Friday, 30 October 2009

When is 40 hours not 40 hours

When it is 39 hours 36 minutes.

More importantly when it is our favourite telco measuring how long they have had a fault report and working to a 40 hour target or else pay use £1.50 compensation!!

It has happened far too often now to be a coincidence. Faults clearly with them for many days have the clock magically stop at 39 hours something.

Raising the issue has simply got no response from them.

Its got to be a con I my opinion.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Why 3 strikes

The idea the government has on some blocking of internet access and 3 strikes rule is silly.

1. If a criminal offence has been committed, prosecute the offender, lock them up or fine them. One strike. Done.
2. If a civil wrong has been committed, sue the offender, get damages for the offence. One strike. Done.

Basically, the only way any "3 strikes" rule makes any sense is if the law is made so that the first two strikes have no penalty other than counting towards the 3 strikes. To be valid, in my opinion, they would have to be proper legal action for each of those two strikes else they are merely unfounded accusations. An unfounded accusation cannot count as a strike. So "3 strikes" would mean it is harder for the music industry to take action as they have to take action 3 times (per offender). Do the music industry want that?

It also means that suddenly everyone who is downloading music that they should not be, is safe. Until they have had the first 2 strikes they know there is nothing that can be done to them. Its an open market for copyright violation! All the people that were concerned they could be sued or prosecuted no longer need to worry until the second strike, at which point they move their downloads to some other identity (neighbours wifi, etc).

It just makes no sense!


Post, from Berlin, addressed to me at an old address containing a blank folded sheet of paper in which was a franked UK 3½p and ½p stamp.


Y2.038K bug maybe?

OK, for some reason our NFS server was 10 seconds fast and this upsets Make as files seem to have future dates.

The date command on linux really does have a crap syntax doesn't it.
I set the time back 10 seconds to correct, and it all went pear shaped.

Rebooting the NFS server did not help. The client says permission denied and the server says unsupported file system or fsid= required. WTF

Turns out this is all due to my setting the clock 41 years fast...

Really helpful messages!!!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Power warning!

We have been getting alerts from nagios for one of our power switches.

This was a concern as we have very limited power in some racks.

Turns out the alert is the power switch reporting too low!!!

Its because we are using FB6000's now and they do not add up to the minimum nagios seems to handle which is 0.2A... LOL...

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Lots of monkeys with typewriters

Well, we know the old saying about lots of monkeys and typewriters and somehow one coming up with the complete works of Shakespear...

It seams like that with broadband fault reports.

Just occasionally we have cause to report a lot of identical faults, and last night was one such case. What is tellinge is these are all identical fault reports but get a huge range of different responses!

A handful identified that the fault was a major outage and even listed the reference for incident report, but many of these sent back to us for "retest" even though the incident is not closed. A small number did not.

Most came up with various excuses. Various "no fault found". Suggestions of checking drivers on the PC. Suggestions of a special engineer being sent to the end user. And so on.

Not one that was sent back for retest suggested that they had in fact fixed the fault!

To be honest, if you just said "here are a set of responses and repair actions, pick one at random" you would have a better fault system than they have now. By keeping sending teh fault back you eventually hit the correct repair action at random.

Some responses just made crap up. They said the end user was maximising their uplink... WTF! They were not. In fact, in there cases, we have reported the issue on lines that were off line, so a line off-line for the last 10 days was allegedly "maximimising their uplink".... As if that was an explanation even if true!

I have had to explain that LYING to us for the purpose of reducing the chance of paying out on the service level guarantee is actually CRIMINAL FRAUD and they could be reported to the police... Saying stuff they know is untrue so they can clear a fault back to us is CRIMINAL FRAUD. I am so sick of it now. By the way, SLG is around £1.50 on a line taking over 40 hours to fix in this case, so not a lot ut still, its fraud to lie to avoid paying it.

if only they could just do things right, and fix faults, and not make up crap...

We'll see. I have offered consultancy!

Monday, 26 October 2009

WoW, that's loud

OK, impressed. Got Bose Companion 5 speakers for the PC. Expensive. Small. Damn good.

And all I use them for is playing WoW (very occasionally)!

Tip for linux users, add options snd-usb-audio index=0 to modprobe.conf to make the bose USB speakers card 0 else most thngs (including WoW under wine) do not play!

