Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Compartments

I hope that I am like most people (!) and have different compartments for some of my mind.

I have one big one for "reality". It covers everything from laws of physics to the way the legal system works and what is right and fair, and so on. It is what I use day-to-day to live my life and understand and predict the world around me.

In fact, when that compartment has its foundations attacked it causes a lot of stress for me - an ADR case for the company some time back broke my view of right and justice and the way things work and caused me a lot of stress as a result.

But I have many other compartments, and they are generally built on top of that core "reality" view of the world, but with variations.

I have one called "Stargate" for example - I can watch an episode of Stargate and for that time I am in a world where the laws of physicals and the morals and rules of the universe are based on "reality" but with the slight tweak that there are stargates creating worm holes to other realities and a group of people that travel to other worlds. I can even assimilate new knowledge and update the compartment with that new knowledge whilst watching the TV show.

I have another called "Star trek" (there may be a theme here), and so on. In each of these I can assess and predict outcomes and add to the base knowledge of "how things work" quite independently to other compartments.

None of these encroach on "reality". I wonder if there are people for which that is not so easy?

In dreams, I can put myself in one of these and sort of live a dream life within a variation of reality. I can also have dreams that are very much locked to my "reality" compartment and have had dreams where I solve issues on software design that I can work on when awake later!

I wondered why we have these. Why do we have this ability to create compartments in our mind?

If we did not have a way to separate such things from reality; if we had only one compartment, pretty much all literature and film and fantasy would be impossible. It would not make any sense to us.

I pondered one theory of my own - a key thing that we as people have is the ability to model another minds. That is - to imagine what someone else is seeing, and that be separate to what we know and see. This is key to the idea of deception, and a massive evolutionary advantage for us to do. Unlike very young children we do not assume all other people know the same things we do - we create a mental model of what they know. This allows us to predict what they will do, and so we have an advantage. It is probably a key reason we have such big brains!

This means we have to have a concept of compartmentalised models of other people in our heads - the more the better. It is hierarchical in that we assume they all have a view based on "reality", but we can model each person and what they know and what they have seen independently.

I suppose that people with multiple personalities perhaps have this mechanism slightly broken - forgetting or changing which is the "base" model.

This system allows fantasy as it allows us to model non real people and what they know and see and how they would act. I think fantasy is a side effect of basic deception and modelling of other's thoughts.

In some ways that is an evolutionary back-fire. We have no real "need" for fantasy and it is using valuable mental resources that we should have used to model what a lion has seen in the jungle...

The good news is that modelling others is perhaps one of the main ways we "live on", in the minds of others, when we are gone. People with which we interact make their models of us all of the time and those models live on for a while, predicting what we would say and do.

So this process creates both fantasy and ghosts...

Should I avoid religious posts?

I was going to post comments on the story about some religious people on a plane refusing to be seated next to a woman as against their faith (they must not touch a woman unless married, as I understand it). There are many stories and views on this, and I was finding I was formulating my own views and arguments around the topic.

But then I was thinking a religious posting would be a bad idea.

But then I started thinking that there is something wrong in the world if I feel pressured, even if it is just somehow my own perception that makes that pressure, against posting on a topic.

I do believe in freedom of speech. Opinions being voiced can only ever be good, on balance, and I "believe" that to be true. Even bad and wrong opinions can be voiced, and discussed and counter arguments made. Open discussion is good, I believe.

So, should I avoid posts on religion, or should I go ahead?

Telephone Preference Service out of date?

The TPS maintain a register (on behalf of OFCOM) of numbers of people that do not want to receive direct marketing calls.

This is based on The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003, but sadly, like most of those regulations the enforcement is crap and done via the ICO.

There is a similar register for fax numbers (FPS).

The TPS/FPS have caused me no end of trouble, including:-

  • Failing to send the annual reminder of our commercial numbers that are registered.
  • Deleting our commercial numbers even though they have no cause to think that they are no longer allocated - an action which I would argue is against the regulations.
  • Failing to pay the costs (even just of postage) resulting from such breaches, costs which the regulations say we can require to be paid. OFCOM refused to pay as well, but we will soon have a bill from OFCOM for numbering and I plan to deduct what they owe from the payment and see what happens.
  • Refusing to register numbers in the FPS unless they were "fax numbers", but failing to understand that we were getting marketing fax call attempts to numbers answered by a telephone and we wished not to get those, and that the notion of a "fax number" is daft. I could connect any line to a fax machine at any time, and even (as we were, to tell it was marketing faxes) transfer the call to a fax machine, so all numbers were "fax numbers" in that respect. They eventually relented, but no annual reminder on those either.
So, I am having a bit of fun with them, but also highlighting that they need to move with the times.

There are now many ways I can be "called", not just via a simple phone number but via FaceTime audio, or over FaceBook (I think) or using a direct SIP URI. Any of these could be used for marketing calls, and I am sure it will not be long before we see this sort of thing.

So I have written, formally requesting that they list a "number" like sip:z@k.gg
(some of you may know my actual SIP URI, and the company publish SIP URIs on the web site)

I expect they will not understand, not cope, and not register it, but no reply yet - so next step is letter to OFCOM next week.

Now, some of you may say that it is not a number, but the Communications Act is quite clear that numbers do not have to be digits - they can (like car registration numbers) be data of any kind.

So, it seems to me, they must register that SIP URI, and also my email address that can be used on FaceTime, and any other contact "numbers" that I have and want to register. They need to move with the times!

Short email address discrimination

This annoys me a lot, that web sites and organisations won't accept that my email address is valid. It is 6 characters long. It is like z@k.gg and we all have similarly small email addresses in the family.

