Friday, 30 September 2011

SHOCK! half the country below average...

OK, what the hell is it with some people.

We have quotes like "A recent study by Ofcom found that many services marketed as up to 20Mbps actually achieved an average of just 6.8Mbps."

Well, yes, and? What is the problem? Only if the speed was more than 20Mbps would the advert have been wrong. That is what up to means. The ISP was not saying "average". Indeed, an average (mean) is not really what helps. What matters when buying broadband is "what speed can I get" and that is something every ISP has had a checker to tell you. The headline speed is key for picking between different technology like ADSL1, ADSL2+ and FTTC, and allows that choice where there is one. The new rules will not help any consumers, will make it more complex, and may even steer customers the wrong way for what is best for them.

People making such quotes are exactly the sort of people who are horrified when a study shows "that 50% of people are below average" on some metric. E.g. below average wage, etc. With a lot of distributions it is absolutely expected that 50% are below the mean. Yet politicians will be horrified at such findings. Broadband is not quite that, but naturally the average speed of an up to 20Mb/s service will be somewhere below 20Mb/s.

Of course, the new rules the ASA has come up with are themselves full of holes. For a start they say that any speed has to be achievable by 10% of customers. But this clearly has to be "for that specific service" else it is meanless. i.e. something like 95% of our customers could get a gigabit if they were prepared to pay for an individual fibre dig - does that mean we can say "up to 1Gb/s Internet" and sell them 1Mb/s ADSL1?

So if it is for the specific service, then ADSL1 can be sold as "up to 7.15Mb/s" as now, because we actually have over 25% of such lines getting that speed. So no change there.

Of course, if we wanted, we could have a special 20Mb/s ADSL2+ service that is only available where you can get 20Mb/s. Because more than 10% of the customers on this special 20Mb/s service can get 20Mb/s we can advertise it as 20Mb/s (100% of them would get 20Mb/s). All we would be doing is restricting who can get that service, and anyone that cannot will be offered our alternative "ADSL2+ variable rate service" for which we would not be quoting any headline speed at all. The advert would be headline "20Mb/s broadband" when other ISPs are saying 15Mb/s or 13Mb/s, etc. I may suggest BT and Be have a profile option on the DSLAMs for a fixed rate 20Mb/s service just to allow this to be advertised.

Of course, if it was not "per service" then one just makes a brand or separate company only selling that service and problem solved.

Also, (based on comments made by Enta), if it is across the ISP then you can get unrealistic differentiated adverts. An ISP mainly only doing cities can advertise higher speeds but one specialising in rural areas cannot. So someone in the rural area would pick the ISP that specialises in cities even though the service is in fact exactly the same from both ISPs and the one specialising in rural areas will have services and staff better suited to those rural customers.

Why don't they think about the consequences of these stupid rules?

Anyway, we have removed speeds and refer people to the line checker - simples.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Putting up prices

Always a tricky business changing prices.

We have put up the broadband again, this time by 25p a unit, and re-jigged daytime and evening usage levels to be more favourable to business customers.

There is a clear objective in my mind for this - to balance daytime and evening better, and to allow us to spend more on capacity and some major upgrades.

Over the years we have seen evening/weekend usage gradually increase so that it is now a clear peak in usage. We just need to steer that back to more business customers.

There is also a view that if people use less or we have people leave us, we are putting off the inevitable 10Gb/s upgrades we need just a bit more. It is big and scary and expensive. It will be needed in the next 6 months, but we need to take this carefully.

I think we will have some people leave. We will have some people reduce how many units they buy. We will have some increase the number of units. I suspect we'll have lower take up of new lines - but not sure. People tend to buy because of quality and personal recommendation. It costs for us to provide quality. Perhaps we are reassuringly expensive now. I hope so.

That said, decreasing prices is tricky too. It does not always get the extra business you hope for. It is also easy to get it wrong and find you cannot afford to run the service properly. We have done a price decrease wrong in the past, and that hurts.

The main thing is we are taking the long term viability of the company seriously and we expect to still be here in another 14 years. That means making tough choices some times and making price changes.

I hope customers understand. I understand if some need to leave.

http://aa.net.uk/news-2011-10.html

Monday, 26 September 2011

PGP and bankers

Does anyone know any bank that understands or properly uses PGP or similar digital signing or encryption on communications to/from the bank?