Time's change

I have a nice Casio MTG 930DU radio controlled solar powered watch!

But it thinks "LON" (London) time zone is still UTC+1. Stupid thing.

It even gets a bit in the signal from the radio transmission formerly known as Rugby so that it knows it is back to UTC. Lets hope it works it out next week.

Mind you - I did get wondering. There are things the current young generation just don't know any more that were normal when I were a lad (see, I am turning in to an old fogy).

I wonder how long before kids of today just do not even realise the clocks change at all as every clock and device they have just handles it. It must be getting like that. I don't have to "change clocks" any more (apart from my buggy watch). I can see it being the case that one day I have to explain to some 20 year old that the clock do change and that is why once a year he gets up feeling more tired than usual on a Sunday... After all how many would understand the concept of "winding" a watch or clock?

It'll happen!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Industry Standard

I like to do things right...

We make hardware routers under the guise of FireBrick.

We do this to make stuff that actually works and is actually right. It is sensible. Its does what it says on the tin and it just works.

FireBrick is A&A and WF. WF are good guys with hardware. Heck, they are really good. These guys had to do some new stuff for the new high end FireBricks which was first time they did (I think I have this right) :-
  • Over gigahertz signals on the board
  • DDR2 RAM and all its complications
  • PCI express
  • 8 layer boards
  • BGA components
And guess what, the issue 1 boards work. They got this all right first time. FFS that is hard. Anyone with any clue on PCB layout and hardware design knows that is hard.

Now we do the software, from operating system and drivers all the way up.

So we work in an industry where major telcos set the industry standard. They have shit breaking all the time. They have things not following the standards. They have crashes every other day. The whole concept of industry standard is going down hill.

So at FireBrick we have to aim way higher than industry standard now. We want stuff that is perfect. That's the new target. Hard to hit, but that's what I am aiming at. Sod industry standard - the bar is too low now.

Oh, OK, so I am drunk posting this. So what. Stuff has to damn well work.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

May contain nuts

Either people with allergies are stupid, or (more likely) people that make product labels are nuts!

"Ellert Roasted Peanut Puffs, flavoured with 33% real roasted peanuts". Pictures of peanuts on the front. The word Peanut in lettering 30mm high on the front...

Indredients include Peanut Kernels (33%).

So they also put:-

Contains peanuts

and just in case you were not sure...

Made in a factory that processes Peanuts.


Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Food labels

Well, people put these traffic light things on food labels to make it easy for people that cannot think to see if something is good or bad for them!

But the labels are "per portion", so of course producers just make smaller recommended portions if their produce looks bad.

A 150g pack of crisps is labeled for 1/6th of a pack portions.
But its not like it is practical to re-seal it... I'll end up eating it all.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Kids and tech support

They are worse than customer!!!

So, my daughter has a sky box in her room... Just occasionally she'll moan about us watching something else and I say "use your own sky box"...

Last time (weeks ago) I get "It does not work - nothing comes on the screen". So I go up, plug it in (!) and up comes the "welcome to sky". Working. I said so. End of story. Or so I thought.

Today I get "There is no viewing card". WTF???? I go up, open the flap, viewing card present and correct. I nearly left it that, but I thought I would double check, and find the card is not authorised. Sounds like she has in fact left it unplugged for weeks so I am not surprised. Grrr

If they tell me what is wrong they would get it fixed. Why tell me other things that are not wrong. Why pretend there is no viewing card FFS.

Maybe I should have them call sky themselves next time. That would be funny.Ttry telling Sky there is no viewing card and see what support you get :-)

Arrrg! Orange

OK, so if you don't pay your bill the block calls, fair enough.

To be fair the bill was not paid. It did not arrive and we did not notice, so when the next bill arrives saying we did not pay last month, I pay the total immediately. Cleared funds in their account. Sorted, or so I thought.

Yet 4 days later and they are blocking the phone from making calls.

How hard is it to process payments. We (A&A) do them the day they arrive, and it annoys me that we don't process them until late at night. We'd like to see payments as they come in. They must get the BACS files, so why delay a few days before processing them? It makes no sense.

What really pisses me off even more than their inept payment processing is we spent about ten minutes going through menus to talk to someone to find why they had not sorted this and processed the payment only to finally get to the point of being transferred to a customer service operator and it says "sorry, calls from this phone are barred" and hangs up. WTF!!!!