The problem is that people make up their own arbitrary rules to validate an email address, and one of the common ones is to not accept ones that are too short. The designer will typically base this on "I have never seen an email shorter than 10 characters" or something stupid like that rather than "Is there an Internet standard for email addresses that I can check". It is sloppy, and lazy.

Data Protection Act

When someone holds my personal data, e.g. an organisation that I have an ongoing connection with like my bank or some such, then I can expect them to ensure the details they hold on me are correct. So, like the issue with phone numbers where the expect a mobile to start 07, not accepting a short email address gives them legal problems. Anyone collecting and holding personal data has a legal obligation to hold correct data and correct it if it is wrong under The Data Protection Act.

Sadly the enforcement is via the ICO, so even with letters demanding they fix things, it does not get far.

So I wondered if there are other angles to get people to fix stupid mistakes like this.

Discrimination?

This idea has come up because my daughter is dyslexic. I have a similarly short email address for her, and she can remember it and get it right. This is good. I actually want to try and get her an even simpler one but I am waiting for the domain to be available.

The issue came up today. In the past I have explained that we have an alternative email address, one under @kennard.me.uk for sites and systems that do not understand the short email address. The problem is that she gets that mixed up and has been giving people @kennard.gg email addresses which we don't have. It happened today and I noticed when she showed me. I am not that surprised she got mixed up.

So it occurred to me that forcing her to provide a different and more complex email address may be some sort of disability discrimination. I am not sure dyslexia is a disability people have to accommodate legally though. It may, however, be a better angle in angry letters to companies than the Data Protection one.

Apparently one culprit is her college, Berkshire College of Agriculture, that won't accept her shorter email address. So I am thinking a letter may be in order, perhaps under DPA and the discrimination angle.

We'll keep up the battle though. My dad has a similar battle with organisations all of the time.

Coincidentally - today's xkcd is on email

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Bank Machine Ltd machines increasing risk of mugging?

We have a local cash machine, it is as the local garage. It has changed hands a few times, and used to be a bank or building society machine. Now it is "Bank Machine Ltd".

There is, of course, a slight problem with that. According to Companies House, "Bank Machine Ltd" does not exist. But it is a former name of Cardtronics UK Ltd, so is legit, phew! Worrying that the machine still states a former name, and did not (that I could see) state a company number.

Anyway, to the heart of the problem.

The machine only allows a withdrawal of, at most, £250.

Shortly before it stopped being a proper bank operated machine, the operator (Nationwide, I think) had newer s/w that actually remembered your regular transactions. So, card, PIN, and one click to get cash of the amount I usually take out and no receipt. Really cool.

However, this machine limits you to £250. I have seen many like it now. It is bloody annoying and pointless.

It is also a really annoying sequence of button presses to extract cash with no receipt and not viewing balance first.

Now, I know different people have different amounts of money they have available and to some this will seem odd/petty. I tent to take out around £1000, and when low, I top up. But it can take a long time to use up that cash (many months in some cases). Mostly it is my kids borrowing money that depletes the cash, but I tend to use cash for a lot of things these days, and I am not sure why. I hardly ever use a card in fact. I think it is mainly because it makes the money much more tangible and easier to keep a grip on spending than just using a card. You see how much you are actually spending with cash.

The machine's limit to £250 makes no sense, and I was not alone in this annoyance the other day when I was behind someone else, equally annoyed at having to insert a card multiple times to take out cash.

I can't think of one good reason to limit it to any lower than the bank do. They do not stop you using the same card multiple times, or using multiple cards, so it is not a limit on actual cash withdrawal, it is just a means to slow and annoy people.

What it does do is :-
  1. Make it take longer to extract cash, annoying me and those behind in the queue.
  2. Make it more likely someone will overlook my PIN as entered multiple times.
  3. Make it more likely I will be mugged as magnitude of withdrawal becomes more obvious.
So I have to wonder why they do it. If I am ever mugged after taking out cash as multiple transactions, I will have to consider suing!

Is it just me?!

If you think this is silly - imagine if the machines were limiting you to £20 at a time, and how annoying that would be when you want £100...

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Glad to be home

Well, I have been away for a few days and glad to be back.

But that kind of got me thinking - why am I glad to be home - what is so special and different here?

Where I was staying was nice. I have stayed in a nice B&B before and this time stayed at a relative's house, but nice none the less. There was nice food. Even the Internet connections were good, in spite of being Welsh, as they were A&A FTTC lines :-)

I think it is just a lot of little things that make a difference.
  • At home I know what food, snacks, and drinks are in the cupboards and which cupboards and where the plates and glasses and cutlery are, and so on - it seems no hassle at home to make a coffee, but when away it is that tiny bit more annoying. Breakfast can be annoying as it is never what I would have had at home in some subtle way - this time it was a low fat not-quite-butter than made the toast soggy, and hassle to find a shop that sells butter. Little things, as I say!
  • I'm on my own timetable at home - I can go to bed when I want, get up when I want, etc. When away it was not quite like that - we were round someone else's house, and to go back to where we were staying I have to wait for Sandra or someone else to be ready to run me back there. Of course I don't want to impose, so I just wait. At home, it is up to me.
  • Something is never the same with someone else bathroom, shower, toilet, is it? It is not better or worse, but different, and that never seems quite right. I am sure someone would say the same about our bathrooms staying here. In general hotels are OK, to be honest, but the quality of showers can vary a lot.
  • If we get take-away, at home I know which sell good things and what items I like. When away it is much more pot-luck and even a well known dish will be different from a different Indian, or Chinese. So I ended up getting McDonald's - not because it is good, but because it is predictable.
  • Other people's heating! The B&B was just too hot and no sensible way to control it. Figuring out how to get a comfortable temperature in a bedroom can be tricky. At home I have an air-con unit that sets exactly a temperature with which I am happy and I know how to work it.
  • Beds are different. Again, not a better/worse thing in most cases, but different. It can take me days to get used to a different mattress and lose me a lot of sleep. At home I have a tempur mattress, and am used to that. At least I take my own pillow when I go away as I would never get any sleep!
I think a hell of a lot of it is a matter of what you are used to, and change is hard. Temporary change is even harder. As two of my staff (one of my step daughters) have moved there, I may end up visiting a lot more, and I am sure I will get more and more used to it.