It is probably not something too relevant to most people simply because emailing your bank, or them emailing you, pretty much does not happen. On-line banking is fine for most things and that has a lot of security.

But where you do have a proper bank manager, or a "private banking team" or some such, and you may well want to just email them and get them to just sort something, I would think this would be ideal.

It would allow the convenience of email with the proper security a bank needs. The simplicity of just saying "lost my debit card, can you get me a new one sorted" with the security of the bank knowing it is definitely you asking, and even who you are without you saying.

It would also allow banks to email statements or information as needed in a secure way. They could lose the cost of posting lots of the usual crap and send it by encrypted email.

Basically, I am trying to pitch the idea to Lloyds as they seem quite keen to get us on their private banking package.

The idea is that for a small group dealing with select customers, this sort of extra benefit would be really useful. And if they get their act together - which probably means some central key management - then this could easily extend to more general banking customers.

So, comments please - I'll pass them on to the bank!

Dodgy transactions?

So what was the dodgy transaction that caused barclays fraud to block my on-line on a Sunday (and not take calls on a Sunday to sort it)?

Was it someone emptying my account?
Was it someone trying to transfer more than the daily limit?
Was it someone trying to send money to lots of other banks?

Nope, it was my sending £1 to my daughter's Barclays account at the same branch!

They do pick their moments though as Lloyds bank are coming in today to try and get me to switch!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Barclays fraud dept

Driving me mad - they call up from an unavailable number and want to query some transactions. They insist they do not want to ask sensitive information, e.g. ask my age not DoB, etc. But they fail to understand that whatever level of question they are asking is exactly the level of detail Barclays need to verify me, and so if they are not in fact Barclays I am giving exactly that level of detail away to a potential fraudster!

And they have blocked my on-line banking. It is a pain in the arse. I use the on-line banking to keep a very close eye on my account. If there was anything odd (which has happened once before on a debit card) I spot it right away. But I can't now check what is happening because they have blocked access. Madness.

What really pisses me off is their insistence that they are protecting me not protecting them. If someone impersonates me by some means and fools the bank in to transferring money then it is the bank that been defrauded and not me. When one person lies to another for gain, they are defrauding them. The fact someone lies and pretends to be me does not make them me, and does not mean the bank would be correct to give my money away on their request. The bank would have to reimburse me as the bank will have acted incorrectly. So it is not me being defrauded and is not, in the long run, me that is being protected. One could argue that in the short term, having money transferred away, is inconvenient, and they are protecting me from that short term inconvenience, but not if that protection is in fact the cause of significant inconvenience.

The only way it could be protecting me is if the cause was a breach of contract by myself by giving details to some third party to allow someone to impersonate me. Ironically the very sort of thing a unknown caller pretending to be the bank may be asking me!

It really pisses me off - I told them I would be charging for my time calling them back. 15 minutes on the call so far. We'll see what happens when I send them the bill.

P.S. After 20 minutes they tell me that even though the fraud dept have blocked the account and even though they are clearly working on a Sunday, that we cannot call them. Total incompetence by Barclays.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Funerals

Well, went to a funeral of one of my wife's aunts yesterday. These things happen. Shame. I had met her but did not know her well. She had some views on the funeral arrangements and had sorted it all in advance (very considerate I have to say). James (my son) was one of the people carrying the coffin even.

Funerals are solemn occasions, well, mostly - if they could stop plotting the funeral of another certain person the whole time (not me, well, not to my face anyway)...

But the event is, as they always are, a time to get the people that knew someone who has died together. To reflect on their life. To consider memories. To give closure to all those that knew her. An important psychological process for all concerned.

And, to be honest, almost all of the wording in the ceremony was fine. There was even a nice poem, well, for the most part. Sadly there had to be unsubstantiated statements made regarding someone called God and another chap called Jesus, made with total confidence and certainty and no basis in fact or any relevance to the process. They added nothing to the event for myself and at least one other person there. Why people have to involve their fantasies in such solemn events I do not know. It almost seems rude! It would be no different if it was a Klingon ceremony. Lets stick to reality - we know why we are there - to give us a moment to reflect on someone's life now they are gone. Why spoil it with mumbo jumbo?

I do hope some people found such comments useful to them at the least. To be honest, my funeral does not concern me - why would it? But it is I suppose one event I can dictate and someone may follow my wishes. I'll ponder that some time nearer the event (which I hope is some time off). I suppose if that mumbo jumbo is what JoJo wanted then who am I to comment? It went as well as any funeral, and we all got a chance to remember her. A sad day for all.