Well, we'll ditch them next month I expect...

Oh, and we had asked them several times, including a written letter to put that phone on the same account as the others so we don't have this hassle, and they ignore us - so it's all their fault anyway... Grrr.

Why do people find it hard to send bills?!?!

OK, I know some of the complications, having written a billing system myself, but some people just strive to be inept and not get paid.

We have people that insist on putting bills on some sort of portal and emailing us saying it is there - but it isn't (major telco).

We have people that insist on sending a pro-forma invoice. That I do not get. It makes no sense to me. I suspect they are trying to do a VAT fiddle, i.e. not pay VAT on services until someone pays them - but the VAT rules are clear that if the good/service has been provided then there is a tax point and VAT due with only a very limited window to move it to a later invoice date. So I don't understand that. Basically, we don't pay proformas for services we have already had.

The best one is an accountants bill. They should know better as well. They send a "request for payment" which is not even a proforma invoice. The terms are "payment within 30 days of invoice", but it states "an invoice will be raised when payment is made".... So payment is never late as an invoice is never raised. We have this discussion every year when they say we are late paying and we explain that it is not 30 days from invoice yet so can't be late. They eventually raise and invoice and get paid within 30 days. Why do they do this? Arrrg!

Of course some people just don't send invoices at all but get paid via a factoring company that assumes they have and then chases us. That is always fun.

Then of course there are data centre invoices. Always a challenge. One data centre send a separate invoice for each rack or couple of racks (so lots of invoices), but are totally unable to say which rack each invoice is for (!?!??!). Then they invoice for more racks than you actually have, every month. You can see why we don't pay them by DD :-)

The irony is that we are very careful to pay everyone on time and if only they would actually send a proper invoice on time then we'd pay them. Indeed, most suppliers we pay with order as we don't really like credit.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

What, no Dilbert?

Has the world ended?

Dilbert web site just says "coming soon".

Friday, 16 October 2009

Tescos stealing from a customer

My son, aged 18, went to tescos. He bought some alcohol - fair enough. After the sale was completed, paid for and he had a receipt, whilst leaving the shop they took the bottle off him.

This is simply theft. It was his property at that point.

Their argument was that he was that his younger sister was about so they decided he was buying it for a minor. He wasn't, obviously. They can, if they wish, refuse to serve anyone for any reason. However, in this case they did serve him and the sale was completed.

So what they did was theft - pure and simple.

My son did not quite have the nerve to call 999 at the time, and they did give him his money back. Had it been me, I would have simply called the police. I think next time he may do so.

I think I may write to tescos and demand an explanation.

Thursday, 15 October 2009


Ok, I an not some eco nut as you know...

Just saw an advert where the whole point is some shoes use recycled rubber in their soles. And this is meant to be good?

Surely you want new rubber, because that means paying people to plant rubber trees. Is not planting more trees good.


Low definition TV

OK, sky please please change the way you do HD channels..

We have HD TVs and HD Sky boxes, several of them in fact. And my eyesight, although clearly not what it was, can see the difference for HD. It looks so much better and there are a lot of HD channels now.

What seems to be the general trend is an HD version of a standard channel that shows the same programs but in HD (where available). Whilst I appreciate not all channels are like that (notably BBC), most are.

So why do I even need Sky-1 (low definition) in the channel list. Surely 106 should just get me Sky-1 and as I have an HD box then it should be Sky-1 (HD)...

Even if this was some option I had to select or something. Even if this only worked for channels that are the same programmes in HD.

Time and time again I come in to the front room and find something on in low def where there is an HD version. My wife, who (sadly) can't tell the difference gets annoyed that I keep changing the channel to HD. I get annoyed that they keep recording programmes in low def.

Of course, by the time Sky realise, my eyesight will not be good enough to tell the difference :-)

Why no rants?

OK, people must read this 'cos they are asking why no rants for a while?

Simple answer - I feel like total crap. I have flu or something, bunged up and headache, etc.

Half the office have had something and been off a bit. I have been in most of this week, but I've spent most of today in bed. OK, yes in bed and on irc at times, but asleep half the time.

What we need is decent anti-virus systems for people!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

You gotta love camera phones

Just bought a motherboard/package which claimed to have 3x 3GB DDR3 1600MHz RAM.
I did not immediately spot that 3GB sticks do not exist, doh, but equally it could be 3 channels of 3GB I am sure (2GB+1GB stick in each channel).

