Friday, 28 September 2012

I wonder if I can pay in World of Warcraft gold now?

Fun new service from Barclays - totally pointless, but fun...

Thursday, 27 September 2012

WoW gets battle pets

This orc looks none too pleased with his new battle pet.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Well, I had to...

iOS6 file upload strips exif data?

One of the annoying things with iOS was that you could not do file uploads in web pages.

Thankfully iOS6 fixes this, at least in part, by allowing upload of images. This is excellent news. We can now use the web based image upload on photo sites.

Except! It appears that iOS6 strips all the useful exif data from the image - even the timestamp.

If, instead, you email the file, it contains loads of useful exif data including camera make and model (Apple, iPhone 5), aperture, focal length, exposure, etc. It even includes the location data in a GPS tag block.

So, nice new feature, totally bloody useless, thanks Apple!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Will it burn? iPhone 5

Anodised aluminium - laser engraves like a charm - I assume the back is the same, but not decided what to cut on to that yet.

If Microsoft were forced to offer choice of browser, why not force Apple to offer choice of mapping?

A while ago microsoft were forced to offer choices of browser on their operating system as not doing so was anti competitive.

Now we see that mapping and all of the corresponding location data and imagery is quite important. Google clearly want Apple users to use Google maps as they get revenue from location based search and advertise. Apple want that too. Why should Apple be able to force their solution on us even on a new phone (let alone taking away Google from existing phones)?

Even with a Google maps app, if we get one (waiting for Apple to approve), it will not be in all of the map based apps that use the o/s to hook in the mapping (like FindMyFriends, etc). So Google will be disadvantaged as a mapping supplier.

Surely Apple should have to offer users a choice of underlying mapping and location services at the o/s level? Then people could choose. If Apple then make a really good service, people will switch to them, but it will have to compete on a level playing field and win users by providing the quality they want.

Apple update T&Cs

I have been discussing the apple T&Cs with a friend and we disagree on the meaning. I am known for reading legal documents like an engineer, so may have the wrong end of the stick here.

(b) Apple, at its discretion, may make available future iOS Software Updates for your iOS Device. The iOS Software Updates, if any, may not necessarily include all existing software features or new features that Apple releases for newer or other models of iOS Devices. The terms of this License will govern any iOS Software Updates provided by Apple that replace and/or supplement the Original iOS Software product, unless such iOS Software Update is accompanied by a separate license in which case the terms of that license will govern.

My problem is that an update may not include all existing features. To my mind it was not clear that the fact an update may not include an existing feature means the existing feature is actually taken away rather than left as is and not updated.

This is obviously important when considering how apple have actually taken away key features as part of the update to iOS6. Not just breaking maps in many ways, but taking away streetview and usable aerial imagery of where I live.

Surely a term in a contract which allows the supplier of a product to actually remove key features from the operation of that product at a later date, is one that has to be specifically drawn to the attention of the customer (more so than the usual click-through of standard terms)? I am struggling to find the legislation covering that though!

Interestingly, I did find unfair contract terms 6 (2)

(2)As against a person dealing as consumer, liability for breach of the obligations arising from—
(a)[F3section 13, 14, or 15 of the 1979 Act](sellers’s implied undertakings as to conformity of goods with description or sample, or as to their quality or fitness for a particular purpose);
(b)section 9, 10 or 11 of the 1973 Act (the corresponding things in relation to hire-purchase),
cannot be excluded or restricted by reference to any contract term.

Now, the "sample" I looked at in the shop when buying this product had good maps with good aerial imagery and streetview. Now the product does not comply with that. Contract terms allowing that change are excluded, surely?

But, I am no lawyer. It just feels very unfair that key features of something I own has been taken away from me, simply by doing an "update".

Friday, 21 September 2012

Nano-SIM, yes you can

You can take a micro-SIM and simply cut it down using a pair of scissors to nano-SIM size and it will fit in the iPhone5. I just did it, and even though nano-SIM (4FF) is in fact thinner, the normal SIM thickness fits with no problems and works.

Don't hold me responsible for breaking your phone or your SIM if you try this, just saying it worked for me.

P.S. Obviously, yes, crap maps and all, I have to succumb to the pixie dust they use on their new products - they are just so shiny. Sorry.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

iOS6 maps are crap

What the hell?

iOS5 using google maps (right) had sensible and usable "satellite" imagery.

iOS6 using apple maps is totally fucking useless.


This crap is not what I paid for when I got my iPhone.

