Friday, 31 August 2012

Blue moon

It seems the term "blue moon" is not as well defined as I thought. My understanding was the second full moon in a calendar month, but it seems more historically correct that it is the extra full moon you get every few years (where there are 13 full moons not 12 in a year). The lunar cycle (29.5 days ish) is close to the average days in a month (30.4 days ish), so every few years there is an extra full moon. "blue" is actually belewe (meaning "betrayer" moon) and relates to a full moon being a tad early to be the basis for Easter so the following full moon is used instead. All a tad complex. Based on wikipedia, so much be right!

However, today we have a blue moon in the simple meaning of a second full moon in a calendar month, and it has been widely reported in the news. Technically it depends on your time zone as some places will have had the month already end by 13:57:45 UTC today when it happened, just to add more to the confusion.

It really should not need pointing out that the blue moon is not actually blue! There are atmospheric affects that can make the moon look bluer than usual, but none that are based on a particular choice of calendar. This daft question is not helped by a blue tinted moon image shown on news and web sites reporting today's event. So what on earth is the blurry blue blob shown above?

Well, Mikey was trying to take a picture of the moon. It means manual exposure generally as the camera will not get it right. You can get a pretty good image even hand held with a 200m lens (see right), but during his efforts he happened to snap a very over exposed shot (below) which is a bit odd.

The exposure is so long and the sky so dark that the camera has picked up some sort of internal reflection in the lens. The coatings on the lens mean it is tinted blue. It is also, as you may realise, upside down.

Oddly, and not planned like this, we have been in Greece for the full moon this month, both of them!



Monday, 27 August 2012

Surprisingly easy jet!

So, we flew EasyJet to Rhodes. There are only a few airlines direct to Rhodes and they appear to all be "holiday" airlines. This is flights that don't have business class or first class even if you wanted them, and we figured they were much the same as each other. Previously flying Monarch was a nightmare - there was no room for my knees!

Don't you love the diagram of the "brace position" you are meant to adopt - it always assumes there is space to bend forward somehow between the seats. Those were the days.

Anyway, EasyJet allow a "Speedy Boarding" extra cost option, front of the queue boarding. They don't allocate seats. Seems a handful of people had this and we stood up first so were front of the queue.

OK, there appears to be a "super speedy boarding option" if you are a family of 6 with a wheelchair, which was a slight disappointment after standing front of the queue at the plane for 5 minutes, deciding amongst ourselves where we would sit (front row, which we could see) only to have just one too many seats on the front row occupied ahead of us. Oh well.

Anyway, Sandra and I on the front row block of three seats. The rest of the people come on and they board them from the back forwards telling people blocks of rows to pick a seat in. Makes sense as it stops people blocking the aisle. The result was that the last people on the plane were behind us. Even when the final people on the plane were told "any available seat" as there was only one next to us people picked other seats. Ended up with two of us on the front three seats with as much leg room as you could possibly want, and convenient for the toilet (handy, as Sandra is not feeling well).

Knowing not to expect a meal we brought crisps and drinks anyway (bought in departures) so ate and drank when we wanted and what we wanted.

Overall it was better than most business class flights I have taken, which was a bit of a shock. I am sure most of that is luck. We'll see on the way back.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Greece²

We did Greece this year, Rhodes specifically. It was a week in a villa, which had air-con and Internet (that was my main condition for going).

TBH, as a holiday, it was fun, as holidays go. Way too hot to go outside. Longest time spent standing in the sun (which was with a hat) was 10 minutes waiting for the FedEx van with my DHL delivery. Well, I did also walk around Rhodes old town a bit too I suppose, but felt a tad cooler.

DHL are arses, so getting new toys the evening before we return I was cross, and made the rash statement of "why don't we stay another week?". Now, if that was possible, it would be limited extra cost, maybe 5 more days of villa and small charge for changing flights. Sadly villa not available. Shame. BTW: DHL did send a refund, yay!

But somehow that turned in to my agreeing a second holiday? How? Why?

Thankfully it is fewer people this time, not that those the first time were bad company - I spent most of the time playing WoW on a 3 second latency Internet in the air-conditioned villa. But organisationally fewer people helps when on holiday. One car this time, for a start.

I am hoping to try and get some nice pictures this time. I am taking a longer lens (70-200) and a macro lens (100) as well as the 50mm f/1.2 (unlimited carry-on bag weight FTW). I need to practice photography I think. Finding a good shot. Composure. The whole thing. I may take a course on it. I can take pictures, I have the toys, but can I take good pictures yet?

So, we fly tomorrow. EasyJet of all things. We'll see how that goes.

I have shit loads of work to do while away - mainly to pay for being away for an extra week. Some serious coding (which is a nice change). ETSI specs are fun (not!) and I should know as I was involved in them back in the days that GSM started (when working for Nokia). So I have a nice large ETSI TS to read on the plane on my iPad. Can't say a lot more, but some cool new products to be launched soon.

We are madly prepping for the IP EXPO in October (FireBrick). That will be fun.

So, anyone wants me next week, or maybe next 10 days, think again!, or at least think 2 hour time difference and irc. I may be around as RevK on Spinebreaker if the latency is low enough to play.