Yes, well, it turns out to be be 3x 2GB RAM, so 6GB not 9GB, making it not such a good deal.

Went back to shop, and took a nice picture of the display card and then queried it. Obviously card removed very quickly and shop not prepared to fix.

OK, its a crap picture, but it was easy to take discretely, well, a lot more discrete than my 1D :-)

Sounds like letter to head office advising of a breach of contract. We'll see if we get 3x1GB RAM sticks...

Daft thing is I can honestly say I did not realise it was a mistake until we were driving away, so I was not trying to rip them off and exploit a mistake.

Grrr, adverts

OK, some adverts wind me up...

Our favorite telco advertising "unbeatable wireless" compared to other broadband providers. I note they have changed from being twice as good presumably because someone else also does 802.11n.

For a start it is a mix up of different things. What has wireless range in your home got to do with a broadband provider. It is down to the specific wireless kit you buy. You can buy wireless kit and use it with (or without) any broadband providers. So why mix up the two separate issues FFS.

Then you have the fact that it is "unbeatable" because wireless systems work to specific standards and licencing which means that any system using the current best available standard will be basically the same (in terms of range). The key difference I find between wifi access points is how broken they are in other ways, like crashing. To be honest the best we have found are the airport express APs.

So, I am tempted to make a package that is a broadband line with broadband ethernet router and switch and two airport express APs and some cat5.

Having two APs in the package means it beats their wireless offering (in terms of range, which is what they are comparing). It only takes one broadband provider offering one such packet to defeat their claim on national TV adverts.... Hmmm

Friday, 9 October 2009

Banning anti-virus code?

OK, not saying who, but we are looking at a contract for IP transit which says, amongst other things that we cannot transmit any virus or other computer software designed to impede the operation of ... any computer software or hardware...

Is it me, or does that mean we cannot send/receive anti-virus software as anti-virus software is specifically designed to impede the operation of other software (the virus)!

It also means we can't transfer code for our firewall products as firewalls specifically stop communications and so impede all sorts of software.

They also ban anything that is otherwise objectionable which is rather extreme. I can see this blog being banned on that basis :-)

All good fun.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Teenager's take on IPv6

My son cannot really get to grips with the fact technology does not just work and gets rather annoyed when it does not.

I think he fails to realise that people will always get stuff that is just as crap as people will put up with. If everyone refused to buy things that were not perfect, easy to use, obvious, and just worked then manufacturers (well, apart from apple) would have to do a lot more work (and take longer) to make the products just right. It is because people put up with stuff that nearly works that things are not better.

The best bit is his take on IPv6. He reckons IPv4 should just be turned off one day in 2011. A bit like "TV switchover to digital". And how to make sure everyone knows? Well that is easy, a big flashing banner on the book of face...

Oh I remember when I was a teenage (just). Oh how much simpler things seemed to be then...

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Call themselves a communications company

What sort of total bloody idiots actively ignore communications?

Our favourite telco have changed their systems now so that when we update a fault they say Please note only the parameters "CP contact & access details, hazard notes, and appointment info" will be actioned.

I.e. they are now ignoring the note deliberately.

This applied even when the note we are adding is "The fault appears to be fixed so you can close it now".

Sounds like time to make our system automatically email our account team every update.

If google can do it so can I

Well, except I have used an IEC16022 (datamatrix) barcode from my web site

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

How not to make a web site

Barclays on-line banking allows me to update home/work email and phone details.

Seeing as they said no email logged, I clicked on the update, filled them in and got :-

"30505 - Sorry - we have not been able to carry out your request. Please try again later."

Really helpful.

I tried a few times and got the same.

Then I spotted in the update page :-

"NOTE: Where updates are required to both the Work and Home details, these will have to be completed separately. For example, the work details should be updated and then saved by selecting the green 'Save' button before returning back to this screen to complete the Home details or vice versa."

  • Why have that restriction?
  • If you have that restriction why create a totally nonsense cryptic error when someone does not notice and tries to add an email address to both home and work at the same time?
  • If you have the restriction how hard is it to grey out the home details as soon as I edit work details or have them as separate update screens?

Monday, 5 October 2009

Sky eco hype?

