Thursday, 30 September 2010

MYSQL madness

There are occasions when mysql drives me mad!

A classic example is selecting from one table and joining with another table using one or more fields which are unique keys in the second table. In this case first table is some service, like a VoIP number, and second table is the login details relating to the login field in the service. e.g.

SELECT * FROM Service LEFT JOIN Login USING (login) WHERE blah;

Well, that generally works when blah is simple, but if the WHERE is even slightly complicated (referencing Login and Service), even if only looking at fields that have an index, it can break badly inspecting every combination of Service and Login!

The other approach I tried looks much worse. The SQL does not know using a nice syntax like "USING" what I am up to and is having to guess. e.g.

SELECT * FROM Service,Login WHERE Service.login=Login.login AND (blah).

Yet, for some inexplicable reason, MYSQL really likes the second way of doing it. And is lightningly quick. The first way was still going 10 minutes later when I restarted the server.

What is sofa king annoying is that this used to be the other way around in terms of efficiency in a previous release of mysql. Long ago we changed from the WHERE type joining to using USING to speed it up. Now we have to change back.

Arrrg!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Dude! where's my SIM

OK, some will assume I am an Apple fanboy. After all I did walk in to a PC World and buy half a dozen of the 64GB 3G iPads a while back.

So you take an iPad in for repair, one of the ones that actually broke rather than being sat on.

They say "can't repair, has to be replacement", but before you know it the old one is sent back to apple. This is an apple approved repair place somewhere Reading way.

Arrrg, save & restore. They claim they did, phew!

Only replacement is brand new - no saved photos or anything, and get this - the SIM card not even moved to the new one FFS!!!

I think I may have to sue for the SIM card back. Grrr.

Copyright

Pondering things that I post on here I think it is time I posted a more formal copyright statement on here, so this is it.

Everything on here, unless otherwise stated, is my copyright, and dated as per the blog posting itself. This means I have rights, and can reserve all sorts of rights to what I say which cover copying and distributing some or all of the postings. I can even reserve the rights covering the download of the blog posts in the first place including this one! The catch is there is a sort of implied right to download a web page and until you see the copyright notice you can't be expected to understand a variation on those implied rights. This is why this is linked in to the title of the blog now.

So, lets get to the point - what rights am I granting and to whom?

In summary:
I want people to read, enjoy, quote, use and like my blog.
However I do not want anything I say to be used against me!

In short I am trying to use copyright law to provide freedom of speech.

1. You have an implied right to access the main page and read what I have said on here up until you see the banner at the top with the link to the copyright. Anything you do after that is subject to the copyright notice here. I consider that implied right enough to read the page only, not to make any further copy or print of the page in any way. All rights are then reserved unless I grant them below, including rights to look at the page in the future having looked at it once and seen a copyright link on the page. You are allowed to read this one post on copyright as much as you like.

2. Anyone I would consider a friend is allowed to download, copy, reference, quote and use what I post on here as much as they like in any way they like. I politely ask that when quoting me you provide a link to the posting and acknowledge who wrote this. If I link to anything external, then check their copyright - I can only grant rights to what I make.

3. You only have the above rights as long as I would consider you a friend, and on condition that if that status ever changes you shall delete all copies and indemnify me against any consequence of your non compliance, or payment of appropriate licence fees.

4. This leaves the definition of those I would consider a friend. By default I would consider anyone reading my blog to be a friend. However, if you are planning, or starting any legal (criminal or civil) action against me, my family or my companies you are not a friend. If you are making any threats of such action, you are not a friend. If you are representing any such person, you are not a friend. If you are identified in and are the adverse subject of any of my blog posts, you are not a friend. If I tell you you are not a friend, you are not a friend. This means that such people have rights to read my blog main page once as an implied right which is then immediately withdrawn and they have no right to save, print, copy or use anything from the site (apart from this one post stating the copyright). That includes using the content in any civil or legal cases.

5. If you not not follow the above rules, and do use a copy, then you must pay a licence fee for your usage. This is not a fine or a penalty, its a licence fee. This is likely to be just slightly more than the amount of damages you have claimed from me or my costs in any action you take. I can make up the fee as I see fit and advise you of it later.

6. (not a copyright issue as such). Anything I say post about any person or company is, unless otherwise stated, only my personal opinion and view at the time.

7. Obviously, if I give you a separate notice saying that you have no rights to access anything on my blog, then doing so, even the first time after you get that notice, is a breach of copyright.

I am not a lawyer, and I require these terms to be read and interpreted such that any doubt on the legal wording is considered in my best interests.