Now, what could I DHL this time?

Update: Finally got here, nice view :-


Thursday, 23 August 2012

Silver lining

Well, yet another shop being a pain. One of the things I wanted to buy was a pen for Sandra - she is taking up creative writing and likes fountain pens. Yet another shop let me down today and I gave up, and took her to a shop in Regents Street instead. Just as well as I saw the pen I had picked and it looks nothing like the web sites and she hated it. So silver lining in this all as if they had shipped I would be distance selling directive returning them now.

So, a limited edition cross fountain pen, dragon engraved, with gold nib. Very nice, and very Sandra.


The one on-line shop that just worked was one I was buying some acid from, and that was waiting on the doorstep when I got home this evening.

Train tickets make no sense

So, Bracknell to Waterloo, there are several types of ticket, and lately they have started selling a first class off peak day return. This is not a lot more, and well worth it at some times of day as the trains get packets and first class has a table and power... Yay!

Except the tickets rules make no sense, and clearly are so confusing even the staff at the ticket office do not understand. They swore that the 4pm to 7pm restriction did not apply to the first class tickets.

The standard off peak day return can only be used after the morning rush hour (trains arriving after 10am at Waterloo). I rarely need to be in London for first thing, so this is good.

However, for first class off peak day return there are extra restrictions. Yes, extra restrictions on the more expensive first class ticket. These are: "In addition, First Class Off Peak tickets are not valid if you board a train at: London Waterloo or Victoria between 1600 and 1900; Vauxhall between 1604 and 1904; Clapham Junction between 1607 and 1909. All times are inclusive, Monday to Friday. No restriction applies to journeys wholly with London Zones 1-6".

So that means that I cannot use them to come back from London 4pm to 7pm, yet with the cheaper standard class ticket I can!

But hang on, these rules are a tad odd. It seems that I can use the ticket to go Waterloo to Richmond as that is Zone 1 to 4. I can also use the ticket to go Richmond to Bracknell as that is not boarding a train at Waterloo, Victoria, Vauxhall or Clapham. I am not allowed to use the ticket for one journey that goes from Waterloo to Bracknell (between 4pm and 7pm). Yet if I was challenged at any point on the journey my ticket could be valid. That must make enforcement a challenge for them surely.

So, I wonder, what if I use the ticket in standard class Waterloo to Richmond, and if they query it ask if they can downgrade my ticket to a standard class instead of first class to allow me to use it? I suspect that would confuse the hell out of them.

It makes no sense, of course!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

In Stock!

Last few days I have had more than my fair share of this - web sites saying they have stock and then not having stock. Had one that says 5-7 days, last Tuesday, and now says "maybe end of this week". Arrrrg!

It is sooooooo annoying. We have so much nanny state legislation for so many things, why not this?

I did ponder though how it could be done. You could make it that you can claim a standard minimum like £50 for any such instance, but all that would happen is that (a) sites outside UK would laugh, and (b) sites would say "maybe" in stock.

I can't see how you would do it. How to make people accountable?

Maybe if it was not legal to do this then trading standards could cause people problems and fine them. Maybe that would work.

As I found with our friends(!) DHL, expectation management is key. Tell me it is in stock for next day delivery and it better damn well be in stock or I will get pissed.

I see no solutions apart from name and shame.... Wex photographic, and The Pen Shop, to name two this week. Oh, and thanks wex for tripping barclays fraud dept - numpties blocked my card - another hour of my life wasted!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

I don't know how they cope

I do get involved in broadband faults at the weekend - ironically this weekend I was going to be coding (in an air conditioned office) but feeling grotty I stayed at home and so tried to help a customer on irc.

But really, I don't know how my tech staff cope. I dread to think what tablets I'd be on after a week of this.

Got a simple fault case. New fibre to the cab line, which is normally simple as BT provide everything up to and including the modem. So faults tend to get sorted quickly. Line has been in a month.

With normal ADSL the line speed estimate is a range as speed depends on so many factors which are not all within BT control (splitter, internal wiring, router model, etc). However, for FTTC BT come up with a simple estimate of speed, and in this case the customer had, and still has, a speed estimate of 31.4Mb/s. Yes, that is an estimate to that precision. It is not a hard target, it is an estimate, and quite often lines exceed the estimate. It is not an "up to" figure.

Now, the line did not get 31.4Mb/s, or even close. Which is odd. It was pretty stable at 21Mb/s to 24Mb/s for the first 20 days. Now BT do have a notion of the first 10 days being for the line to settle, i.e. basically for the characteristics for the modem to be established to get a stable speed. But the line was over 21Mb/s after 20 days. Then, suddenly, it dropped to 16Mb/s and was unstable, and finally now it is 14Mb/s.

So, we get an engineer out to fix it. This was not too much hassle as we ran a few tests until the BT test system said there is a fault and to contact BT to book an engineer. This should be plane sailing at that point. Engineer for today.

Engineer goes out, checks the line, says it will never get more than 16Mb/s and leaves. No attempt to fix it. The line was in fact synced at 14.3Mb/s, a far cry from the 31.4Mb/s estimate or previous 21Mb/s speeds.