I suspect I have managed to offend someone now.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Commercial 3D


http://www.neoseeker.com/news/13645-hp-now-selling-designjet-3d-printer/

I have seen this thing at hp labs - and seen the output, though not actually seen it in operation. Very impressive.

It uses support material that is dissolved later, meaning it can print any shape. They had some nice examples of a geared mechanism inside a frame, but printed as a single thing fully assembled.

I suspect you can get as nice with a reprap and a fine nozzle if you tried, but this is much more user friendly from what I could see.

8 colour for $17K is pretty good, though the plastic is no doubt silly expensive.

Not bought one, well, no quite yet :-)

I bet you need a damn windows machine to drive it though.

Monday, 19 September 2011

1 to 10


OK, what makes me cringe is when a certain person says something like "On a scale of 1 to 10... it was a really good idea". i.e. never actually places the rating of something on the scale of 1 to 10, just prefixes an opinion unnecessarily with "On a scale of 1 to 10", Arrrg.

Bullying phone calls?

I posted a call recording of a sales call from Sky a while ago. What was interesting was the responses on this blog - with many people praising me but also quite a few accusing me of bullying. I am not saying I will change my ways, but the comments were interesting, and in my defence he called me and had some brain dead policy he was trying to follow. But still, interesting.

Now last week I had to tackle this from the other side! Someone calling my staff and bullying them. Seen from another viewpoint things always look a tad different. Obviously, on this occasion I can't post the recordings.

The plan is to try and work out better ways to handle such calls. Generally the staff are damn good at keeping their head, and clearly they were caught off guard this time.

The problem is people with "complaints for the sake of it" where they don't actually have any outcome in mind or any idea what they want - they just want to complain!

In this case, someone put on hold for several minutes while we tried to get an answer to his question. He wanted to complain about it. Well, I assume the only way to handle that is "Sorry you were on hold, your complaint is noted, anything else I can help you with?". That is what we'll try next time. Is that right?

The problem is when someone is saying "I was on hold for more than 3 minutes - do you really consider that an acceptable time to be on hold? Well do you?" and so on. Then demanding to know who was asking who what, and who is who's boss and so on. And then wanting to complain about the way his complaint was being handled. What is weird is he refused to actual explain his original query! If he had then that could have been answered right away by the manager he was talking to.

Somehow we need to have ways to defuse the issue I guess.

As for being on hold I suspect we just need expectation management, such as "It may take several minutes to find an answer for you - are you happy to hold or shall I call you back?"...

It was probably just as well he did not get though to me though as I do not handle such callers well :-)

If any of our customers do have issues like this - do just drop us a [polite] email. If many people complain about the same thing then it will have to be taken a lot more seriously than a ranting phone call. I have several IT firms we deal with where the MD will give me a ring to say when they hear issues from our mutual customers, though thankfully they also call when someone says what a wonder job has been done. They don't rant, they call as a courtesy so I know there are issues.

Hmm - maybe this is one of "RevK's rants" that is saying "Don't rant"... Oh dear!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Shopping

Got dragged to BasingradBasingstoke to go shopping. I am sure they would have rather just taken my wallet than myself. Sadly my son needed a black suit for next Friday as is the convention for such events. £250 later he has a black suit and trousers and a white shirt so will be fine. Its is not like he knew his great Aunt anyway.

They have an Apple shop there now - that could have got very expensive, but I stood my ground. Though the staff did like the Orc engraved on my ipad2...

However the whole thing has ended with my having one more shopping task. One I am unsure of. I have to find a leather or cloth type of robe suitable for a Level 12 hunter that does not look like a fucking dress for my step daughters WoW character...

I'm now off to the Ironforge auction house to try my luck.
I think I would have done better in Basingrad.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Pay for daughter's wedding! Pay for the divorce now?

OK, so I had to paid for my [step] daughter's wedding... That is not uncommon.
It was a nice wedding, horse/carriage, and all sorts. Fun...

But she has just snagged my debit card to pay for her divorce, and it looks like she can do it all on-line now.

What?

Business ethics?

I was shocked when one of our suppliers started bringing in ethics! They suggested it would be unethical for us to jump the queue to get digging work done to fix a line.

I have not really tried to work out what business ethics means, beyond the odd Dilbert comic on the matter. It is almost a contradiction in that a director is legally required to act in the best interests of the shareholders, so that almost rules out ethics!