I suspect I am getting to be "set in my ways" somewhat. I am not sure it is a bad thing :-)

P.S. Sharon, you made us both very welcome, and thank you - I am not having a go, honest.

Friday, 26 December 2014

BT hate site?

A few years ago the A&A status pages were called a "BT hate site" by someone in BT. A lot of the comment about BT moved from the A&A status pages to this, my personal blog. I have to wonder what they say about my blog now.

At Christmas we have several days off, and several days with minimal staff, and so some orders or faults fall to me as the last resort, and so I get involved directly with BT.

Sadly, this almost always ends badly. I am told by my sales staff that this latest fiasco is typical and they have this sort of thing all of the time.

But just to get this in perspective we have a case here of one simple FTTC order for a customer which simply is not happening, but the tale of incompetence after incompetence is just staggering. It is quite worrying that this apparently happens a lot and I think we are going to have to tackle it. I suspect the only answer will be to charge BT for extra work and deduct from what we pay until it ends up in front of a judge. But, let's assume, for one moment, that there is a way to get this properly fixed without going to that level. I'd like to work with BT to help them understand the issues and take steps to fix them.

This one order was a simple one. It is a phone line and FTTC simultaneous provide (i.e. one job to put in the phone line and FTTC) for a customer. The address has a "gold" address key, so is a location BT know, and have wiring to and so there is do confusion or doubt about the address itself.

  • On the day before the appointment, it was magically cancelled due to what BT say was an error in a robotic activity?! We got it reappointed for the afternoon.
  • BT managed to lose the connection to the FTTC order in the process, which means that it would have to be re-appointed for later!
  • BT turned up at the wrong address, so closed off the order as no access.
  • BT tried to blame us, even though we sent the right full address and the BT gold address key for the order (both phone line and FTTC side). The engineer notes from BT confirmed it was the wrong address that he visited, as did the customer who got called by the engineer at the time, but the engineer would not go to the right address when told.
  • BT insisted that we would have to cancel and re-order. I.e. they screwed up, and that was it - tough, we have to do work to fix their cock up
  • BT insisted that they could not cancel and re-order "for us" as OFCOM do not allow that.
  • BT then decided that they could do something, and took over a day to say that they cannot actually get the address fixed so we would have to cancel and re-order.
  • BT then decided they could cancel the order "for us" and did so.
  • BT then decided they could not issue a new order for FTTC because it was not available at the exchange. Indeed, the exchange did not even have a planned date for FTTC to be available!
  • I had to send BT screen shots of BTs checker showing it was available not only on the exchange but the specific cabinet which they agreed was the one in question
  • A day passes, and eventually BT place the order for the FTTC
  • BT then come back and say the order is cancelled as there are outstanding orders on the line. They say they cannot see any outstanding orders, but can be check. WTF, they are BT plc, and they do not know why BT plc cancelled the order.
  • "The manual provide order is AUTO_ABORTED with reason: 'An open, stop or cease order is in progress for the same line identifier-Installation DN, however there is no such open cease orders found in systems. I have raised this issue with suppliers back end team for further investigation." (to be clear, by suppliers, this person who represents British Telecommunications plc company 1800000 means British Telecommunications plc company 1800000).
  • Two more days pass with no update or resolution
  • Now BT say that the PSTN order is not closed off - well, yes, we know that, and we told them that at the start and at several times during this process, but they are saying we have to contact the PSTN provider, which is them, to fix that first, even though this is a simultaneous provision. So all the work and emails over the last 5 days have been totally and utterly pointless. We are back to them saying we have to cancel and re-order the whole lot.
  • 5th Jan, a PSTN line finally goes in
  • 6th Jan BT say they cannot install FTTC on it, but hope to fix that soon!
  • I'll extend this as we know, but this is taking days and days of our work.
  • We have not got as far as the billing being wrong - that will come later.
The fact that BT are genuinely this incompetent is really worrying, and as a BT shareholder I think I need to be asking questions about this. The fact that when they make a simple mistake the simply will not do anything to actually fix it is just crazy. We are not buying lottery tickets here - it is not "Oh well, that order did not work, feel free to try again next time". Apart from costing ISPs/teclos time, as well as causing end users hassle and confusion, this has to be costing BT a lot of money. Doing the job right first time is the way to save money and keep customers happy.

So...

Dear BT,

We need to talk.

You are totally incompetent, and this needs changing.

What can we do to help you sort this out?

Would billing you for every time you screw up help matters?

We're starting a forum for people that buy from BT so that we can get lots of ISPs learning the same lessons and doing the same things to try and get things in BT fixed. We have a few members already. I hope that will help you.

Regards

Adrian.

[This was not how I planned to launch WBBF, but there you go. Other long suffering ISPs, please sign up on www.wbbf.uk]

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

BT won't fix their own error

Another day wasted - after my previous blog the previously impossible was being done, or so we thought, with BT actually trying to install a line at the requested address today.

Except that they now say they cannot. They have the wrong address, and they point blank refuse to fix it.

I have even suggested that as the details they have are the personal contact details of our customer, and are wrong, they have a legal obligation under there Data Protection Act to correct that incorrect personal data. It was worth a try!

They have made an error and got the address wrong but are point blank refusing to actually fix that and go to the address we stated on the order.