I welcome comments on my posts - you grant me permission to publish your comment when you make the comment. I am more than happy to hear legal discussion and comment on this copyright statement.

acs:law

Well, more on data protection. A few people wondered why I have not blogged on acs:law. Oddly a few of my friends had not heard the story yet either! I was not sure whether to say anything or not - it is pretty well covered already.

For those that are interested there is a lot of underground coverage, but also some mainstream media such as BBC.

The long and short of it is that acs:law appear to be a bunch of wankers that have been exploiting people by sending demands for settlement out of court for alleged copyright infringement. This is the very industry that the recent and controversial Digital Economy Act is there to help. The evidence is often tenuous and the scam works by a major proportion of people paying up. This is helped by the fact that the accusations usually relate to porn or gay porn, which, even as an false accusation, nobody wants to be defending a court case for.

OK, that was all known for a long time - the fact their web site failed under load and coughed up a complete archive of emails and documents is what is the current story. This contains lots of personal information, and details of how the company operate. People can see what sort of scum these people really are now and how the operation works and the money flows.

Porn is an easy target as I bet lots of people have downloaded porn at some time or other (whether legally or not) and do not want the whole issue debated in court even if this specific file was not one they downloaded. Sadly, some people have had some real upset and concern caused by the accusations thoughm as can now be seen from some of the letters that have leaked. Do acs:law care? Well, it seems that if it is some pensioner than has only ever used the new PC to email relatives, they'll drop the matter, though this seems to be linked to the person having no money rather than any real concern for the trauma that has been caused. In one case acs:law apparently accepted and agreed that the person in question was not the infringer (must have been her now ex-husband) but still were happy to accept payment even though no payment was due under civil or criminal law. Paying someone to stop hassling you is the very definition of a protection racket, surely?

There are even web sites now that will take your postcode and see who near you has been accused of downloading what by acs:law!

Good news is A&A have never had to release customer details to acs:law, unlike many of the major ISPs who have had to comply with court orders from them. I am sure if we had have had a court order, and been unable to contest it, we would have had to release details to - we were lucky. The likes of Sky and BT were less fortunate and (it seems) working hard to do all they can for their customers who have had details leaked by acs:law.

Of course, I am just truthfully stating my opinion here, as a matter of fact. I have no proof either way that they are in fact a bunch of wankers or that it is a scam, but it is a true statement that such things are my opinion. To form your own opinion you can now read all of their emails, it seems. Given what has been leaked already, I doubt anything I could say here could be said to defame their character in any way... :-) P.S. acs:law is not a friend, see copyright statement.

Data protection

How the hell does he do it?

My son has managed to sort new insurance and get a refund for the old one that they tried to cancel (still chasing an apology letter), but the latest is a letter from his new insurance saying that they are putting up the price by £800.

Why you may ask? Because he has got insurance quotes done through the likes of money supermarket and such, for insurance with various "modifications" to his car. Well, yes, he wanted to confirm how things like "tinted windows" would affect the insurance, and sees it would add a lot so did not go ahead. That is, surely, one of the reasons you get a "quote"?

But know, his insurance company, sharing data like mad, decide this means he must have got those mods and change his policy unilaterally.

I thought this was what data protection as all about, to stop this sort of crap!.

Double bluff

OK, happened to be in boots and saw a display stand so bought some placebo's. Well, they are called "berocca" and it has vitamins and guarana for some reason.

Well, I am sure it has vitamins in it, as it says, and the packaging tries to give the impression it will make you "feel better" somehow. But, of course, I know full well that anything it does like that is almost certainly a placebo effect. People think they will feel better so they do.

But I know placebo effects work - they are well documented.

So I don't think it is a medicine or believe the claims it makes - I believe it is a placebo - and I believe placebos work, if you believe they will, which I do - so, it should work, right? Just for the wrong reasons - a double bluff :-)

They are fizzy too, which adds to the "medicine" effect, though they taste too nice (fruity) to be a medicine. They would probably work better if they added something slightly bitter to taste like it is doing you some good.

Oh, and the picture - packet of extra diet crisps maybe? I bet they work wonders too...

Monday, 27 September 2010

/home less

Oh what do I do?

I was without /home/adrian for nearly an hour this evening, and my X server just locked up in device wait. Frozen out.

What do you do - scary. I could not even mount /cardboardbox and i had to resort to irc and email on the ipad while I waited.

All in a good cause as the nice large RAID array that is my /home was moving to the new office. Well, the old office from the older office. But moving none the less.

X carried on as if nothing happened when all rebooted and all was well. Phew!

There's no place like ::1

Dealing with telcos

Is it me or is it a challenge dealing with any telco.