So, simple, I get on echat to BT, as you do. This is where is gets silly. It took me over an hour of arguing to get anywhere. BT saying the engineer has fixed the fault? BT saying that the engineer tested the line and it will never get more than 16Mb/s. BT even saying it never has. They started with comments about why I feel it should be faster and I had to explain that BT are the ones that feel it should go faster as even now, today, the speed estimate is 31.4Mb/s. Eventually, after 70 minutes, and quoting sync speed and date/time for the history of the line to demonstrate that this line had more than 21Mb/s for 20 days, suddenly they changed their tune.

That was actually quite a shock. After loads of no can do attitude, and won't ever get faster, and basically tough! the attitude suddenly changed. I am not quote sure what I said, but suddenly it was I'll book and engineer to fix it and will today PM do? Gobsmacked! Today? I hear from my customer that the engineer had just turned up even. I am pretty sure I did not say Shibboleet but I may have to read through the transcript for the magic words...

So, the long and short of it was that first engineer did not fix it, so second engineer same day, and he is supposedly fixing it. That should have been it. That should have taken 5 minutes of echat at most. But they had to drag it out and make it 75 minutes of patronising hell. Why?

I remember when we started with broadband 12 years ago, and we would call BT, tell them a line was faulty, and they went and fixed it. None of this crap. No arguing the toss. I don't think I could work in support fully time with this hassle these days. Well done guys!

Update: Poor customer not much better off, 16M and packet loss. So BT not meeting their 40 hour SLA. So we escalate it, which is the process for when a fault is not meeting the SLA. Only the escalation department won't look at it until Monday. So what? They have a team to handle delayed fault fixed that themselves don't work the hours necessary to get faults fixed within the SLA. Arrrrg.

On top of that it seems, according to the person on echat, that BT plc have no threshold at which they consider the estimate to be wrong or the installation failed. Even estimating 31.4M and getting half that is, as far as they are concerned, acceptable! We are trying to get a straight answer, and if they don't come up with them we'll tell them what we consider "acceptable" on future orders (which will piss them off - they hate when we do that sort of thing).

Update: We have been reading the handbook in more detail - mainly to make sure I am up to speed if I do faults at the weekend. Seems lines getting below 2M are considered faulty. Lines getting below 15M if they initially got over 15M are faulty. And lines starting over 15M and losing 25% in under 14 days are considered faulty. Complicated set of rules none of which seem to relate to their forecasts (so their forecasts can be as wrong as they like). Even though echat said there was no fault threshold and argued about the speed being acceptable, we now know that under BT plc's own rules that this line is faulty so needs fixing. Arrrg!

Update: Got BT to change to new pair and customer is happily on 25M now. This meant a lot more time arguing yesterday and today to get it sorted. Why they have to spend so much of our staff time, and their staff time arguing rather than doing, I do not know. It would be cheaper for all concerned if they did this right from the start!

Friday, 17 August 2012

Getting an engineer out is a matter of luck now?

Well, we are having fun with BT plc this week.

For a start, a gig fibre for our broadband service broke on Monday morning. Even though these things are on like a 4 hour service level guarantee, and damn expensive things, it is still not fixed, and we are now going in to the weekend. The excuses are various, and it seems BT plc are not talking to BT plc, and confusing BT plc with BT plc when talking about "supplier" and "customer" in emails to the extent that they even had us go to London to check power on a BT plc box that was not even the box they had power alarms on (it was a box in the exchange). Once again we face the farce that is corporate schizophrenia where BT plc acts like it was separate companies that won't talk to each other to the severe detriment of their customer.

We also had more of this on broadband lines where BT plc would tell us that they were not sure of the service level agreement (target fix time) for BT plc asking BT plc to send someone to an exchange to fix a problem. We pointed out that we know the answer - which is that BT plc has an SLA with *us* which is 40 hours, and they breached that, so why are they confused as to what the SLA is. The people they are asking to go to the exchange are BT plc and they already have a contract with us that states the SLA.

And finally, we have a new fiasco. When we report a fault, more often than not BT plc will immediately tell us there is no fault and would we like to book one of their expensive engineers to fix our wiring? However, we have a case at present with a couple lines that are very broken. We know the lines are broken as there is a third line that is fine, and swapping kit shows the issue stays with the faulty lines. Various new equipment tried shows this as well. What is odd is that BT plc recognise there is a fault as they did not immediately send back asking us to buy an engineer. Instead they sat on it for a couple of days doing diagnostics (yes, I can say 40 hour SLA). They finally decide an engineer is needed (we told them that already) and can send one middle of next week! So we escalate the issue, as we can, and they take all day to answer finally saying they still cannot get another appointment, so we escalate again, but now the control for engineers is closed so they won't do a damn thing until Monday to even try and get the engineer out.

What is worse is that the final email on this today talks of getting an engineer out sooner if we are "lucky". So it has come to this - engineers going out in any sensible time frame is no longer a matter of contracts or service level agreements, it is down to luck!!!

I am sure that once upon a time they were way more accountable.