I am at the point of threatening legal action on this now - it is not acceptable for BT to refuse to correct their own mistakes where they have accepted the order.

The upshot is that they want me to do work - to cancel the order and re-order as before. No guarantee that the same mistake will not be made. Additional delay on the order. And us doing work to fix a BT mistake.

I am thinking the simplest may be to do as requested and then charge for my time as previously advised, and when they don't pay I just issue a county court claim and see what happens.

BT can be really good - they can be good to work with and we try - but there are times when they are an unrelenting bureaucratic nightmare and need sorting out.

Update: It seems now that BT think they may be able to sort this themselves, cancelling and re-issiing the order on their systems. But just in case then need us to do things for them we have launched a new Special Ordering Investigation service (SOI2) of which they can avail themselves, if they wish.

Update: Hopefully we will hear more today, though the BT person we are dealing with thinks it is summer? "I am currently out of office and will not be available till 25/12/2014 16:30 BST and have no access to emails and phone calls till then."

Update: BT are doing the cancel and re-order, yay! Except they did the cancel, and can't re-order because, magically, FTTC is no longer available. I am at a loss...

Update: Now they state the exchange is not planned for FTTC even. Yet the BT checker for the address, and the address key, agreeing the exchange and cabinet involved, says it is, and is up to 80Mb/s. Madness.

Notice before action

This is my current notice before action email which is sent to those that spam me.

Important - the regulations cover emails to an individual subscriber - this is where you have a contract with the email provider/ISP for the email services as yourself as an individual (not simply a contract with your employer or a university, has to be a communications provider).

It also has to be a marketing email. There are many other types of emails, such as those confirming email address for an opt-in, or even a survey, which are not covered.

Also, you must not have opted in for the emails from the sender or requested emails from the sender (opting in for someone else is a different matter, and I believe does not apply).

Also, this is UK only. Yes, the rules apply EU wide, but chasing someone in another country is harder and rules may be subtly different. In general the spam I am targeting has clearly stated UK company details in the marketing email.

The usage of the email address, e.g. is it a work email address, is not relevant. What matters is who exactly has a contract with the ISP for the email, and if they contract as an individual.

I am not a lawyer, and welcome constructive comments, but you are free to use this text if you wish...

Basically, if you can be sure they got this, and they do not sort a settlement or agreement within 14 days, you can move on to a county court claim. I believe this meets all of the requirements for a pre-action notice. In general, I only go on to a county court claim if they have clearly identifiable UK company details and have replied to my notice email thereby confirming receipt. Occasionally I'll post this notice and then pursue action.

[This is edited after some comments, so is the current version. Sorry if that makes some comments seem odd. Thanks for the feedback everyone]



This is not a scam - you have acted unlawfully and I am entitled to
claim damages - so do not ignore this email assuming it is just a scam.
I have previously made successful claims via the courts.

NOTICE BEFORE ACTION

You have transmitted, or instigated the transmission of, an unsolicited
communication for the purpose of direct marketing by means of electronic
mail to an individual subscriber contrary to section 22 of The Privacy
and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.

Feel free to look up those regulations on www.legislation.gov.uk

I, as the recipient and individual subscriber, have never given you
consent to send me marketing emails and I have never provided my email
address to you as part of a negotiations or sale by you to me in the past.

For the avoidance of doubt - this is not a Data Protection Act issue, or
one where you have the option of relying on an "unsubscribe" link -
sending just one email, as you have, is a breach of the regulations.

Section 30 of the regulations permits me to take civil action to recover
damages suffered as a result of your breach of the regulations. It is
difficult to assess damages exactly but your email has used resources on
my computers and my Internet connection, wasted some of my time, caused
distress and annoyance which has interrupted my chain of thought and
concentration, and so disrupted work I am doing. Looking in to similar
cases for such damages it is clear that claims range from £270 to £750.
In this instance I feel that £200 would constitute a reasonable level of
damages for the hassle you have caused me by your breach of the regulations.

In accordance with section 8.2(1) of the Pre-Action Conduct Directions
of the Civil Procedure Rules, I would like you to consider Alternative
Dispute Resolution to this matter by means of discussion and
negotiation. I therefore invite your comments and any offer of
settlement or other negotiation.

You have 14 days to reply. Ignoring this notice may lead to proceedings
starting without further notice, and will increase your liability with
the addition of costs. Your attention is drawn paragraph 4 of the
Pre-Action Conduct Directions located on www.justice.gov.uk

Should this matter go to court I will rely on the email you have sent
and associated headers, whois data and other resources identifying the
sender. If you believe you have evidence that shows I did give *you*
consent to the sending of that email I ask that you forward this to
me by reply.

I look forward to your prompt reply.

-- Adrian Kennard, [my address as required by pre-action protocol]

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Copyright madness

UK Cinema Calls Police on Kids With iPhones Over Piracy Concerns

"A group of 12-year-old girls had the police called on them after they decided to bring their iPhones and iPads to a showing of The Hunger Games at a local cinema. The police officers who rushed to the scene were unable to find any recorded footage, but by then the children were too distressed to watch the rest of the film."

Also in Mail: "Girls left in tears after being dragged out of cinema by staff who called 999 after wrongly believing the 12-year-olds were filming The Hunger Games on their iPads."

I am at a loss. Why the hell would the cinema call 999 and why the hell would the police attend?

When you do want the police to act it is hard enough - they took ages to attend when out office was broken in to, and they had no interest when my bike was stolen. Clearly, what we need to do, is have a personal copy of music or film that we own on a USB stick attached to things that might get nicked - that is legal, but the second it is nicked and no longer in my possession it becomes a pirate copy and we can call 999 and get the police to take action for copyright infringement. They will take that much more seriously than any theft?

But seriously, this is utter nonsense and disgraceful. I do hope that official complaints have been registered with PCC over this.