In my case I am shareholder and director, so I can try to do things right and not have the issue of whether that is in the best interests of the shareholder as it is me that I am trying to please here. The concept of suing myself for such things is rather strange and would only make sense if there was an insurance policy involved, I expect.

But one has to wonder on business ethics. Queue jumping is an odd one. I have customers that pay extra for premium services, and we make no bones about the fact that in specific cases they get specific priority compared to customers that do not pay for premium service. It would be unethical to charge them for a premium service if they did not, I think. And one could well see a case where queue jumping was part of what was paid for.

The key thing for us as a company is to be open and honest. Whatever we are doing, we don't lie. And if we screw up we explain what happened, why, and importantly what we are going to do to make things better in the future.

Of course this particular supplier has dug themself in to a hole (pun intended) with this as they are the ones that said digging had started a few days ago. Now if we were at the head of the queue a few days ago, and it is unethical to jump the queue then clearly nobody can be ahead of us in the queue now. Of course, if we were not head of the head of the queue then, it was unethical to start digging and they were happy to say they had. I am pretty sure lying to us is unethical!

We have asked how this is possible and yet still ethical. I am sure we will not get an answer. They still can't stop referring to themselves as a third party. I am sure if they were a natural person not a corporate then we could have them sectioned for that.

In my book, not only do people paying for some specific priority get it, but any case where we have screwed up becomes high priority and may well jump queues as we have already screwed up. I think that is doing the right thing myself. Maybe I do not understand business ethics.

I am sure I do not understand what some large telcos consider to be business ethics though. What can I say?

And seriously, if I have the concept wrong, tell me. I am happy to learn. I think I have doing the right thing right, but I know I can be wrong. Understanding that, in itself, is doing the right thing, in my opinion.

Will UK Computer Misuse Act get as bad?

Should Faking a Name on Facebook Be a Felony?

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111903285704576562294116160896.html

Basically, the corresponding US legislation can have far reaching consequences. It can mean criminal cases for, for example, not using you real name on facebook. Apparently there have been cases of people done for uploading a different profile picture that is not theirs.

Heck, my facebook account has a picture of an orc and a fake name. That probably makes me a criminal in the states right now. Well, if that is my facebook account I suppose - if it is the orc's then that should be fine :-)

What is the world coming to?

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Corporate lies?

The Fraud Act is quite a small and manageable Act, for a change. It is one of the simpler laws. In a nutshell, and greatly simplified, if you knowingly make false statements for some gain then that is fraud and is criminal.

Thankfully, in practice, it has to be pretty clear that you have to be knowingly telling lies for it to matter. Having said that I am always wary of any laws after Paul Chambers was done for a "menacing communication" which was only menacing when the judge (seemingly) deliberately considered it out of context. The fact that the thousands of re-tweeters broke the same law and have not been convicted shows how much of a sham it is. But that is just what makes me nervous of a law that could put any of us in jail for an optimistic or badly worded comment.

That aside, I have to wonder when a supplier makes a clearly false statement, e.g. that "dig work started today at 12:10hrs and engineer is currently working". Clearly the person sending that to their customer (us) did not know it was false. They are passing on what they were told be colleagues. However, that surely cannot be a valid excuse? After all, the lie started somewhere within the company. Someone knowingly stated something untrue, presumably for some gain (even if just to get an extra tea break). The fact the messenger did not know has to be irrelevant else any business could conduct fraud by employing someone on the front line to just pass on messages.

Even so, it is a stretch to suggest it was fraud and far more likely to be incompetence. It would be quite gratifying if they have to say that they are incompetent to avoid claims that it was fraud :-)

But then I got thinking about something definitely more corporate and not some individual within a company. What if a company has a corporate wide policy to mislead its customers? For example, deliberately misrepresenting itself as being one of its own "suppliers" with the clear implication that they are a third party. The above lie about a dig starting was effectively blamed on "suppliers" when in fact it was the company in question itself.

Such a corporate policy of deliberate misrepresentation has to count as corporate fraud, surely? It is clearly a misrepresentation, and presumably for some gain. (If not for some gain then that means the directors are not acting in the best interests of the shareholders which is a separate matter under the Companies Act).

Even so, I am not sure reporting one's biggest supplier to the police is prudent.