Re-tweet/etc this so people know not to upgrade if they want usable maps!

I will book a genius appt to ask how I downgrade back to iOS5 tomorrow.

Oh! and no streetview either. WTF. This was described as an upgrade but it is plainly not. I may have to sue.

Update: looks like can be saved as a link and does better "satellite" images. Also iFindView appears to be a free app with streetview in it.

Update: Someone had to! Hitler finds out about iOS6 maps...

Holy Ten Point Eighty-Seven Jigga-Pixels, batman!

As I posted earlier, Randall has made a mental comic today. XKCD 1110. It is a tiled image that you click and drag to view. The problem is that it is huge!

Several people have played around with the tiles today, and done things somewhat more quickly than I did. I thought how hard can it be? to simply make the tiles in to one image.

The catch is that it is 165888 by 65536 (bigger if you include blank rows at top and bottom). That is 10871635968 pixels (10.87Gpix). (Do forgive the back-to-the-future title).

First thing I did was look at his javascript, work out the file names, and make a simple html page showing them all tiled. This is pretty browser crashingly big as it is, but did work. It only took  couple of minutes to make. The tiles have north/source and east/west components (no zeros), e.g. 1n1w.png, so easy to make a matrix. Some tiles are missing as they are all white (north) or all black (south).

So, first off, I just saved the html page, so it would save all of the images in a directory for me. Firefox had interesting ideas on how long this would take which are reminiscent of XKCD 612 but actually took quite a few minutes.

Once I had all of the images, I could easily add missing black and white images. Now to tile them - should be simple enough.

First I tried ImageMagick - one command telling it to tile all 2592 files. First I tried making smaller versions (one eighth each way). It eventually finished and went horribly wrong. Hmmm.

So them I tried GraphicsMagick. It would not do all files in one go. Just said "Killed" after a while. I suspect too many files.

So I tried making each row from the cells, and then making the rows to one file. The rows could be made in memory, just, and took around 20 seconds per row. Interestingly, the same thing on ImageMagick took 4 minutes per row. A win for GraphicsMagick, I think.

Then I told it to join the rows. It thought about this a lot, clocked up 20GB of virtual memory, and made a lot of temporary files. After a long time, it then freed up the virtual memory and made a 40GB temp file.

This is silly, it is 10Gpix of greyscale. I even did a -type greyscale to tell it that. Yet still, it is clear from the size and content of the temp file that it has made a 10Gpix file of 8 bit RGBA data (4 bytes per pixel). No wonder it is slow. How stupid! This does rather explain why it was running files on disk not just using RAM or swap.

Right now it is plodding through that, presumably packing it for the final png output. I'll post that once I have it, as a 10Gpix png greyscale image. Even so, this has taken all day. Don't worry, I was able to do some other work while this was happening, honest :-)

What will be interesting is to re-visit this in, say, 2 years. Will handling a 10Gpix file seem run of the mill, and just fit in RAM with no issues on a typical desktop machine. Probably! If this machine was not a year old it would probably be a lot slicker even now.

Update: The run to join the rows took 3 hours 20 minutes.

801.802u 631.023s 3:20:21.13 11.9%    0+0k 349656312+411601712io 181862pf+0w

The final file is 16MB (yes, that is all, lots of blank space) and is here.
Smaller version here and here.

Randall is totally insane

And if you want to see it all in one go :-

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Not orange juice

Seriously, this is meant to be Old Rosie, but is apparently the bottom of the barrel.

We got a replacement, but not before I had poured it in to a new glass that we had brought with us to the pub. That, of course, confused the hell out of them.

What it should look like is more "cloudy", not "orange", see below.

The Old Manor, Bracknell.

Meet the orc (Oct 17/18)

We'll be at IPEXPO 2012, Earl's Court 2, on October 17th/18th on the FireBrick stand, and if you come along you can meet the orc! Register FREE

Thrall Horde is training room supervisor here at A&A, but for the show he is doing stand security :-)

If you don't have an orc to protect your network, you might like to consider a FireBrick.

But seriously, if you are interested in anything network, IPEXPO looks like a useful show. We're happy to talk to anyone on the stand, and we will be taking pictures of the orc with visitors and giving out 6x4 prints for you to take home (and a link so you can download). There will be other goodies on the stand too.