What makes it even more stupid is that Cineworld, the cinema in question, are trying to engage people with iPhone/android apps in the pre-programme advertising so they are actually asking people to take such devices to the cinemas in the first place now. E.g. Cineme "Cinime is a new mobile app that helps you get more from a trip to the movies. There are plenty of rewards and treats on offer to ensure you get the most out of your cinema visit. Whenever you see the cinime logo, grab your phone and start looking out for rewards. Offers are available before and after the movie, so always keep your eyes open for cinime as there will be lots of benefits for downloading."

Yes, that is right: Cineworld ask you to bring your iPhone to the cinema with you and then call 999 on you when you do. And Cineworld have not even refunded what they paid!


BT blame OFCOM for not being able to fix their own cock ups!

BT have, once again, made a silly error in providing a service as ordered. Mistakes happen, obviously, but the thing that really grates is that when BT make a mistake they are not at all interested in actually correcting the mistake.

Time and time again we are told "You will have to cease and re-order" to fix the problem. Indeed, BT will begrudgingly not charge for an expedite on the new order if we do that!

They even lie when they make mistakes, and I do not make this accusation lightly. The order that is causing annoyance today is one where they went to the wrong address, but they have recorded it as "engineer was not able to gain access". Well, he would have been if he went to the address for which we placed the order. I will be surprised if we are not billed for a missed appointment in due course.

Now, I am fed up with BT expecting us to sort their mistakes. I said "you do it [the cease and re-provide]".

I am now told :-

Ofcom regulations prevent us from making this amendment on your behalf, this is why the system will not allow changes. 

So, apparently it is OFCOMs fault that they cannot actually sort their own mistakes. I may have to ask OFCOM if that is true.

I really think that BT need a system for actually fixing mistakes when they happen - so if an engineer goes to the wrong place - get him, or a new engineer, to the right place right now, today. No messing with "cannot do anything as job now closed off", and no "cease and re-order" and buggering about. It needs an "Oh shit we screwed up, let's fix it right away!" attitude. I cannot believe OFCOM have prevented BT from doing that, but we'll ask.

Right now, for this customer, we have an order, which BT have not completed, and BT are asking us to do work to correct that. I have said we will do what they say but will charge for our time. They won't pay for our time. Waiting to see how this pans out, but obviously we want to get our customer sorted out ASAP one way or another.

Don't spam me

It is not wise to send me spam, and even less wise to ignore the notice before action I send back, but ignoring the county court claim is just dumb.


Reach Recruitment Services Ltd spammed me in September. i.e. they sent me an unsolicited marketing email addressed to my personal email address for which I am an individual subscriber. This is unlawful as it is a breach of section 22 of The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003. Section 30 allows me to claim damages, which I estimated at £200 based on the annoyance the spam caused me and disruption to my work (which costs me as I own the company).

I emailed back with a notice before action, and they replied saying I should just click on unsubscribe. I replied explaining that this was too late, they had already acted unlawfully and would they like to negotiate a settlement of shall we go to court. The reply was :-

Ha ha.... You obviously have far too much time on your hands.

Have a good day

I plan to have a good day now that bailiffs have collected from them £200 claimed, plus £25 court fee plus £70 bailiff fee. Thank you very much, and maybe they won't spam people in future.

Merry Christmas.

Claim, as filed at moneyclaim.gov.uk

Monday, 22 December 2014

Who are these people?

I would have expected that most of my readers were UK based, to be honest. I am often blogging UK related issues, technically or politically...

But it seems, over last week, it is Ukraine that is No.1 by far.

And then we even have Kazakhstan in the top 10.

UK is down in 4th, really?

Or do I just not trust google stats.

Or, as my son suggests, is this just people using TOR to access my site, just in case, you know...

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Think of the children

Someone said that on irc just now, "Think of the children"... in jest, but my having had a few drinks I was thinking "what does that mean?"

I have children! I have 5 kids (3 mine, 2 step kids) and I have 2 grandchildren. One of whom is round here playing World of Warcraft right now...

So, let's think of the children for a moment - what do I think is important to them?

Well... I am a realist and I don't think that terrorists or child abusers will play any part in their lives. This is a simple matter of statistics - such things are rare. In the case of child abuse it is way more likely to be family members than a stranger so even less likely, knowing my family. Really, all the hype on such things should not worry me, or my children. Do the numbers, work it out, it is not an issue. They are far more in danger as a passenger in a car or walking along a pavement.

So what is an issue for my kids? Well, there are big things. Think 50 years ahead? Climate change is likely to be an issue, though, to be honest, the politics and hassle around climate change control are likely to affect their day to day lives more that actual climate change itself, IMHO. But even looking at something simple like the world population and our global ability to house and feed people, there are possible issues. My children and grand children may face somewhat interesting issues. They may even face wars.

But one thing I think is very important - that people matter. The people of the world, even the stupid ones, matter. It is, after all, "making people continue" that matters, and for me, making my kids and their kids continue. This is the driving force of life as we know it.

So it is crucial that people have a view and a say - that we do not separate those that control and the drones that do the work. That all people's views count. This is the very foundation of any democratic society.

To make a system of government that "works for the people" rather than being a class that controls and managers the people there is one key element without which it cannot work. Freedom of speech!

At a large scale, social commentary, whistle blowers, and so on - it makes sense. There are obviously issues at smaller scales - one cannot allow everyone to say anything they want with no consequences - what if they are telling lies to con old ladies in to giving up their life savings? That is not the sort of "freedom of speech" we mean here. But at a general level - being allowed to state your opinion (as an opinion) is important to any democratic society.