At the end of the day, and the real reason for the rant, is that our customers are being messed about over and over again - and this crap just gets in the way and slows things down even more. I want our customers to have a good service, and much as I might like to I am not able to go dig the road up myself.

And, of course, this is very armchair law on my part...

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Guess who...


12:45 "Further to update you, checked with the suppliers and they informed that dig work started today at 12:10hrs and engineer is currently working. Once we will receive any updates, we will keep you posted."

16:31 "I have checked with the suppliers and they informed that dig is not started but the form is submitted. We need to check tomorrow for more updates. We will check with the suppliers and keep you posted an update."


All very well my talking of special customers but they are not a patch on special suppliers... :-(

Major service outage

I do wonder about putting up blog posts about some of the more special customers. There is always a risk of "doing a Rantners" and saying something I shouldn't.

So, yesterday, a customer who has two lines (so has fallback anyway), had one of his two lines go off line. To be honest, we don't actually know why - the router was still in sync. The fix was simply turning off and back on again. From our logs the customer has clearly been messing about, swapping the routers around the day before, for example, but he denies that.

So, just to get this right, one of two routers went off line, and we texted him automatically to tell him, during the working day.

Does he try turning off and back on again? Does he call? No.

He texts the Major Service Outage number which goes to me (Director) and several staff. He also emails in a ticket saying there is a major outage. MAJOR!!!!

I don't really know how to explain it better on the web site. One line going off is not a major service outage. And people should try the obvious before calling in.

That is not to say that anyone should expect to have to routinely reboot things, obviously, but "have you tried turning it off and back on again" is not just a joke - it is something to try before calling support!

Fun...

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

You canna change the laws of physics

I do not watch a lot of television but I do watch some sci-fi occasionally, and series like stargate and the like...

One of the things you see a lot is the characters faced with something impossible, and coming up with some cunning way around it. Happens all the damn time. And you wonder if ever things would be like that for real in such scenarios. Of course then then explain the bullshit techno-babble with a silly analogy just for fun.

Well, what got me thinking was the FireBricks. Sadly I have not worked out a way to use one to construct a working wormhole or time machine yet, but they are a product we know a hell of a lot about.

What strikes me is what you can do when do do know a system inside out. We have had people do the craziest things with them, and then worked out a way around the problem. This is especially the case where people would otherwise have to go drive somewhere. Things like working out what IPs would be allowed and engineering for the right traffic from the right interface remotely so as to let us get to the web control pages or command line and make some change to fix the problem. Some times jumping through convoluted hoops and reconfiguring DSL lines remotely and routers and so on. I think last time we did something like this was for a member of staff who had DSL lines and 3G backup and complicated firewall rules.

Then suddenly you realise you are doing something just as crazy as they would be doing on some sci-fi series stuck in the back end of the galaxy with nothing more than a pack of bubblegum and a sonic screwdriver.

So maybe, if they had engineers that really knew their stuff, it would be like that!

Who knows?

Monday, 12 September 2011

How fishing works in world of warcraft

In the game there are various skills or professions. There are some standard ones anyone can do look cooking, fishing, first-aid, and now archeology. There are two you can choose from mining, skinning, engineering, and various others (some gathering, like mining, and some production, like engineering, and they often go together in obvious pairs).

Most of them work in a similar way - the skill has a basic level from 1 to around 525, and these are in stages. You start with ability to go to 75, but at 50 you can buy more training to go up to 150. The things you do are only possible at certain skills. Anyone can mine copper, but mining tin is a higher level and then silver, gold, and so on. So you have to work your way through the skills doing the things you can do at that level. What is cunning is trying to do low level things does not get you more skill points, or gets them very very slowly. So you cannot up your mining by just mining copper - you will have to go to nastier parts of the game to find rarer minerals and metals once your skill level reaches a certain point. Well, you can still mine and process copper at higher levels, and so make stuff, but they don't get more skill points - that is the point.

With most skills you also get to learn various spells or recipes as you go - so you learn things you can make - like bronze from tin and copper, and so on. You have to reach certain skill levels to learn these, but then doing them gets you up the skill levels faster. In general, doing the thing you have just been able to learn gets you 1 skill point each time, but several skill points later it changes colour and starts needing two or three or more operations to get each skill point. Eventually you are far enough ahead you get no skill points for the operation, but by then you can learn a new operation that gets you skill points faster. The operations are colour coded red, yellow, green, and grey as you progress and they are worth less.

You work up a ladder of skill points and things you can do. And in the process you make useful things...