The show is the first marketing we have done for a long time for either FireBrick or A&A, and it is all a bit new for us. We have an excellent team on the case, including Alex Bloor (our new Business Development Manager) and Michael Barrett who is assisting him with marketing. Once the IPEXPO is out of the way, Alex will be concentrating on how A&A can expand, but I really want to retain all of the good things about being a small ISP no matter how big we get.

See you there... It's free if you register a ticket in advance.

P.S. That blog post is far to salesy for me - so here is something more technical.

The pictures of the orc have in fact led to a lot of throught. We are taking pictures with a wide angle lens so we don't have to stand in the aisle or have people walking in front of us. We are then printing them. We finally decided to print direct from the camera (on to a Canon Selphy printer) via USB. This works well but takes around a minute - which is no problem as it gives us an excuse to tell people about the FireBricks we are trying to sell :-)

We did consider wifi to a laptop, which would be neater as no leads connecting to the camera. Several snags with that, including the fact that this Selphy does not appear to have drivers for Mountain Lion, D'Oh. There is also an issue with the local wifi police (exhibition company) who are banning us bringing our own access point on to the stand and connecting to the stand internet. Well, we are happy that we would be using the camera wifi as a device not an AP, in ad-hoc mode not as infrastructure to a laptop (so no AP at all) and not connected to the stand internet, but we're not sure we would win that argument with some stroppy security person with a wifi scanner on the day. Using the show wifi (at a cost for exhibitors) would not work as there is a captive portal and the camera has no browser to work it!

So, printing is sorted, but we figure people will want the picture digitally too. I am sure people will want it emailed. So to make life easy we are printing up stickers in advance, with the image number on it, and a unique code. The camera can upload on Ethernet (so a second wire cable tied to the USB cable). This means that visitors can either have a print with a URL stuck on the back, or just have a business card with a URL stuck on the back if they don't want a print. We are even including a 2D barcode so they can scan rather than type the URL. The idea is people will be able to get the full resolution image on the spot and post to facebook or the like, if they want. The unique code means people cannot just browse all the pictures from the show, only get their own.

The camera does ftp, so quite easy for the server to run a script on each uploaded file and put it on the right URL automatically. The camera actually starts the ftp and logs in when we focus, and then transfers the image immediately when taken, which is pretty cool.

We are also going to ask people if they want to be in the gallery, but have yet to work out how to automate that choice and run the gallery live on the web site - I am sure we'll work out how to do that.

Turning to the dark side

I have put adverts on the main blog page.

Anyone think this is a bad idea, let me know. Not trying to piss anyone off.

As the saying goes: "every little helps".

P.S. If you hate it - please add a comment here, I'll try it for a month and see what happens. Feel free to just ignore the adverts.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Video watermarking idea

I was watching football yesterday with my brother-in-law, Steve. Yes, I know, very odd. I figured out that they have to get the ball in the net, which seemed (from his somewhat vocal comments) was a concept his team had not quite grasped (though they did win in the end).

Anyway, during the game a 10 digit number kept popping up bottom left. It was clearly locally generated as use of any on-screen menus caused it to vanish. It was most distracting. Fortunately, it gave me a chance to stop watching football and google it. I found several comments from others quoting different numbers when viewing Sky Sports via Virgin Media. It is apparently some watermarking to try and catch live streaming of sports events. No idea if they use it to later identify the source or to kill the stream in real time. They claim, wrongly, that it does not affect the viewing, where plainly it does - you can see it!

This got me wondering if there was a better way to do this, and I came up with a cunning plan. If I was in the industry I would probably patent it (I have patented dumber ideas before now).

The problems with watermarks is that they are either clear enough that they can be seen (as above), or they are subtle enough that they get lost. You don't want them seen as they distract from the viewing and make it easier to remove them. If the streaming was taken from the raw mpeg then invisible coding could be added, but it is not (as I understand it). There are tricks with low bits of colours used in images, but these only work if the colour is not distorted. The whole shit with HDMI mean that you probably just point a web cam at the TV, which means changes in colour, scaling, cropping and even re-sampling the video timing. Subtle forms of watermarking are not going to work with that!

So my cunning plan uses the fact that these sorts of events are often filmed in 3D and involve a lot of moving camera shots and clean cuts between cameras a lot.

Why not transmit both eye's views to the play out box. This means it can do a 3D image on a TV which is not likely to be useful for streaming, but can also play out one of the eye's view's as the standard 2D video. Using either eye will do as the camera is pointed at the action from both viewpoints.