A massive part of that is allowing the means for anyone that wants to speak, to be able to. To ensure all communications means are themselves impartial and transparent. Yes, if what someone says is, itself, legally unacceptable, take legal action against them, but do not try and stifle there means by which they say it. Allow the world to judge what they say. Allow the speech!

There are bad things in this - I was in Vegas and saw this with someone in the street spouting rather offensive homophobic messages, and others "in their face" shouting back. It did not come to blows or contacts as that would have invited the police - but speaking, no matter how wrong it seemed to me, was allowed. It was a right, and to be frank - everyone ignored it. The message in this case was wrong, but the right to spout the message was important. The right to state what is wrong with it just as publicly is protected and allowed.

Without that - in a world of censored messages - we do not know what is important and what messages we are missing - we would live in a world of coverups and propaganda and no way to see the truth.

Think of the children!? I am when I say we need to keep the Internet open and free from meddling, even with the filth that lurks, it means we also get the truth that matters.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Yes, playing World of Warcraft is work!

Well, I never though I could say that, but it is true. I am playing games for testing purposes, honest!

I am running WoW to try and test the fixes to IPv6 connectivity to Blizzard.

I am very pleased to say that I have finally found someone in Blizzard that cares. He is trying to get things sorted and I am helping by testing.

It is making progress, though, TBH, my iMac is being slightly odd as well and needed a reboot. However I have some IPv6 working to Thunderhorn realm in World of Warcraft now.

It is a hard job for people within any organisation to champion IPv6. The "benefits" are hard to quantify other than saying "further proofing" which seems so vague at the moment.

The actual routing has changed, as it is now via HE rather than NTT and Telia, but this issue seems to be, as I suspected, a simple config issue in Blizzard. The ongoing challenges are ensuring IPv6 is taken seriously. We know a failure of IPv4 would be taken seriously but the support tickets had no way to progress when it was only an IPv6 issue. Thankfully ISPs and content providers have an IPv6 mailing list which helps the right people communicate.

As ever, I am more than happy to help, even if confidentially, with that. We know what we are doing down to the bytes in the Ethernet packets to BGP and upwards. We have over a decade of experience of this at all levels. So I hope we can work with Blizzard and maybe even see A&A have some really good connectivity to Blizzard and anyone else forward thinking enough to embrace IPv6.

Do feel free to join the A&A guilds, AAISP Broadband (alliance) and AAISP Darkside (Horde) on Thunderhorn realm.

I now have two level 100 characters, and my grandson is playing as well as (apparently) his headmaster at school! I think reading the quests and understanding what they say could be a good learning aid.

Update: Working now!
Update: And not now - intermittent, but may be a sign that they are working on it - yay!
Update: I think they may have it fixed (Friday 19th)

Saturday, 13 December 2014

"Squirrel Man" - the most ineffective super hero ever!

"Roofing Man" - my hero!
Did Bracknell Forest Council mis-sell their services?

We had a slight problem - a squirrel in the loft. I posted a while ago about this. I managed to work out what the noise was and where the bugger was getting in. But what to do about it?

Well, like most people, I expect, I have not really had to deal with anything like this before. If you look up pest control you find a lot of companies out there, and like many tradesmen it is not always obvious how you can get a good job and a sensible price and not ripped off one way or another.

However, I checked the local council. I would not expect them to necessarily be the best or the cheapest but they should get the job done for a fair price, I would have expected. I should be pretty safe from being ripped off, or so I thought.

I spoke to them, and yes, squirrel in a loft, no problem. That is one of the more expensive ones to sort, £150, and is three visits. It seems it was in no way an uncommon problem for them to sort.

Well, the squirrel man cometh, and, well, he puts down some poison bait. But he makes if very clear that this won't actually sort the problem! It may sort one squirrel, but another will come along. We will have to get a roofer to sort the hole where he gets in! Well, I cannot be certain if it is the same one or not, but the bait was eaten and the squirrel was still making a noise in the loft a week later. His answer, on his second visit, was to put down more bait, but again, making it clear this will not sort the problem. This time the bait is not touched, but we still have a noisy squirrel in the loft!

Finally, the roofing people we contacted were able to fit us in and find and fix the hole that was letting them get in, for £80. We scared the squirrel out of the loft first. And that should sort the problem.

My concern here is that I am not sure how the man from the council has, in any way whatsoever, actually helped with sorting this problem. The problem is solved by the roofing man. Rage man from the council said that simply putting down poison will not stop the problem of squirrels in the loft - so why does he even do it? Why does he even exist? What have I paid the council for - doing something which will not solve the problem that I went to them to solve.

I cannot see how that is not blatant mis-selling. When I called they should have said "You need a roofer to sort the hole, we can't do anything that will solve the problem", and not taken my money. Instead they took my £150 over the phone and have done nothing to solve the problem. How is that not a scam?

Interestingly they also did not tell me of my statutory right to cancel, and have not in fact come back for their third visit. I cannot help feeling I have been ripped off by Bracknell Forest Council.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Unfiltered advert!

We ran an advert in Linux Voice magazine recently, which included the title text "Home::1 BROADBAND, F*CK FILTERING". It was meant to be a bit of a play on words both as "We don't want filtering", but also on the type of material that filtered by default by large ISPs. I am more than happy to be criticised for it being in poor taste, and I apologise for that. Thankfully most people did find it amusing.

However, to our surprise someone raised a formal complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority!

Even though a tad bad taste, we were a bit surprised by this. But if gets odder.
  • The complaint was that it was irresponsible as the readership included children?!
  • The complaint was submitted with a photograph of the advert. But what is extra strange is that it was not one taken by the person complaining, but was one taken by one of our customers who posted a link to the picture on an irc channel. That channel has quite small readership, and is almost entirely existing customers as well as people with a sense of humour and a place of definitely adult conversation at times.
We have no idea who it was that complained, though the ASA screwed up quite badly as they left the EXIF data in the photo. Had it been taken by the complainer, we would have been able to work out where and when it was taken very accurately. As it happens we traced it to the customer that took it, and we were able to confirm it was the same picture he posted in the irc channel.

