Sunday, 30 May 2010

How did I miss that

Ok, I am working on now...

However, something I missed. One of the things I have harped on about is that whilst internet service provider and subscriber are defined, communications provider is not defined.

This is quite an important term, as you are not a subscriber if you take service as a communications provider. And if you are not a subscriber then the provider is not an internet service provider.

communications provider means a person who (within the meaning of section 32(4)) provides an electronic communications network or an electronic communications service;

Note that this is operating a network or a service. So just operating a network is sufficient to make you communications provider.

electronic communications network and electronic communications service have the meanings given by section 32;

And section 32 says:-

(1) In this Act electronic communications network means
(a) a transmission system for the conveyance, by the use of electrical, magnetic or electro-magnetic energy, of signals of any description; and
(b) such of the following as are used, by the person providing the system and in association with it, for the conveyance of the signals
(i) apparatus comprised in the system;
(ii) apparatus used for the switching or routing of the signals; and
(iii) software and stored data.

Better still...
32(4) In this Act—
(a) references to the provision of an electronic communications network include references to its establishment, maintenance or operation;

This means if you operate a network which could just be a DSL router, you are not a subscriber. Err?!?

Saturday, 29 May 2010


The initial code of practice is published for comment by OFCOM.
Yes, I have a print of this and the act and some coloured highlighter pens.
Watch this space.

You don't need a meat cleaver

No, a simple Stanley knife or pair of small scissors will do.

Thanks to Mike for the photo - one of our customers that has cut down an A&A SIM card and got his shiny new iPad 3G working on A&A mobile...

Thankfully we print the required outline on our SIM cards to allow people to do this (at their own risk).

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Pint to line: What line?

Generally "The Warren" in Wokingham is a nice pub. Food is not bad, and they serve beer and cider. So we go there regularly.

Apart from the usual insistence on serving draught cider with ice for no apparent reason, things went quite well and we had a nice meal and a few drinks.

But the last round was a bit odd. Somewhat short measures to say the least. The beer had a head that nearly went to the top of the glass at first, but when we had finished paying it has settled and needed topping up.

This in itself is not that unusual. The glasses are pint to rim not pint to line, which is pretty typical these days (shame).

One thing that was odd was that they did not fill the cider glass anywhere near full and that has no head so no excuse. See second picture.

What was really odd was that they initially refused to top up the beer. They refused on the basis that it was a pint to line glass and the line was the top of the CE mark.

What! Never have I heard such twaddle. The staff should be ashamed of themselves. They did, grudgingly, after some argument, top up the beer a bit. I did not even bother asking for a full pint of my cider.

If ever you go there - check your pints...

(not a Weatherspoon's BTW)

Monday, 17 May 2010

Data centres not to use "green" power

Data centres, which are where all the servers for your internet access, facebook servers, banking, and everything like that are hosted, are to be heavily taxed based on CO2 usage.

Fair enough, except that they cannot even put up a wind turbine or take "green" energy that has no CO2 emissions as it all gets taxed regardless of usage. Buying "green" power normally costs more - if it saved on this new tax it would be cheaper and data centres would use it. But no, they are not actually encouraging reduced CO2 usage at all.

What kind of fucked up government scam is this?

If they want to encourage lower CO2, then at least make it that people lowering CO2 benefit!


School dinner ladies

Well, I vaguely recall them from my school days as tyrants, but I was shocked to hear of my daughter having trouble with this last week.

They put credit on a fingerprint reader thing, and she was 20p short. She had cash, but that does not count! So she was told to put her food back.

For a start that is apparently not the right procedure and the kids should be able to get an advance from the bursars office.

So her mate paid for her dinner instead - at a different till. The two of them were walking away when the first dinner lady snatched the tray off my daughter and loudly accused her of stealing the food!!!

Needless to say we are not at all impressed, and they are supposed to apologising to them this morning. We'll see.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

The IP address scam?

OK, up front, this is probably not technically a scam. It's a whinge by me at a RIPE policy I don't like. It's my own opinion, as ever. Even so, A&A are RIPE members and so we are able to vote on policies so we are just as responsible for it. RIPE policy are the views of RIPE's members, though saying that is like saying every voter is responsible for everything the government does. Hopefully I have explained it simply enough for people to understand.

Before explaining the problem I need to explain how IP addresses work - don't worry, it is not really a technical issue at all...

Computers can talk to each other via various bit of technology (fibre, copper, modems, all sorts) and they can connect together to form a network. Generally they do this using Internet Protocol (IP). When they do, they have to know how to address each other - how to identify the computer they want to talk to. They do this using IP addresses. An IP address is just a number and not really anything special. Obviously the computers on a network need different addresses to each other, else you could not know which computer you are talking to when talking to an address. They have to be unique.

When networks are connected together to make an internet you need to make sure that all of the computers have different addresses. And if you connect them all together around the world to make the Internet then they all need a unique address.

Obviously if people just picked their own addresses, this would not work, so you need someone to take on the job of managing the addresses. This is important for the internet to work, but it is not done under some legal framework or government body like car number plates. It is done by organisations set up by mutual agreement of the network operators. IANA allocate addresses at the top level to regional registries like RIPE (the regional registry for Europe). RIPE allocate blocks to local registries (LIRs) like internet providers. Internet providers assign addresses to customers. Customers can pick which computers have which addresses on their network. Simples.

But it is worth pointing out we are just talking about number. They are not special. IANA don't own the addresses and neither do RIPE or the ISP or the customer. But if people do not agree then the internet does not work. We have to agree to only use some of the numbers and not clash with anyone else's numbers. All without any legal framework. So far that has worked, but we are heading full steam ahead in to the end stops with IPv4 addresses running out (forecast Sep 2010). Will such an informal arrangement still work in face of such issues? Will laws on IP address (mis)use be needed? Eeek!