Next, either mark frames in the transmission of have the playback work out when there is a camera cut (from one camera to another). The trick here is to then pick left or right eye from then until the next camera cut. This won't be visible as it is no different to just having twice as many cameras and cutting to specific ones. The user is unlikely to even be able to tell that this is happening even if looking for it (unless there is a locked down static camera being used at some point). It does mean on-screen graphics need to be the same on both, which is often the case anyway with 3D.

But this means each cut allows a locally generated "bit" of data to be conveyed (the choice of left or right for the next scene). This can be detected when compared to the original left and right eye broadcast signals. This could allow a continuous repeat of a bit stream with suitable identification data, and maybe some forward error correction. The actual amount of data needed is low - a serial number.

It would be truly non-disruptive watermarking that can survive a hell of a lot of messing with the image and still be detectable.

So, there, published, can't be patented now.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Text tone

I get a lot of texts on my phone, mostly from automated systems. Indeed, I got one at 22:08 this evening saying something crashed, bugger! Nagios, I hate you... Some are less serious though, nagios monitors lots of things but I have tests tracking banking and even the alarm system at the office.

When I finally got an iPhone a while ago, one of the first things I checked is whether I can do custom text tones based on the sender. I could not. I resigned myself to the fact that all texts sound the same.

This evening, at my sister-in-laws, somehow in conversation the idea of text tones came up, and I commented how it was a shame you can't do that. Pauline insisted that you can! I handed over my phone for her to show how to do it, confident in the knowledge that she would look foolish and getting ready to look smug.

She did it. What sourcery is this? Smugness mode cancelled. It seems iOS 5 added text tones and I did not notice. Plonker.

I only managed to recover a small amount of smugness when the text tones did not in fact work for "named" text sources. I.e. texts from a word not a number, like "Bank". Pauline tried, and failed, to make it work. One cannot make a contact with a word as the mobile number.

Well, you can - you go to the text and "Add to contacts". This allows the mobile number to be stored as a word, something you can't type when editing it manually, and bingo - the text tones work for these too.

Well done Pauline!

Friday, 14 September 2012

So long, and thanks for all the fish

At 14:40 today, from RIPE...

"On Friday, 14 September 2012, the RIPE NCC, the Regional Internet Registry (RIR) for Europe, the Middle East and parts of Central Asia, distributed the last blocks of IPv4 address space from the available pool."


"It is now imperative that all stakeholders deploy IPv6 on their networks to ensure the continuity of their online operations and the future growth of the Internet."

Obviously, having provided IPv6 for over 10 years, AAISP have been ready for this news. Whilst we have plans for conservation of remaining IPv4 addresses, we do plan to continue providing at least a static IPv4 external address to all new customers for some years to come, avoiding any 'Carrier Grade NAT' being needed within our network. New customers already receive an IPv6 assignment and pre-configured IPv6 router as standard.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

No flash photography

Well, the new 1DX and my f/1.2 50mm lens work well even at a party, taking pictures in the dark. I have it set to 1/250th second min exposure and 25,600 max ISO and all on auto. This shot was f/1.4 1/250s ISO 8,000. Fast moving people with no flash and still getting a reasonable shot.

The focus did take a moment, understandably, but it did auto-focus even in very low light.

Over all, we got a few good pictures from the party. Adam clearly has no concept of the meaning of "Over the top"... :-)

The GPS worked indoors with no problems, and goe-tagged shots nicely, including which direction I was facing. The WiFi uploaded shots as taken, and so I was able to show people pictures on the iPad right away. Nice when the technology works!

I did not stay to the end, sorry - got a bit of a headache.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Making Greek internet look good

I finally found something worse that Internet in a Greek villa on Rhodes island.

Trying to play WoW on a train (East Coast) on 3G.

Latency varying from 250ms to 4s and often dead spots which can last minutes, especially tunnels.

I managed to the Utgarde Catacomb quests with very little dying, though in one case I had to wait a couple of minutes to find out that I had in fact died and not won the battle.

One advantage was that I could fly all the way in to the catacomb before my mount dropped me because of tunnel breaking communications. The game client itself does not know where flying is not allowed, it is the server that tells it.

Of course, a fixed IP address on my 3G does rather help. Yay! for A&A data SIMs.

Overall I have to say that I am impressed with Blizzard that it is possible to play at all, and if not for the tunnels I am sure questing on 3G on 300ms or so latency would be usable.

Obviously this would all be totally useless for any sort of PvP or raids with other players.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Back to reality

After more than a week of latencies that rarely dropped below 80ms and usually ran to well over a second I am finally home and latencies you can measure in microseconds.