The ASA clearly have no clue on handling personal information!

Another thing they have no clue on is copyright law. Obviously we are not lawyers, but they were emailing around, i.e. copying, a photograph of a magazine. The photograph was copyright of the photographer (our customer) who had not given permission for the complainer or the ASA to copy it. The subject of the photograph is a magazine, which is likely at least in part to be copyright of Linux Voice. And finally the advert that is the subject of the picture is our copyright.

Now, the usage in this case may possibly come under the "fair usage" exceptions in the copyright act, I am not sure, but when we pointed out the copyright issues to the ASA their reply was rather bizarre! They said that they were using the photo :-
  • Not for commercial purposes
  • Not disseminating it any further other than for our reference and ASA council
  • That the ad itself was "public domain" anyway
None of these are valid excuses for breaching copyright. If they were, then copying a CD (public domain) for a mate (not disseminating far) for free (non commercial) would be fine under copyright law. At no point did he suggest it was fair usage or that it was covered by some other legal loophole allowing it. It suggests ASA have no clue at all on copyright.

They also had some interesting points on confidentiality - they said the case was confidential. We asked on what legal basis that was the case (half expecting there to be some law on the matter) and they basically had nothing. No contract or agreement with us. No legal requirement. Their only suggestion was that if we published anything then they would not take any further comments from us in defence of the case, and that publishing could prejudice the case?! Anyway, that being their reasoning, there is no reason not to publish their ruling now.

I'd like to thank the guys from Linux Voice as they were helpful in addressing this. We think it is their first ever ASA complaint too.

Anyway, the good news is that the complaint was not upheld. Linux voice is not a children's magazine, surprise surprise! Of course, the whole thing is rather daft, as most of these sorts of cases are, even if upheld - by the time we got the complaint we had finished running the advert anyway!

I include the PDF here journalistically for criticism, comment and review.

2014-12-12 Adjudication (Final)-1.pdf

So, our advert is not filtered either - yay!

Mind you - I do wonder if we should run an advert in "unfiltered", the Scottish Malt Whisky Society magazine. I'll have to ask.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion

This is a statement one hears from time to time, usually in some debate or disagreement. In many cases, with questions and topics both big and small, it is true. Many things are a matter of opinion. There are even legal frameworks ensuring people are entitled to faith and worship to protect some such rights.

The problem is that it is not always true - not all issues are a matter of opinion, some are a matter of fact and in such cases you are not really entitled to a wrong opinion, well, any more than you are entitled to be insane.

Of course, saying this (even without saying "insane") will get the reply "well, that is just your opinion" and that makes it somewhat hard to progress any sort of debate.

The good news is that opinions can change. This happens all of the time. I hope we can all agree that it is a good thing for all concerned for disputes to be resolved where possible. Unresolved disputes can lead to anything from a broken friendship to global war, so resolving disputes is good, surely.

When there is a dispute it normally means that the parties have differing opinions. Of course, in some cases, the opinions really do not matter, and have no impact on anyone else, so the debate need not actually be resolved and one can "agree to disagree". There are however cases were an unresolved dispute causes further problems for parties concerned, and so resolving it is a good idea. Resolution is, ideally, by rational debate - with both sides explaining the rationale behind their opinion, and considering new factors from the other party, and ultimately one or both parties changing their opinions. Ideally, the outcome being that both have the same opinion in the end, or at least compatible opinions allowing the matter to be settled.

So, where does "everyone is entitled to their opinion" fall down? I think a good start is considering cases where this does clearly apply.

  • There are cases where some issue really is totally and purely a matter of opinion because there is simply no right answer. "What colour should I paint the bedroom?" is perhaps a good example.
  • There are cases where there may be tests and rules that help establish which answer is better than another, and may help form a consistent opinion, such as "You'll want a light colour in a bedroom". However, even these "tests" or "rules" are often a matter of opinion in themselves, and you end up with a question of what criteria should apply to deciding what is the right answer.
  • Some questions have plagued man for so long that philosophers over the millennia have written at length on the ways to consider the right answer. Some times we think we know the answer, but even then there are issues over whether there is a "right answer", such as "Is it wrong to kill a man?" - well, if you are the executioner for a court where there is a death sentence, maybe it is or maybe it is not. What if not killing that man today causes a million people to die tomorrow?
  • Some times the criteria for testing the answer are clear cut, well established, agreed by all. It could be that he criteria is framed in the question. In such cases, a right answer, or at least a way to test if one answer is better than another, can be agreed.
  • Some times the criteria are clear, but the answer cannot be tested until later. This can be the case on deciding a policy for something. Only later can one say that it was perhaps not the right policy to have chosen.
On these last point, a good one would be "What lottery numbers should I pick for next week's draw?". This does, itself, carry assumptions in the question such as "assuming the UK national lottery", and "assuming I want to pick valid numbers for which I could buy a ticket", and "assuming I want to maximise the money I make". Of course there are questions like "Should I buy a lottery ticket?" as well.

So, the answer is a "matter of opinion" at the time, but you cannot really say "in my opinion the answer is 1, 1, 1, 1, 1" as that is not a valid set of numbers. It is a wrong opinion if that is the opinion you have, and provably so - just go try and buy a ticket with those numbers! You cannot stand there in the shop and insist "I am entitled to my opinion, and that is my opinion, you can't say I am wrong, give me my ticket". Well, you can say it, but we are back to the "entitled to be insane" comment from the start of my post. You have to agree that you are not really entitled to that opinion, and that an opinion can in fact be "wrong".

