was advertised. Thanks for pointing it out.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Set the code free!

Some times it is so hard not to just go and update everything to the latest release.

We have spent weeks getting the code ready to release, with the completely new TCP stack from scratch finally being deployed, and lots of testing, and finally have a factory release candidate.

TCP is only needed for some of the internal features, like web interface and BGP and so on, but there is no reason not to make it a good quality stack with proper fast recovery and window scaling and syn cookies and everything else you expect. We have literally speed tested BGP full table transfers between boxes and seen it as low as 6 seconds for over 500k IPv4 routes (though it is currently around twice that when it actually bothers to have an Rx window that is not infinite). We have gradually added the new TCP features and tested, and even had some TCP session leaks we had to plug. The original TCP stack was my code when we first started and has lasted very well for many years, but Cliff has re-done it from scratch and massively improved it.

Obviously, I am 100% confident in the new code. I would have to be as otherwise it would not be a release candidate. I am confident enough to deploy on the A&A network.

But I have to face the reality that there may be something that breaks, and we have to test, test, test, and test again.

So, once again, it is a beta release loaded only on to some of the routers, and over night we will load on to just one of the LNSs, so everything has a hot standby just in case and everything is easy to roll back. If there are problems we can sort them quickly.

I know the past says "all code has bugs", but the future always looks so bug free. Often the code released is indeed, for all practical purposes, bug free. We try to do that every time, and manage it a lot. But it is still frustrating having to give it time to go wrong, just in case.

I feel like I can't do anything else - it is like waiting for a baby to be born - you just have to wait until it is finally due.

We were, none the less, tested on one of the recent alpha releases that survived maybe an hour outside the lab before it was hit by bad checksum bogus SYN packets once in the wild and crashed. That was pulled very quickly. It is amazing how a box on the Internet has to face so much crap. At the end of the day there is only so much testing you can do in the lab, and you have to let your code go free and out in to the wild for fend for itself and just cross your fingers.

Beta should be made in to a new factory release next week. That is when we really release it in to the wild :-)

Thursday, 23 October 2014

No contract?

OK, so if they have no contracts, what are these "T&Cs" that apply?

They would have to apply as a non-contractual, and hence unenforceable, set or terms and conditions then... So the idea that they "apply" is something of a stretch...

Interesting, section 12 of these terms talks of "when this contract was entered in to". Odd if there is no contract.

I mean, if the terms cannot be enforced, as no contract, why even have terms?

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

ICO ignore 1,000 complaints of calls from 0843 numbers

Over the last 3 months I have raised over 1,000 complaints to the ICO regarding calls from 0843 numbers that present a recorded announcement.

Every single one if a breach of section 19 of The Privacy and Electronic Communications(EC Directive) Regulations 2003

Every single complaint has detailed the calling and called number as well as time of day and date, and included a call recording to prove the breach.

Every single complaint has formally requested that they exercise enforcement functions in relation to this breach as per section 32 of those regulations.

Every single complaint has has a response "We have received your email" which even says they aim to respond within 30 days.

They have said they are officially ignoring me, even though investigating these complaints and enforcing these rules are their job.

I have complained about their response and still they say they will ignore me.

They have said they have no power to investigate, until I point out the powers they have and then they go quiet.

Just one such call is a breach of the regulations and they have the power investigate and they can fine the callers. Just one call! But even 1,000 complaints are not enough for them to act.

This is a government body deliberately refusing to do its job.

What next?

Well, I have requested that my MP refer to the parliamentary ombudsman...

Aircon memes

"Don't use it in auto" is what the aircon installer says. In fact two of them have said that to me - one for office and one for home.

It seems to be a meme - a saying passed down from engineer to engineer, with no logic as to why.

I had it again today. The aircon was being maintained and the engineer (who I think I have upset now) said not to use in auto and I was rude enough to ask why?

He said it is not good for it to keep changing from cooling to heating. OK, that is probably a true statement, wasting time and energy and maybe even increasing wear, who knows, it is plausible. But we were looking at the panel which someone had set, rather oddly, to auto heat to 16°C and cool to 22°C. I asked how it would be switching between cooling and heating exactly? Surely, if it is warm outside (as today) it will cool to 22°C and stop, and then heat up from outside so cool again back to 22°C and stop. When would it switch to heating? Similarly when really cold outside (and 16°C is daft and needs changing) it will heat to 16°C and stop, cool down from outside, so heat to 16°C and stop. It would not keep changing between heating to cooling.

Well, he had no answer to that, but said that the issue now is that it "stops". He say it would cool to 22°C and "stop", where as in cooling mode rather than auto mode, it would cool to 22°C and then keep fans going circulating air rather than "stop".

Well, (a) why would that make a difference as it still does not keep changing between heating and cooling and would get to required temperature, (b) why would it behave differently in auto and cooling mode anyway, that makes no sense, and (c) look, the fan is running when in between temperatures not heating or cooling now, so that is clearly untrue!

He had no answer and resorts to "well, if it that is what you want then fine!" and refused to actually explain his advice. He reiterated that they tell people not to run in auto mode, as if the fact that they tell people is, in itself, reason to tell people. He simply had no reason and seemed quite upset that I wanted him to back up his advice.

This sort of thing really pisses me off. If there really is a valid reason, then tell me, or better still tell the manufacturer - why on earth would they provide the feature if it was not advised to use it? Or better still, if there is a reason not to use it, why don't they fix that?

What I suspect happened is that once upon a time some air con units were somehow a bit dumb and would overshoot cooling or heating enough to trip the aircon to go the other way and get in a cycle. That is clearly broken behaviour, but instead of complaining to the manufacturer, installers just advised not to use auto. These days there really is no excuse - it is all microcontroller based and a computer can be sensible enough to ignore any overshoot anyway, or better still, avoid an overshoot in the first place.

In fact, my aircon at home is excellent. It is set to auto. When it is hot outside, it gently blows some cold air briefly and stops, maintaining the temperature. It does not switch to heating mode. When cold outside it gently blows some hot air until temperature, and stops. I can set the hysteresis to a wider or narrower setting. It is not as flexible as the office one where you set two temperatures. But it works nicely and just works, maintaining a temperature.

Oddly, even one of my colleagues tried to defend the "don't use auto" argument (because he is an argumentative sod himself) saying some people do not want a fixed temperature. That argument is, of course, completely irrelevant. It is true, sometimes I may want it hotter or colder - so I set the temperature a degree or two higher or lower. I don't care how it gets to that temperature.

Oddly, our industry has the same problem. The meme I am thinking of is not setting auto-negotiation on 10/100 Ethernet ports. There really is no reason for this advice. auto-neg just works, and can be set to auto-neg specific settings only. It seems that maybe, once apon a time, some kit, in the early days of the feature, would get it wrong, hence the advice. Now it is just advice that is a "known thing" so gets repeated, and ironically causes no end of issues.