I wonder if all of Ρόδος island is like that - perhaps some odd backhaul. No idea how to find out.

Someone said follow the cable? This was taken on the road between Rhodes and Lindos.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Well done Entanet

In a report on ispreview, Entanet call for rejected ADR claims to cost the consumer something.

At A&A we have serious doubts on the current ADR process, and even OFCOM's latest changes, having had one seriously broken case which involved large costs and compensation even when the arbitrator completely agreed we were not in breach of contract with a business customer (one that we assert was even a communications provider and so not even eligible for ADR in the first place). We got screwed over, basically. It cost me and my family money.

I appreciate that consumers do not want to be put off making valid complaints. They should not be. There are, indeed, many cases where ISPs and telcos make mistakes. Even we make mistakes, though we always aim to rectify them fairly and promptly if we do.

It is nice that we have a system in place (the county courts) that have such a predictable and cheap way to resolve disputes. For a matter of a few tens of pounds (in most cases) a consumer can take a case via the small claims track of the county court with little or no risk, and their costs paid if they win.

ADR is massively more expensive than the courts, and is paid by the ISP. This creates a scenario of quite simple blackmail. Yes, I am happy to say the word blackmail. If you are a consumer and you are in any way unhappy with your telco or ISP, you know that taking them to ADR will cost them a minimum of around £350 and probably way more even if the ISP is right. So you can threaten ADR for any claim under that and it would be not be acting in the best interests of the shareholders for the telco/ISP not to cave in and pay up. It is not fair to put consumer's morals under that pressure.

This is an obvious blackmail scenario, and I fully understand the position of the consumers in this case. Heck, I am sure I would do the same knowing the company that has annoyed me in some way could have much greater costs if I take them to ADR. It allows a consumer and small business to disregard contract conditions, no matter how clear and agreed they were, and screw over companies for the hell of it. It happens. We have had totally unfounded threats of ADR from a customer following the publication of the one ADR case we had. From what I understand, so have other ISPs! I would like to add that we had loads of people offering support and starting off by promising not to take us to ADR when asking us to resolve an issue. By far we have sensible and loyal customers who would not screw us over. The issue is that it only takes a tiny fraction of less scrupulous customers to cause serious problems for any telco.

The fact that those companies have shareholders like myself and my family who feel the cost of being screwed over just the same is often not something people see, understandably.

So I agree with Enta, failed ADR should have a cost, even if not the full cost, so that consumers only take real cases forward. They should not be put off, but even if they have to spend £50 up front, that would screen out the people taking the piss. Of course, as soon as you do this, then why on earth do we need ADR anyway when the county courts do such a good job for such a reasonable price in the first place. What we need is the courts to be less scary for people, not ADR at all.

Adding to my original post...

The issue we had was not so much the existing ADR structure. It has sensible T&Cs. E.g. they are there to find an agreed resolution, so if the claimant proposes a resolution (such as "to be let out of contract with no penalty") and ISP agrees that in full, there is no dispute, and no case, and no costs or awards. Similarly, if the arbitrator honoured the contract terms and legal principles, as they claim, a case where no breach of contract is agreed  by the arbitrator could never lead to an award (even if it meant the telco paying ADR fees to agree that). In our case these existing principles and terms were disregarded completely by the arbitrator (who is reminded that even reading this blog is breach of copyright). We agreed the claimant's resolution, and the arbitrator agreed we were not in breach of contract, yet still we paid lots of money and no recourse.

I cannot see how new rules would not be open to the same abuse without some changes.

The only way I can think that such clear abuses of the rules (the existing rules, or OFCOM's proposed new rules) can be addresses is a means of appeal. I cannot see why ADR should not in fact be fair (one of the things it claims to be) and allow either side to disagree the resolution and take the case to county court if they wish (paying to do so). At present the system is categorically designed to be unfair (offering the two sides different remedies, risks and costs) yet uses words like "fair" in the terms?!?

P.S. I know the world is not fair, a concept told to kids just to cause them annoyance later, but claiming to be fair when you are not does annoy me, and that is something ADR claims.

What sourcery is this?

My iPhone was fine last night when I put it on charge.

This morning the screen is cracked.

How the hell does that happen?

Update: for extra sourcery, the picture I took (right) as shown on the iPhone itself has the crack exactly under the crack (see below). WTF. Is this the crack in the universe from Dr Who?