Our favourite telco is well known and I may have to start talking of our favourite mobile telco as well.

It may be paranoia on my part but you always assume the worst in every word they say. Pick up every subtly of what they actually typed in an email and question it. Assume it won't work even with assurances to the contrary...

However, very encouraging calls this evening looks like we are on track for early October for our mobile data and for working IPv4 routed blocks. Fingers crossed.

Sounds like IPv6 is still a bit of an unknown. We'll be able to tunnel over IPv4, but native may be fun to test. We'll know when it is live.

All good stuff.

Air con

Well, we obviously got the air-con in just in time for the warm weather... Well, maybe not. We have only been in the office a few days and it has switched to heating mode :-)

The good news is they are very efficient at heating.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Coding coding coding

Well I have everything I need to get on with some darkened room mode serious work. Desk that is out of the way and nobody disturbing me. Air-con. Nice 30" monitor. Fast PC. Juice, crisps (no quiche), strong coffee. List of work to be done. Even the right glasses for working on the monitor.

But I am just thinking, sod it, I'll should have stayed in bed... Arrrg! It's like writers block.

I'll be glad when I have James (son) up to speed with the C coding...

Maybe I'll play WoW for a bit to clear my head :-)

Maybe I am just getting old.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Cyclists Dismount

Some kind person has found the sign in the legislation. It's a gif on the statute law site so was not searchable (useful that!).

The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 schedule 5
.

It says regulations and directions none but not sure how to read this damn legislation to tell what it means.

I think it is advisory but failing to find the actual legislation defining it.

New office

Well, I am all set to get some real work done. New office, new desk, out of the way, air-con, coffee machine. All good. Except I managed to sit right in the firing line of the air-con down the back of my neck... But otherwise all is good!

I have to say that all of the staff have been very good, especially Andrew and Lee in moving stuff and wiring and tidying and decorating.

I have about two months worth of coding to do for the launch of the new products :-)

P.S. Just found how to "steer" the air-con's air flow... woohoo.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

WoW in wood

Well, we had a fun office warming party for the new office. Even managed to get our BT CRM to come along. Yes, that is the one that has a female orc WoW character that (in WoW) stripped off and danced. So, a bit of artwork from my daughter (iSat) who is now doing art at college, and a suitable use of a 35W CO2 laser and you have a nice presentation case for a bottle...

Saturday, 18 September 2010

RADIUS relay - techie question

OK, I know a lot of techies read this. My google skills must be lacking because I can't find this and it seems like it should exist.

When handling a PPP session the LNS will do a RADIUS request to a RADIUS server. It can answer with IP details to terminate the PPP. It can instead provide a set of tunnel endpoints and passwords to allow L2TP relay to another LNS...

What I want is a way to respond by RADIUS providing a list of RADIUS servers to go and try. This secondary RADIUS would get tunnel endpoints.

What I cannot find is the RADIUS access accept attributes to tell an LNS to go do another RADIUS check. If anyone knows this, do post or email me.

In the absence of an RFC for this I was planning to define another Tunnel-Type value for RADIUS. This would allow the preference ordered and grouped list of up to 32 RADIUS servers using the tagged Tunnel-Server-Endpoint, and Tunnel-Password, just like an L2TP situation but RADIUS. Technically RADIUS is not a "tunnel" type, but it seems to fit well. Indeed one could see a case for sending some RADIUS endpoints plus some L2TP endpoints all in the same reply where the L2TP endpoints are the last resort if RADIUS is not responding.

So, if anyone has any clues as to an RFC for this, that would be great :-)

Friday, 17 September 2010

Cyclists Dismount

Well I have often wondered about this, and I found this particularly inspiring. I am glad I do not live or cycle in Harlow any more. What a waste.

Anyway, what I wondered is: what is the legal meaning of the "cyclists dismount" sign is, exactly.

Apart from section 82 which says you should dismount at a level crossing when you see this sign, searching the highway code shows no reference to it. Searching statute law has no references at all. However, as a rectangular blue sign with white lettering it appears to be "informational" in nature in line with the general rules for road signs. I cannot find it on The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 (No. 3113)

So, sort of saying "by the way, in case you needed to know you may find that cyclists dismount at this point". It is not an order or a warning sign. It is in no way instructing cyclists to dismount or do anything.

Maybe if I am following another cyclists that comes to such a sign I should allow for the fact they may stop and dismount. This is something I need to allow for at any time anyway, so hardly a warning and not that useful a sign to tell me that.

So why the hell are we all paying councils to erect signs that basically seem to have no use or meaning?