OK, so where is the problem I am whinging about exactly?

Regional registries allocate two types of space - provider aggregated (PA) and provider independent (PI) space. PA is allocated to LIRs e.g. internet providers to assign to customers. PI is allocated directly to customers and is independent of the provider (as the name suggests).

PI space was free! It involved paperwork and the application for space was managed by an LIR/ISP, but once you got it you can use it. Bear in mind, as I keep saying, we are talking about numbers. Having an allocations does not create some legal right to use them or some legal right to stop others using them. It is just a number on a list. If RIPE are doing their one and only job they make sure they do not tell anyone else that they can use the same numbers. If they did, things would not work properly.

The problem is RIPE are now charging for PI space. This is where it looks like a scam - give someone something for free - wait for them to use it and find it useful - then throw in a charge for it later!

Bear in mind that RIPE don't have a contract with the customer. The LIR that sorted it may or may not have had a contract but may not now have one. The provider may not even exist now. As I said, RIPE don't even convey any legally enforceable right to the numbers so are not really providing anything useful other that their agreement not to give the same numbers to someone else later. But that is as much for the benefit of that someone else as it is to you.

If the customer does not contract with an LIR or RIPE then RIPE will delete the allocation and may issue it to someone else... WTF!
  • What if provider no longer exists
  • What if provider is not talking to customer any more
  • What if customer ignores letters from provider (after all, that was their old ISP)
  • What if customer thinks it is a scam letter from old provider - there are loads of scam letters like this,
  • What if customer thinks RIPE letter/email is a scam (after all, they never dealt with RIPE and may not have even heard of them)
  • What if customer just refuses on principle
At the end of the day the only thing RIPE can offer for their money is that they will not give the same numbers to someone else. Yet by taking back space from people (perhaps without them even knowing) they are breaking that one rule by having more than one customer thinking they have the right to use the same numbers. The new user of the numbers is not getting that exclusivity that they are now paying for.

Technical: Carriers often use RIPE records to filter announcements so for the most part the new owner will get most functionality and the old owner will get less.

And will this policy really save IP space? I doubt it will save enough to make any difference. Anyone that has PI and is not using it will pay anyway, if they have any sense, because trading IP space will mean they have a valuable asset they can sell. So this seems to be RIPE cashing in on IP trading rather than actually conserving space. A better policy might be to (with notice) remove PI space that is not being announced (i.e. being used in the internet).

So, end of whinge. If I have any of this wrong, please tell me!

If you can thing of other places that are like this and for which suddenly charging would be seen as wrong, let me know. I am finding analogies hard to find. It just feels wrong to me somehow.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Taking the piss

Some people amaze me.

So, you buy internet access, it's crucial for you business but you only buy one broadband line, and have no backup, no 3G dongles, nothing.

Unfortunately, in this case, the our favourite telco messed up and caused internet to break on a line for a week (messed up exchange jumpering). Its a real pain when that happens, and anyone that knows us will know we give them hell when they do this and try our hardest to get it sorted as quickly as possible. But sadly, it took a week.

How the hell does someone think, having paid £10.17/month for a service (the line, ex VAT) and it breaking for a week, that they have any right to claim £1,000 compensation for the inconvenience and buying 3G dongles and all sorts. They even accept that it was matters beyond our control!

It really does annoy me some times.

Lets hope he does not decide to take it further and actually considers some backup. It's not like we don't offer a range of options. He can even get lines from our other favorite telco...

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Anal Probing

Well, it is not just restricted to alien abductions. You can have anal probing on NHS or private. We have BUPA through work :-)

The good news is that it was all clear. But if ever you have to have a colonoscopy they are not fun, but not took much hassle either.

Two days before, you have to be on a low residual diet (white meat, fish, nothing with bits int it like jam or nuts). Not any real hassle and not that boring for one day.

One day before is where it gets fun - you go on a liquid diet (clear liquids, not even milk in coffee). I found original lucozade ideal for keeping by blood sugar up without eating. I found not eating for over 24 hours a nuisance.

When you go on the liquid diet you also start with laxatives, and bowel evacuants (Magnesium citrate). You have to stay near a toilet! To be honest I was most apprehensive about going to sleep that night as if you fart in your sleep, well, by that time it is not a fart but a squirt of shitty water, and that would ruin a new expensive tempur mattress. I had to get up a few times in the night but no problems, phew!

The actual procedure involves sedation - it worked fairly well in that the whole procedure seemed to last a few seconds even though it was half an hour, but it was rather uncomfortable. No lasting pain or soreness as a result. They do pump you up with gas though and that is very uncomfortable until you can expel it (having spent the previous 24 hours trying very hard not to fart!). They expect that you will sleep for an hour or two after-wards but I was wide awake.

In my case it seems my symptoms are down to my not agreeing with metformin tablets (for diabetes) so now on more gliclazide instead. I feel a lot better for a simple change in medication. I have an other appointment with the consultant to confirm all is well.

But the upshot is everything looks completely normal. It is reassuring and I am glad I had it done if only for that reassurance.

Needless to say, if you see blood in your poo, talk to your GP. I my case it was simple medication problem, but it could have been a lot worse. A friend of mine (Guy Kewney) stressed how important it is to go to your GP. His funeral was the day before my GP appointment. I suspect that made me a tad more paranoid than usual.

Thanks for all the positive comments from friends, and the suggestion I was being port scanned

Followup 12th: Consultant confirming nothing wrong - and probably caused by a slight tear or some such which has healed, and not a problem. Definitely the right thing to have had it checked out. And what was very interesting was that I am basically not likely to get colon cancel for at least 10 years as it starts with polups of which I have none! So very reassuring and makes the whole thing well worth doing.

P.S. It was £927 but BUPA paid :-)