Update: BT finally changed a card in the NTE for our fibre Saturday, and looks like they have fixed it. Thats 5 days for a 4 hour fix for a fault that was in their kit, and one wasted trip to London by one of my staff.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

How bloody stupid is EU law?

It seems that the reason my new camera, and many others, will not record more than 30 minutes of video is that to do so would subject the camera to 4.9% EU import duty that applies to camcorders.

Why do we have such a rule? It clearly does not collect more tax as camera manufacturers simply cripple their cameras so as not to allow a recording over 29:59. In fact, I can just press record again at that point I believe. So what the bloody hell is the point. Why make a law that simply inconveniences consumers in the EU by having the products they want to buy crippled by the manufacturer?

Pondering the stupidity of this law - surely if the camera, at the point of import, does not meet the criteria as a camcorder (i.e. crippled), but is later (within the EU) modified so that it is now a camcorder? Surely as, at that point, it is already imported, then it will not attract the duty.

So, come on Canon, release a s/w version that allows my camera to record more than 30 minutes but don't include it with shipped cameras, make it download only and I'll modify my camera by loading it.

I have suggested this to Canon, and asked for a reply on the matter.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Maybe they are getting ready for IPv6

[another techie one, Pauline]

To my surprise the Canon 1D X is using EPRT and EPSV on FTP for file upload. Whilst these work for IPv4, they are extra commands designed primarily to support IPv6 addressing. So maybe that is on the cards. I may have to pester them.

However, I was impressed with what it does do, albeit on IPv4, when I was packet dumping.

Set to upload images as taken, and connected to Ethernet. Fair enough.

Press button half way to focus, and WTF?!? - it connects to FTP, logs in, sets image type I, and holds control TCP connection open... When I then press all the way to take the picture it sends it. If I release focus it quits the FTP and closes.

So yes, it is pre-empting my picture taking by starting the FTP process on the focus, and thus minimising any delay in getting images transferred.

That is impressive! That is some attention to detail... Well done Canon.

Re-inventing wheels

Quite often I end up writing some sort of utility function, normally in C. I tend not to write full blown applications that often (well, not for PC environment) as apps tend, these days, to be web based with back end utilities of various sorts. Today I was coding something which had previously been done in various scripts using various existing utilities. Basically, it is a tool to handle JPEG images from my camera(s) and populate a mysql database entry with a load of data from the image (width, height, ISO, aperture, exposure, camera, lens, etc). The database is used to make the photo site work.

So there are a number of stages to the process of making a new utility like this.

1. Has someone else already written it?

Often this is the case, as there are so many people and so many computers out there. There are two snags you run in to. Some times someone has written a big, all powerful system that does everything, including what you want - this is great, expect such things can be slow, and big, and take a lot of RTFM and config, but sometimes it is the way to go. The other issue can be that there is a small quick utility that does not quite do what you want, so needs wrapping up in a script with other stuff, or requires some minor changes. One can change an existing app, and even send in new code submissions. Sometimes this too is the right way to go. However, all too often there is not an exact fit for what you need.

2. Can you script it?

The other approach, especially when there are various utilities and tools that do some of the job, is to make a script. Code it using some scripting language (yes, I know, I still use csh, and should be shot). It can be easy to hack about and change, but tends to be slower and messier than doing C code. In this instance this is what I had done, and I could not find a way to add an extra detail (the lens name) using existing tools.

3. Is there a library?

Of course, if you are going to code something then there may well be an existing library. Rarely is the library perfectly suited, and can either be bloat or broken just like existing utilities. Some times there is a perfect library for the job. A good example of a library that just works, and whilst it is complex, if has good documentation and examples, is the curl library. I have, in the past, hand coded http requests, but these days I just use libcurl.

For the image processing task, there is both a jpeg library and an exif library. I was using libexif already in a simpler utility that was used by my scripts. It was working fine but only did part of the job.

4. Make a library?

One thing I have done a few times now is made my own library. I have tools for mysql working, and for XML file handling, and generating png images. All of these came about because existing libraries were massive bloat or were broken in some way. Using my own library means I have to update it and maintain it as needed, but also, only as I need when I need new features. It means it does just what I want and I understand it. There are several people using my libraries already, so there is a tad more maintenance from time to time. This sort of thing works well when not working against a moving target - where specifications and current practice are not constantly changing.

5. Writing it from scratch?

Some times I do get to properly reinventing the wheel, as I did today. It means reading RFCs and specifications carefully, coding, and testing. It means lots of error traps and test cases.

So what was I doing and why did I re-invent the wheel, yet again?

The problem is that the JPEG/EXIF file format is complex. Well, not so much complex, but involves lots of different bits. JPEG is a codec format. EXIF defines various blocks in the JPEG file. EXIF uses TIFF format tags. These are in IFD blocks, which reference each other. Then there are camera specific uses of the format which are not standard but follow the standard to some extent. So some of the work is trial and error as well.

I want to extract a few key parameters of the JPEG file quickly. I don't want to load the whole file, just the necessary headers. Then I update the mysql database. I can use my own library for the mysql stuff, that also avoids any sql injection attacks by someone sending me a JPEG with SQL statements embedded in it.