Thursday, 16 September 2010

NAT hell

OK, can't give details, but I have recently spent a few days in NAT hell.

I saw all three RFC1918 blocks. It's like the internet had never had the principle of globally routed unique addresses. Every link I was dealing with was separate mapped or NATed blocks mapped to other blocks over VPNs and firewalls. And the mappings were nearly consistent in some places but not quite. I feel sorry for thge guys I was with, it was not all their fault and they started to really get the same appreciation of NAT as I do by the end of it.

I felt I was in a maze of twisty turny IP addresses all starting 192.168. Lamp On.

Anyway, the job in hand was sorted and went well. The final solution will use real addresses thankfully, this was a sandbox proof of concept.

I feel somehow cleaner being back home, with a real IPv4 and IPv6 on my machine here, and my laptop, and my iPad. Though I am coming down with a cold - I must be alergic to RFC1918.

[non-techies: don't even try and ask me to explain]

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

eCar are, in my humble opinion, total dickheads

Having set up insurance through them, and made two payments, they have written confirming our request to cancel the policy - no such request was made. They also wrote advising due to non payment of premiums they are cancelling the policy, even though premiums were paid. So both letters make no sense.

They even said they are cancelling it 7 days from a 9th Sep letter meaning it ceased on 31st July? They cannot even work out a simple date...

Turns out that they are cancelling it because they think that my son's DOB is 1st Jan 1970. But that makes no sense. No way he would have selected that and it is not the first or default date on the form. Suspicious that it is unix time zero. And, if you get a quote for someone with his details and that DOB it is a fraction of the price they are charging, so clearly they did not use that DOB to set the policy up.

But WTF can you do - they are cancelling the policy. I think we'll have to sue them for consequential loses or something, or get the FSA involved.

I really do not recommend touching eCar with a barge pole.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

DEA gets worse

One of the parts of the DEA is the issue of costs for running the stupid scheme, and it has now finally been decided that this will be a 25/75 split of costs between ISP and rights holders, with the end users (accused) not paying to appeal, etc.

Well, this is meant to be a rant, and I know life is not fair and laws do not have to be fair, but this is really crazy. I can't see the logic. As far as I am concerned this is nothing to do with the ISPs. Well, I am biased, but still. At the end of the day a right holder is accusing someone of copyright infringement and wants the ISP to provide communications between them. However, somehow, it is decided that they will only pay 75% of the cost of that communications service. It makes no sense. If they sent the copyright reports by post, would they expect to pay the royal mail only 75% of the postage?

We then have the crazy situation of ISPs paying 25% of OFCOM and appeals body costs. This seems odd too. This is where an end user is accused and wants to defend that accusation. They were accused by a right holder. The ISP was just the means to pass on that accusation. Why are we even involved in that process let alone paying for 25% of it. In fact, the Act seems to kind of assume the ISP may come along to the appeal as a sort of expert witness for the rights holder. I can't see why we would, or if we do come along why we would not be working on the accused's side.

It is not clear why the ISP is expected to pay anything. One thought is that maybe the rights holders think that somehow we are complicit in the copyright infringement. That does not make any sense though as that would mean we are co-accused and so should have no costs at all even for appealing just like the accused end user. We are certainly not complicit with the rights holders. It is just madness.

Of course, to some extent, this is all academic as OFCOM have said that this will only be applied to the top few ISPs. But they can change that. In the past, with IWF stuff, the government wanted 100% coverage not 99%, etc, so it is quite possible they will make this insane scheme apply to us one day.

We also have this crazy situation that, according to the Act, all our customers are communications providers (as they operate apparatus which has stored program control and switches and transmits signals) and so are not subscribers. It will be interesting to see what happens if/when OFCOM ask how many subscribers we have and we say zero....

Monday, 13 September 2010

Stalkers

When someone starts hassling my 14 year old daughter with calls and texts I do not take it lightly.

The A&A VoIP system now has a feature to allow blacklisting individual numbers. It will go live soon with a web interface. The behind the scenes bits work now, so if you need this please do ask.

The system allows a number of responses from number unobtainable tone, busy, ringing out, to allowing the call but recording it for evidence and emailing a specific address.

Interesting market opportunity for 09 numbers

This has happened a few times and I can see it being an interesting possibility.

Basically, there are occasions when I would like to give someone a really expensive number to call me on. It is not because I want to get revenue from the call, it is because I want them to pay a lot for the call and be inconvenienced.

One such obvious case today was an insurance company that only publish an 09 number to contact them on. So I think only reasonable to expect them to call me on a similarly expensive 09 number.