OK, having crashed my sky box I restarted it and get a nice red and greed sky logo with an iguana on it saying... "We all can do our bit to be greener. By switching your sky box to standby, together we can save enough energy to light all the homes in Birmingham for a whole year..."


Whatever saving is made is on-going. If everyone switching sky boxes to standby saves enough energy to light all the homes in Birmingham then surely it does so forever, well, as long as people are still switching to standby. Where does the "for a whole year" come in?

Did I miss something or does eco hype not have to make any sense whatsoever?

Making your own rules

Well, almost as good as moving the goal posts - I thought I'd give people an insight in to the fault handling of our favourite telco.

Believe it or not they do give us a very tiny amount of compensation if they don't fix a fault in 40 hours. It is often not even money back for the time the fault lasted so not worth much, but we make a point of getting them to pay anyway.

However, the 40 hours is the time it is with them. And they run the clock! i.e. the time while they send back for re-test, even when they know it does not pass their own tests, does not count.

So, for example, we have a case were we reported a fault. It was definitely a fault there end as it affected a number of lines, and they were all fixed at once. We added a note that the fault had finally been fixed about 2 days later, so well over the 40 hours.

Some 46 days after reporting they finally close the fault. That is no comment, no update, no feedback for 46 days!

OK, so we did not chase anyway as it was actually fixed, but still, 46 days! What kind of a system allows a fault to just stay open for 46 days.

Anyway, they finally cleared it - claiming we cancelled the fault (not true) and saying the total clock time was 39 hours 36 minutes.


The annoying thing is they don't even care. We won't get a sensible explanation or anything.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

New tariffs

OK, this is on my personal blog as you can post comments and ask questions. But basically AAISP are looking at new tariffs.

However, we have a slight difficulty because we have so many choices. I am not sure of the best way to offer simple clear and understandable tariffs which are fair.

Basically, we have three types of line:-
1. 20CN, and these are gradually being moved to 21CN over several years
2. 21CN
3. BE

The lines have different base costs, with 21CN being lowest, 20CN costing maybe 30% more, and BE costing a lot more (about 4 times a 21CN line).

The lines have different usage costs now, and this will be even more the case from January. BE lines are the lowest. From Jan 21CN lines will be around 6 times as much as BE line and 20Cn lines around 15 times as much as BE line.

So we need to dream up tariffs and options that fit and handle people with multiple different types of lines, but are understandable.

For a start, I am thinking we separate line cost and usage. This also helps with min terms on BE lines (6 months) as that could be line cost only with usage stopping when the line is stopped.

However, usage is complicated. Current ideas include :-

1. Charging as now, based on GB, based on time of day, and preset usage levels and excess charging, but different rates for different types of line.
2. Having usage levels, e.g. 1Mb/s committed with bursting but with automatic limiting after an hour or two to ensure usage never averages more than committed rate and so no risk of excess usage charged
3. 95th percentile billing with a base commit level and higher rate over charges.

All are possible, but we don't know what people want to do.

It is also not clear how best to handle bonded lines with say 21CN and BE where the usage is different but we in effect have to commit to 21CN side for the total to allow for BE breaking.

So, I am open to suggestions on this.

Timescales are that we would probably launch BE lines on some sort of new tariffing system in October, but the 20CN/21CN lines on a new tariffing January.


Thursday, 1 October 2009

Back to reality

Well, expensive holiday, but that was the idea. Never again will I say "don't worry about the price" in a hotel buffet. Mind you "Of course you can have a pampering day in the health club at the hotel" was a maybe a bit rash of me. The main thing is we all enjoyed ourselves. F1 was fun. The whole holiday was fun.

We even had a Singapore Sling in the Long Bar at Raffles. And I now have a new suit that fits perfectly. Well, you have to if you go to Singapore don't you.

Of course, the second we are back in the UK we have things go wrong. Two hour wait for the pre-booked taxi (well, for the replacement from the AWOL pre-booked taxi). So we waited in Starbucks. At least in Singapore you can understand what they say in Starbucks, and can understand the taxi drivers. Not sure that was true this morning on either count.

Now back down to Earth, and even though I have booked Thu/Fri as holiday I think I will be busy. Something screwed up usage stats from the bills, so I have to fix that rather urgently. I am sure it is something simple, but re-constructing correct data is always fun(?).