I managed to get all but one of the data fields using libexif. The one I wanted was the lens name which is in the Maker Note field in the EXIF sub IFD from IFD0. Now, libexif is clever, in that it does not just grab the tagged fields, but understands many of them from the EXIF specification. It has the names of the fields, and knows how to display them. It knows Maker Note, and understands formats used by many camera makes including Canon. However, the lens name is not in its list, and so it does not extract it. There seems to be no way to tell it that I know what it is and just give me the damn string.

Well, this was a new thing, so I was prepared to leave it out for now, and try and see if there is an updated libexif I can use later which knows it.

But then I found some images were not working. Basically, two of the really simple parameters were not always right - the width and height. This is because I was getting these from the EXIF tags. But one of the cameras seems to rotate the image for portrait use, but does not change the EXIF tags (which, to be fair, are X and Y, not width and height). So I was seeing width and height swapped on portraits. But the JPEG is right. The problem is the image width and height is not an EXIF field, it is in the JPEG SOF0 header. Previously I used an imagemagick function to get this in a script, but I wanted to do this in one quick and efficient C tool.

So, re-inventing the wheel, I load the headers, including the first bytes of the SOF0 header to get width and height. I was able to scan the Maker Note for the lens name with no problem. It was not that hard to code. In fact, I think it took no longer than using the libexif did, and now I understand EXIF and TIFF a lot better as a result. I wish I had done it this way the first time.

Friday, 10 August 2012

What does this mean

On bottle of Glayva

Sort of like Bender's time code...

Part of this warnings stuff:-

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

A Rev on holiday

Well, I am back, and the 1D X impressive. I only had half a day to play with it, and a couple of hours walking around Ρόδος old town this morning. Took over 500 pictures in L format JPG with quality setting 10.

It is interesting how things change in a few years. It seems I can now take RAW with no problem with either the write speed of a nice sandisk 32GB CF card, or the storage capacity. The other issue with RAW was the time it takes to upload. Well, this camera has gigabit Ethernet (albeit only IPv4) and so is able to upload fast, and I mean fast. Yes, I did not take these in raw, but even though many are 13M files, they uploaded, plugged in to the server at gigabit, at several per second and before I managed to extract my laptop from my bag and power it up, my photo site had the pictures all ready and working. So it looks like RAW will be a possible. Means the photo site updating to handle multiple versions of the same image. I can also set up a second card and WiFi so that I would WiFi a 4.5Mpix S JPG while recording an 18Mpix JPG and RAW for Ethernet upload later. Something to experiment with.

I was also rather impressed with the new focus and exposure settings. Rare to see any camera get sparklers right in auto!

Default P mode, using 50mm f/1.2. Used f/1.4 ISO 200 1/40s

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Canon 1Dx Y U No IPv6?

OK, I finally got the Canon 1D X. I was hoping to have a week here in Greece to play with it, but I now have half a day before we go back. I'll post more later.

But Canon, really? New camera, only IPv4 on its gigabit Ethernet port. Tut tut.


Monday, 6 August 2012

DO NOT USE DHL THEY TELL TOTAL LIES (wav)

We called them Thursday and said we needed a parcel next day to Lindos and they said "express" would do that. We took parcel to depot by their deadline and they took it and did not say it would not be next day. Their web site says next day. Everything says next day.

Now they have not done next day (would be Friday). They handed to local courier in Athens on Friday at 14:09. They insist will be here by 17:30 Monday. Well at one point they say 24 hours (which would be 14:09 Saturday, so another lie). It is not until after they fail to deliver next day that they claim Lindos is a "+1" location, so not in fact next day at all.

Now (Monday) they say that local courier has it on a ship and might be Tuesday.

They are telling outright fucking lies and lies and lies. Up with which I will not put.

Just do not ever ever deal with these people. No not use DHL. They LIE to you.

I am now claiming that if my camera is not here by 17:30 then it is lost and I want my full insurance claim on it so I can get a new one.

Basically, it is looking like it may not even arrive before I leave Greece now.

LIERS DHL LIERS - CRIMINALLY FRAUDULENT LIERS... There is no other way to put it. They lied to get my business.

Update: We have explained that the contract is void as was based on a lie. I said that at this point we are seeking compensation for simple criminal fraud. They got business based on lies and now are continuing to lie. If they get to me by 17:30 today we will settle for simple refund. If not, I file a CC claim for compensation for their criminal activities including all consequential losses. This is just not acceptable. I am not sure the message is getting through somehow. Lets see.

FYI: DHL tracking express 4046630663 if you want to see.

Update: Fucking cheek. They (DHL) called, and said it was in Rhodos (an hour drive away) and missed for today, but if I call the local courier I could make a special for today. I explained to DHL that I paid for today (actually I paid for Friday) so if it is possible for today then they can call and arrange a special at their expense as I have already paid for today! I then hung up before they could argue. We will see. Best outcome is 17:31 delivery so we claim money back.

http://www.me.uk/2012-08-06T13-50-44+445555400007.wav
http://www.me.uk/2012-08-06T14-20-16+445555400007.wav

Update: Basically, DHL Athens are saying Lindos is a "+3" destination, i.e. their "Express" next day service is 4 working days. How the hell is that ever next day. Their web site talks of next possible business day. Well I can prove next day is possible, give me a package in London and I can get it to Lindos next day, and I don't even have a fleet of DHL planes, I would just fly Gatwick to Rhodes direct and taxi from Rhodes to Lindos. Could be done in about 6 hours if you are lucky.