Customers have asked for such things before. They know the telco (in this case A&A) would get revenue, and are actually quite happy about that happening. They know they would not get revenue, and would not want any of the hassles associated with actually running a premium rate service.

This is where it gets interesting...

The law says OFCOM can regulate premium rate services. However, my reading of the Act is that it is the service that is premium rate not the number. I.e. just because it is a really expensive number on an 09 prefix does not make it premium rate. What makes it premium rate is providing a service via the telecommunications service (for which there is extra charge made and passed on to the service provider).

So, in theory, we could set up 09 numbers, with no pay out and no service provided via them, just as expensive numbers to call. We could run these with none of the normally require warnings or hassle or contibution to PhonePayPlus (or whatever they are called today).

Now, the cost of setting this up would be peanuts, as long as it is not a premium rate service and has none of that hassle. Just another inbound number range to add to the hundreds we run already. We could do it free of change and even direct to a landline or mobile as the means of delivery of the call.

Perhaps I'll write to OFCOM and suggest it and see what they say :-)

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Alternative Dispute Resolution, a broken system

Well, I am faced with a slight dilemma and it makes me realise how broken OFCOMs idea of an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process is.

The ideas is that consumers should have a way to raise a dispute with a telco at absolutely no risk to them. They should be able to take disputes to ADR and not have to pay at all even if they are wrong. The telco pays regardless.

As a telco I see this as a mad and clearly unfair system. Without it we have the county courts. The courts are cheap. You can go on-line and file a claim and pay on a card. It is (was) around £30 for small amounts. What is clever is that you don't really risk any more than you pay to claim. If you win you get it added to the claim. If you lose you don't get a huge bill for fees and solicitors from the other side. I actually like the county court system.

ADR is silly. For a start we have to pay each year to join a scheme. Then we have to pay for each case, win or lose! Also, courts are enforced either way. If we go to ADR and win, not only do we pay, but the other party does not have to accept the judgement, so if they owe us we have to go on to court as well.

Anyway, this dilemma... I have a customer that thinks he ceased a line. He does not know when. Claims he did it on-line but has no order confirmation. Sounds like he did not cease it. Terms are crystal clear - you may have to prove you asked us to stop but we'll provide a clear receipt (order confirmation) to make it easy to prove. Everyone knows where they stand.

So we think he owes us for the last invoice. He thinks we owe him some previous bills back. He did in fact wait over 3 months to say he thought he had ceased!

We are now stuck. I now *have* to take him to court. I would personally not be too unhappy to write off what he has not paid. It is not much. But if I don't take him to court he can take us to ADR! If I do take him to court he can't take us to ADR. Thankfully court trumps ADR.

So now we are in the situation where the only way to protect ourselves from costly ADR claim (even if we win) is to take the customer to court (which blocks use of ADR). Even if we do not turn up and file a claim by post, and lose, it is less loss than ADR would be if we won!

So insisting on ADR is forcing us to take some poor customer to court over a small debt.

Crazy broken system. Well done OFCOM!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Will it bank?

Well, what can I say?

UKNOF17 Edinburgh

Well, UK Network Operators Forum was fun this week.

Edinburgh is an interesting place - not been there for 20 years or so. Two of us walking around the place using an iPad with GPS/maps. Only catch is the maps are 2D and Edinburgh is, well, 3D.

There is one road we had to traverse several times for the meal, the venue, and drinks and hotel and so on. The road is called South Bridge (yes, I know, the clue is in the name). When on the road, it looks like a normal road with tall (3 or 4 story) old buildings both sides. Some roads join/cross it as you would expect. Nice long straight road.

However, if you try following a map that is effectively saying "turn right" and actually means "fly 10m in the air and turn right" you realise that South Bridge appears to be one long bridge. Yes, some roads meet it, but many go under it. The houses that looked like 3 or 4 stories are in fact 7 stories.

We got the hang of it in the end and it is a very nice place.

After the event and after the drinks in a club that was laid on, we then ended up in a nice Mexican restaurant, and finally in a whisky bar with what can best be described as "The elders of the internet". Cliff Stanford was there as well as other people that were around when Demon first started. A fun evening.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Structured fail

So, new office had structured cabling.

When the old people (now the landlord still) moved out, they had workmen tidy up and decorate and so on.

The workmen did chat to us, and at one point asked what to do about all the cables. We agreed putting them up above the tiles out of the way was sensible as it looks tidy and people can pull them back down to use them.

Later we decided to lease the place and the landlord said the workman had put the cables up above the tiles out of the way so we could use them if we wanted.

Yeh!

The joys of moving in to a new office.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Fast...

Well, some customers have all the fun...