Fishing is, however, rather different, and I have a rough idea how it works. It has changed over time from what I can see on the forums, but this is what it looks like to me now.

1. You get skill points for fishing, but it does not matter what you fish up - the rate of skill points is the same regardless and slows down as you progress. Up to level 100 you get one point per thing you fish up. Then you need more than 1 per skill point. Eventually you need dozens per point. The actual process is casting the line, waiting up to around 20 seconds for the float to bob and then right clicking it. Rinse, repeat, drink lots to avoid boredom. You also need to equip a fishing pole first and put your knife/wand/gun back afterwards - tryign to fight mosters with a fishing pole is not good!

2. There appear to be different areas to fish and they work at different skill levels it seems. So when you start you fish up crap lots of the time (cloth, tangled fishing lines, all sorts). Your relative skill level to the area seems to be the factor. If you try and fish too high an area you only get crap. However, unlike mining you can keep fishing a starting area and get skill points at the same rate. Just that as your skill goes up you get the fish every time rather than crap. The fish are better from the higher skill areas though.

3. The fish have some uses, usually better cooked (another skill you can learn). The crap is usually sell-able. Some of the fish are really useful to improve heath and add extra strength or some such. Some have magic properties (turn you in to a pirate for an hour) and so are highly sell-able.

4. Unlike other skills there are no extra things to learn - just the levels. Being a higher level allows you to fish more interesting fish with higher chance. That seems to be all. You can boost your level with special rods, and shiny things on the line, which increase chances of fish not crap on the line. Someone pointed out in some areas the crap sells for than the fish so this is not an advantage in all cases.

Some quests involve fish, and some achievements involve fish in odd ways.

But basically it is a skill to accumulate when you are really bored and waiting for something or someone.

Unique skills

Unfortunately my son was right when assessing that I have a skill which he did not have and that I could therefore help home with his car...

He was failing to loosen the nuts on the wheel he was changing.

Sadly the unique skill I have was described by him as "30kg more mass than he has".

Saldy, he is right.

Humph.

Extra special customers

Just occasionally you get a customer that is extra special, and I am just mind boggled.

A customer explains what he needs, which includes a local SIP server, orders a nice shiny new FireBrick, and asks for help and advice setting it up.

He is using us for broadband too, so naturally, at no extra cost, we provide public IPs for his phone system even though the rest of the LAN is set up on RFC1918 addresses and NATs to the Internet. The FireBrick provides firewalling so all safe. All set up and working for him.

Then he decides that he now wants to downgrade his network to be NAT only, and surprise surprise the phones stop working. We don't charge extra for the public IP so there is no advantage to doing this, it takes time and effort to change, and it breaks his phones!

Well, clearly he knows the FireBrick is doing what it says on the tin, they do that, so he has no real excuse to ask us to take it back and refund him (and it is well over any Distance Selling Directive time, and he is a business anyway)...

So what excuse does he try as a reason for asking us to refund him? Well, when he ordered there was a snag with the shipment of FB2500 FireBricks, so we provided an FB2700 at the same price. Lucky him - a higher spec unit that is faster, has USB for 3G backup, but is otherwise exactly the same. We explained this when he ordered and he was happy to accept it.

But now, that is the excuse for asking to send it back - not because it does not do what we said; not because it would not do what he wants; but because it is a FB2700 and not the FB2500 he ordered.

Now, we pride ourselves in customer service. If the FireBrick was not doing what it said on the tin we would be fixing the code, or refunding him with no problem. But when it does what was agreed, is better than he paid for, and he is the one causing the problems, it is hard to have sympathy really. We are a business, after all.

It is tempting to send a small bit of black tape to stick over the USB port and call it a downgrade to a FB2500!

Fun!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Virtual fishing


Well, real fishing, sat on a river bank for hours on end with a fishing pole, is pretty sad, but this has to be the daftest / saddest thing I have done.

Virtual fishing. Basically, someone wants help starting to play WoW, so I am helping. But I don't want to get to far ahead. And I was kind of expecting him to log on. So while waiting I had my character fishing as it does not get you any XP and means I am not racing ahead of him. Well, spending over an hour virtual fishing is just sad. I must be mad. I should get my head examined - no, wait, I already did that.

P.S. Apparently I have the achievement [250 Fish]. Arrrg! Shoot me now.

P.P.S. Yes, that is my pet penguin - you have to do something to relieve the boredom.