Tuesday: We'll see if it arrives today. I fly back tomorrow. I need to review all the call recordings once more before we issue a county court claim. At the very least we should be contacting trading standards over this as they simply should not describe the service as "Next day" if it is not. They do not even have a asterisk with "* Some locations may be up to 4 working days" or some such! It is misleading advertising.

Update: ETA 12:30 Tuesday, 5 days after it was shipped next day from London.

Update: Just before 11:00 local time Tuesday, I have my camera and lens and memory card, it is all well packaged still, no dents, and works a treat. More on 1Dx when I have had a play with it.

And yes, DHL handed to SpeedEx who drove up in a FedEx van...
No signature, just handed to a bloke in the street (which happened to be me).
Odd how DHL claim it was signed for. I may ask for a copy, as just yet more fraud.


Update: DHL refunding charges.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Apple laptop charging vibration effect

If I brush my hand across the top of my shiny Aluminium case of my Apple laptop I feel a strange vibration effect.

Turns out I am not going mad - James has felt it too. Interestingly the new MacBook pro is lower frequency than the Air. But both are very noticeable.

If you hold your hand still, you don't feel vibration. lightly brush your hand or fingers over any of the metal surfaces and you feel it.

What is interesting is that this effect is only present if connected to the power (charging).

It is mostly noticeable if you move you hand/fingers over the surface. However, on the Pro just having my arm lightly touching the corner of the case can create quite a noticeable stinging pain. It has bugged me quite a lot while trying to use it today.

WTF is this?

Friday, 3 August 2012

DHL fail!

It would appear that the DHL are telling me this afternoon that they are unable, in the home of the Olympics, Greece, to get my small parcel from Athens to Rhodes in less than 2 days. It is perhaps just as well they are not the logistics sponsor for the Olympics this year.

We took a small parcel to a DHL depot in London and asked for it to be delivered to Rhodes next day. They confirmed they could. They completed all of the paperwork and took the money.

Now they say it was not shipped "next day", and they will, maybe, delivery on Monday.

The receipt says it was shipped "globalmail" which they describe as "International non-sorted, non-franked business correspondence". This is around 3Kg of camera and lens, and not in any way "business correspondence". So that makes no sense. Oddly their tracking site states "DHL Express Shipments", so yet another inconsistency.

They also stated that it is now with a local courier that has 24 hours to deliver it, so will be Monday. Well, in my book, 24 hours from 14:09 Friday is 14:09 on SATURDAY, and not Monday, so that is clearly a lie from them of one sort or another.

Asked to actually ship to arrive today (i.e. "next day" as originally requested) they say they cannot. Asked to do Saturday morning. They say they cannot.

They seem to be indicating that they are unable to move my small parcel from Athens to Rhodes in less than two days. Some logistics company this? We have asked them to state this formally - yes or no - can they move a small parcel from Athens to Rhodes in under 2 days? Not had a clear reply yet, but actions speak louder than words.

What they have stated is they cannot guarantee next day delivery. That their "express" service is not "next day" (we have a call recording of this). This is odd as their web site states that it is. It says you can pick by 9am, 10:30 or 12:00 or next day. Someone is lying to me, and that is criminal fraud.

I am very cross right now. I'll update this post if we get any more news. I'd be delighted with any official comment from DHL, and happy to follow up.

Update from Lee at my office is: We paid for Express delivery, I got her to confirm that on phone that. I said that globalmail business was ticked. They said that did not matter as it was on a express. Well done Lee for confirming. Now we need them to fix this (and refund us).

Update: Now saying that "express" is not "next day" and so they have not screwed up and will arrive Monday. Seems to me the web site tells lies then... What can I say?

Update: Apparently we have the call recording where they confirmed it would be "next day" before we went there with the parcel (by the cut off time they said), so we should be able to issue a county court claim for a refund at the very least. Maybe I can add some compensation for messing up my holiday. In fact, they only got the business because other couriers could not do one of the islands next day. It seems that they lied to us for commercial gain - now that would be criminal fraud. I'll be able to confirm when I hear the call recording myself.

[Yes, I got my sponsors mixed up in first draft, sorry]

I'll add more next week. This was something of an experiment. I wanted the new camera (as per earlier post) to try out while on holiday before we did any more serious work at the office. I decided to try DHL for something silly like this because it was cheap, and we would learn about these things. Knowing how couriers work, and which are good or bad is useful for business. Clearly DHL will never ever get any of our business ever, national or international.

On a personal note I am surprised how very very cross this made me. On a normal business day this would have been annoying. When on holiday, where basically the only thing I did all day was either going to be nothing (reading, etc) or "waiting for my new camera", I did the latter. Somehow, psychologically, being let down like this is huge. My blood pressure is up, I am fuming. Now if the camera was not on its way, or was expected Monday in the first place (i.e. not lied to), that would not be any issue. Being lied to so I "get my hopes up" and then being let down like this is quite simply not on, disproportionately so. As a result, DHL have so ruined any chance of any business from us to such an extent you would not believe. These people need to realise how important every single promise that they make is.

Update: I got excited for 20 seconds - a knock at the door this morning. I thought that maybe they had done Saturday delivery... No such luck. Just the maid for the villa. Humph.

Olympic Holidays

Can I say that? I hope so, as I am in Greece (so outside of the UK LOCOG special legislation on this I hope) and talking about the picture which is of a company called Olympic holidays. Actually I know nothing of them apart from that sign in Lindos that I passed yesterday.

I think spending this week away from London makes this an Olympic holiday doesn't it? Obviously Greece is the place for such things :-)

Anyway, looking at the usage levels (on the BT links, just to be clear) we have not had another brief spike like we did the other day, but it has been quite high during the afternoons. It is messing my "errored seconds" stats that we report as even one packet dropped in a second counts, but no, it is not bad at all. I would not be surprised to see another mad half hour at some point before it is all over, but overall it looks like we got things set up with the right levels, just.

And, just for fun, I am testing DHL's abilities to deliver to a Greek island next day... We will see.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Let us pray

They think of everything - the villa here in Greece has a small church in the garden!

If I wasn't an atheist reverend, that might be useful :-)

Even so, my suitcase had "REV.K" stencilled on it by Sandra so we could see which was mine at the airport.

New toy

I am pondering a new camera. Well, more than pondering, more sort of calling the camera shop every day :-)

I have several Canon lenses and bodies, with my current camera being a 1DsMkIII. I was shocked to realise that it is nearly 5 years old now. It is a good camera (21Mpix).

What I am after is a Canon 1Dx, which are apparently available shortly after rocking horse shit comes in to the shops. It is Canon's new flagship professional camera and I am sure they wanted it out before the 'lympics. From what I can gather, both Canon and Nikon have been struggling.

The 1Dx should be "better" in many ways, but is only 18Mpix. I say "only" when talking of such huge numbers! Much as Internet is not all about the speed, cameras are not all about the megapixels. It has a much more sensitive sensor with gapless lens array which means it should create better pictures in low light. It also has, apparently, much improved focusing, especially in low light. I really should start taking more pictures.

Anyway, bugger all UK stock out there. Canon "launched" it last October, and only now are they finally coming out. We use cameras for product shots in the office, and for marketing, and so on. Most of the kit we got was when we sponsored the Bracknell Bees, and did live photographs and video of games with our logo added. Worked well. The 1Dx does video, and we are planning some interesting "productions" for marketing shortly.

I had hoped we would get it before going on holiday so I could borrow it and try it out. I took the 1DsMkIII instead. What is making matters worse is that I now realise the 1DsMkIII has a fault. Arrrg!

Looking back, it has had it for a while, but only really obvious on bright daylight clear blue sky shots. Turns out that any fast exposure shots have a major problem where the top of the image is seriously over exposed. I can only assume it is a problem with the shutter. I wonder if the curtain is "bouncing" or something. It looks like a double exposure on the top of the shot. At 1/8000s on a clear blue sky the top of the shot is white, not blue. On longer exposures the effect is much less, which is why it has not been as obvious. I had seen the effect before and was puzzled by it, but now I am out here in the serious sunshine it is much more of a problem. To make matters worse I thought I would actually try using the f/1.2 lens I have. Using f/1.2 in sunshine and all my shots are buggered. At f/2.4 with shots down to 1/2000s it almost goes away, but at 1/8000s it is nasty. If the shutter is bouncing, that makes sense as it would be a fixed extra exposure of part of the image. Anyone else seen this on Canon cameras?

Sounds like it will have to go in for a proper service when (if) I get a new camera.

Is it just me or does even the slightest flaw in something niggle at you. This is an issue that can be fixed by simply cropping the top off the image, but it is annoying me. The camera feels so broken. Psychological, I know, but bugging me in a sort of OCD way. The temptation to have a 1Dx DHL'd to Greece is strong.

Update: More reading - yes, it is shutter bounce and can happen and will need repairing.

Update: DHL FTW

Yes, it does mean IPv6

I recently made a somewhat flippant post regarding a new code of practice on net neutrality that many ISPs have signed up to.

It is clearly intended to ensure that there is fair access to all content providers via all access providers. It is to try and avoid two (or more) tier Internet services with access providers offering premium access to selected content providers, for example. The concept is good - having an open and fair access infrastructure is good for everyone and fostering development of such service and UK industry and so on.

My take on this was somewhat tangental. Basically, I assert that it means that access providers have to provide the newer version of Internet Protocol (IPv6). Clearly this was not the intent of the code of practice, as it is, by and large, technology neutral in its wording (for good reason).

However, the various people having a go at my post have made me consider it even more.