Friday, 9 September 2011

How true

Every time you email a file to yourself so you can pull it up on your friend's laptop, Tim Berners-Lee sheds a single tear.

Sadly, the simplest way to get a file from my linux box to my wife's windows machine in the same house is still to email it to her. Yes, we can set up file shares and all sorts - that is all fine, but it is never as simple for her to use as a file arriving by email. She would have to find the icon for the file share, and then log in, and then file the file I am talking about, and... But on email it is there - the only attachment in the email that just arrived - simples. Thankfully we don't have limits on emailed file sizes, and the process does only send the file as far as Maidenhead over dedicated fibre links and not actually "out to the Internet" very far when I do that. I suppose I could run the mail server in the house maybe, well, hang on, yes, perhaps using a USB stick could work... Hmmm...

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Hackety hack hack

Well, the register...


But a hell of a lot of other sites, even the telegraph.

Oh dear...

Electronic hygene

Anti static precautions are a bit like washing your hands.

You can't see static (well apart from when it is enough to spark), and the damage is usually latent - at the microscopic level but causing things to fail days or months later. The failure cannot always be linked to the cause because of the time gap, and people are bad at large scale statistical analysis in their head.

So, in many ways just like germs. When they were first suggested people dismissed it. You can't see germs. The damage caused by germs (infection, etc) is usually later: days, weeks, in some cases like AIDS, years later. The cause cannot easily be linked to the effect in your head.

As you may imagine, you don't need anything like the levels necessary to see a spark in order to damage components on a chip a few nanometers wide. Just as you do not need to see food rotting to know it may be "off" and be bad for you.

It is only because we have science that we can see the actual problem in both cases. Using microscopes. Analysing data over large scales and time periods. Doing controlled tests. By scientific methods we can see the problem and the cause and effect. We can provide guidance to reduce the risks.

For germs, we all know them - we wash our hands. We keep food in the fridge. We learn to tackle the invisible threat from an early age and then we don't question it. We trust the science is right.

What is strange is that there are people out there who (like early surgeons when germs were first discovered) do not believe or, more surprisingly, do not care!

Seems there is no telling some people. Maybe the germs analogy will help some understand though. I hope so.

Thanks to Olorin on A&A irc for the inspiration on this.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Found it

OK blogger was being fine, it was me.

Novatech Ooops

Well I did previously have a reasonably good opinion of Novatech. We once managed to get something not as labeled and they handled the complaint very web indeed. They are always helpful.

Sadly they can blow that reputation so easily by demonstrating how to fit a heatsink to a processor for us by getting a motherboard from stock, opening it, and handling it, and putting on the desk, and showing how the heatsink fits on. All without any sign of an anti static strap or mat.

Sad day.
New blogger - has no title on posts.
Am I missing the bleeding obvious here or what?
I cannot even find an option to add one.
Grrr

Friday, 2 September 2011

Nominet want to take down domains without due legal process.


Well, yes, I should have posted earlier. Domain name shutdown without due process. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/09/02/cops_to_get_dot_uk_takedown_powers/ I have to say that due process is starting to disappear.

There are, as ever, two sides to the story. If some crime is being committed and taking a domain down needs to be handled urgently you can see the court process may be too slow. So the answer is have an expedited court process that would allow police to go wake up a judge at 2am to sign an order. You have all seen it on NCIS or CSI.

There should not be a process to bypass normal legal accountability here.

That said, if we are stuck with such a system it should require indemnity and insurance. i.e. if someone states there is a crime and to take a domain down, OK, do it, if they are a competent authority and if they have in place necessary insurance to cover liability for being wrong.

If they are wrong - e.g. if they fail to obtain a conviction or court order to back up their request within 3 months then they should pay compensation, IMHO. They should even have a clear minimum like £1000/day with higher damages if proved to be more loss. If they have insurance to cover this and liability to pay it, then fine.

That way, when they are right and it is illegal, everyone is happy - justice is done - action is taken promptly and efficiently.

When they are wrong they have to claim on insurance and properly indemnify the wronged party. That way they avoid being wrong so as to not have high insurance premiums. They take more care. And the wronged party is properly compensated.

Surely all this needs is Nominet to make part of the contract terms that they compensate for wrongful suspension of a domain. Then, when police ask for it, they just say, certainly providing you cover our contractual costs if it is indeed wrongfully suspended. No problem. Sign here officer.

That is just my view.