The way things work is that content (or services) are normally provided on specific IP addresses using specific low level and high level protocols. Then, the access provider, providers end users with connectivity. That connectivity allows all of the protocols in use on the Internet at large and allows access to all of the addresses on the Internet. That way the end user can access all available content. Yes, there are caveats for blocking illegal content, and so on.

The problem is that IPv6 is not yet widely deployed by consumer ISPs, and in particular not by the signatories of the code of practice as a general service to their customers.

Now, this is making a two tier internet access! To get access to the "whole Internet" you have to go to an ISP that provides IPv6 as well as IPv4, else you are not getting the whole Internet. That is likely to be more expensive. There are technical workarounds, like creating tunnels, but that could be said for any restrictions on access. If an ISP did not allow access to a particular premium content provider, then one could go via proxies or tunnel to other points on the internet to access it. If such technical workarounds are considered valid the we don't really need the code of practice for net neutrality, do we? We can expect all end users to be geeks that can hack their way around restrictions.

Now, this is a technical issue in some ways, but even that is not really a good argument. People are saying it is costly and time consuming to change to support IPv6. All true, and if IPv6 had not been around over 15 years it would be a valid argument. Even if ISPs had only started seriously considering IPv6 when it was first realised how soon IPv4 would be exhausted then they would have usable services by now, or at least have been ready turn on IPv6 when IPv4 did run out. The large ISPs have least excuse as they have the buying power to have made IPv6 support a mandatory part of the CPE they specified long ago.

But back to the original point. ISPs have lots of technical reasons to restrict services. If an ISP restricted traffic to only certain high level protocols (e.g. HTTP) and ports and low level protocols, then they would clearly be said not to be providing access to all content and services on the Internet, as their restrictions would stop many working. It used to be common for ISPs to operate web proxies, so one could see how an ISP might ague that such restrictions are just a technical issue too.

To me, it is hard to see that failing to allow access to IPv6 is not just the same. After all, an ISP that only offered IPv6 would not be expected to claim they provide access the the whole Internet as there are sites that choose to only be accessible via IPv4. It is therefore exactly the same argument for an ISP that only offers IPv4 as there are sites that can only be accessed via IPv6.

Basically, signing this code of practice when they do not offer IPv6 was quite simply dishonest. In my opinion. Sorry guys - I know a lot of you, and work with you, but really? Don't say you will allow access to the Internet and then not provide it.

The good news is that, having signed this agreement, everyone can now put quite legitimate pressure on these ISPs to do what they agreed to do. Good luck with that, and please don't try to wind them up just for the hell of it, no matter how much fun that is, it is not really very fair :-)

Update: I am pondering setting up a brand that is offering only IPv6 connectivity. I really expect almost nobody to buy it as not very useful. But I will then have that brand sign the CoP I think.

Slow internet?

[Pauline, you can skip to the last paragraph :-)]

The good news, for A&A customers, is that we seem to be coping fairly well with the 'lympic traffic. Yesterday saw the first slow down during the day on some LNSs from around 15:30 to 16:00 with some slight signs of congestion all afternoon. This will not be ideal for our link stats, but does look like we coped quite well. I'll be interested to hear from any customers that noticed any issues.

However, it is easy to forget where we start with the broadband we have in the UK and specifically A&A. We are all used to latency in the 10ms to 20ms ranges. Yes, some are slightly higher if you are on a slow line with interleave, and obviously while filling a link it is a different matter, but none the less, pretty damn good. many customers even have consistently lower latencies these days.

What has surprised me is the Internet we have in this villa in Greece where I am staying. The villa is nice, with wifi all over the place and Ethernet sockets all over the place. But the first hop has silly latency. I am thinking it has to be some sort of mobile connectivity, but have yet to find where the utilities are and take a look.

The latency on 100 pings is like this:

100 packets transmitted, 100 packets received, 0.0% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 79.712/691.432/1382.148/351.071 ms

Now, that is a pain for all sorts of reasons. For a start, much of the time, it is well over half a second, which is enough to make even simple ssh a pain, but it is horribly variable and spiky. Sometimes almost usable (80ms, as you see). I have seen over 3 seconds on occasion too. The throughput looks close to a 1Mb/s but hard to be sure. There is low packet loss (often pings show 0% as above).

I am told that this is the sort of crap that is normal for a lot of people - how does anyone live with this? Our monitoring systems at A&A do not even scale the graphs to show over 500ms and only show that for when there is a fault or a full router queue. We have raised major issues in BT where latency has risen by 50ms on lines for periods of the day. We have raised major issues that BT had to raise with router suppliers for occasional 100ms latency spikes. No idle A&A broadband line could ever look like what I have here in Greece.

Of course, latency is one of those things rarely mentioned. I am sure, if I asked, I would be told how this villa has several megabits of Internet access, and that may even be true.

I should have brought a FireBrick and worked on coding a variable latency link that has local TCP processing at each end.

Anyway, apart from that, it is hot. Seems a nice enough place. Very remote - near Lindos, a village that seems to have no Rhodes^WRoads, i.e. is totally pedestrian. Very nice meal at a local restaurant last night. And the aircon works in the Villa, which is probably more important than the Internet.