Of course, even when you are considering valid sets of numbers, there are "tests" for one set being a better choice than another. All number sets are equally likely, but the lottery organisers have said that some combinations are picked by people more often, like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, or combinations that make patterns on the card, or values 1-12 and 1-31 as people base them on dates of birth. So picking 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 is a "bad idea" because, if that is the winning draw, it will be shared with loads of people. You should pick the least common sets (which they could not publish as next week they would be the most common sets!).

However, ultimately, there is a "right answer". The actual drawn numbers, when they happen. Ironically, if the draw turns out to be 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, then that was the "right answer" even if shared with thousands of people, as it is the answer that gives the most money.

So opinions can become "wrong", in hindsight, but we are "entitled" to have had that opinion at the time. What gets in to "insane" is stating later, "no, I was right to pick 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6" when the draw has now happened and was not that set of numbers and you won nothing. You have to accept that, once the facts are know, your opinion can turn out to have been right or wrong in hindsight.

The problem comes when people try to challenge demonstrable facts with contrary opinions and their only argument is "everyone is entitled to their opinion".

I think we can all agree how we "test" which lottery numbers were drawn and hence how we can test if the opinion on which will be drawn turns out to be "right" or "wrong". But some people do not understand that there are plenty of "tests" that exist for other things. We have centuries of well established scientific method in terms of testing things and establishing things to be fact. We also have well established principles for statistics and probabilities. So even when something cannot be proved, such as proving a negative, we can assess the likely best and right answer.

Some times the answer depends on the question, and there is opinion on what is in fact the right question. Knowing the right question makes the right answer easy to find. "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" should be an easy one. But you have to make huge assumptions about the question, and the assumptions dictate the answer. Even agreeing that at some point in the past two "not quite chickens" mated and laid an egg that hatched in to an "actual chicken" based on some criteria for defining what is and is not a chicken. But if the question is "any egg", then there were things laying eggs long before chickens existed, so "the egg" came first, it just wasn't a "chicken egg". So you clearly, for the question to pose any conundrum, we mean a "chicken egg"? "Which came first, the chicken or the chicken egg?". Well, depends what you mean by "chicken egg" - how do you define that? If you mean "An egg that contains and hatches in to a chicken", then that first egg came before the chicken in to which it hatched. If you define "chicken egg" as "an egg that was laid by a chicken", then the chicken that laid it came before that egg. The question always has a simple "right answer", but the problem is that there is no "right question", and which question you should ask is a matter of opinion. One perhaps has to go back to considering why the heck anyone is asking such a daft question in the first place!

In a FaceBook debate yesterday the question of whether mediums are fake or not came up. People likened it to religion (which is deliberately untestable) and spouted the "everyone is entitled to their opinion". The problem is, just like lottery numbers, the claims of a medium can be tested. Even something as simple as a locked box that only the dead person knew the combination. There are lots of people that die, and many take secrets with them that can be tested. There are prizes that have been put up and never claimed. So unlike religion, this issue is much more like lottery numbers. But the "test" is massively biased to the mediums - they only need one irrefutable case ever and they prove their claimed skills are real. To assert that they are fake then we have to have no cases of them proving to be real, which is a hell of a "test" to pass. But it does pass - we have never had a case where any of these prizes have been claimed, so mediums are fake. It does not get simpler than that.

We also have people that can do the same "show" as a medium, that are just as convincing, that have practiced cold reading, and are happy to explain how they do it and explain how it is just a trick. It is like any magic trick nobody can explain and so people believe is real - except that one day the trick is exposed and explained and now everyone knows it is just a trick and how it is done. Cold reading is that! It is a trick that you can learn to do, that you can read about, that you can see done and see explained. The trick is exposed and so know you know it is fake and a trick and you can stop believing that it might possible be real magic now.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Medium

Whilst I am probably a "large" these days, that is not what I mean.

I am actually starting to get annoyed by people that are friends of relatives that are spouting crap (on FaceBook, where else?!) suggesting that somehow "medium shows" are somehow real. There are people that have been suckered by cold readings and think there is communication with the dead somehow!

Cold reading is very clever and there are well practiced people that can do it one to one, and those that are perhaps less capable that do it with a large audience (where they can start by picking the people they talk to from a group, which is one step easier). It really is clever stuff, and makes you think the reader has knowledge that they could not have.

Cold reading can be really entertaining done as part of a magic/illusion show. It is impressive. But as any professional magician will tell you, it is a trick, a good trick, but a trick. Read the wikipedia article. You can learn to do it yourself if you want. There are books on it.

What worries me is not only that some people have been suckered in to this themselves, which is sad enough, but there are others that know it is all fake and somehow think it entertaining to see people in the audience clearly fooled in to thinking they have a message from a dead relative. People moved to tears, even. And that this is somehow "entertainment"! This is nothing short of exploitation, and somewhat distressing to see. They don't even finish with "only kidding", and somehow it is quickly forgotten by those present that they start by explaining that it is only for entertainment purposes.

That final point - that they tell you it is for entertainment only - is forgotten to such an extent that one person posted that they have never heard any medium say that. It would be worrying if they did not as the Fraudulent Mediums Act 1951 (which repealed the Witchcraft Act 1735) makes that a criminal offence which they only get around by saying it is not real and is only for entertainment. Yes, we have been trying to stop vulnerable people being ripped off by charlatans since 1735!

There are prizes sat waiting for anyone that was genuine and did talk to the dead - obviously never claimed, because it is all bullshit.

Whether you believe in fairies, unicorns, star trek or some sort of deity, in your spare time, I don't really care, but don't think this crap is real when they say themselves that it is not and when it is easily explained by cold reading techniques that are well documented.

Being entertained by seeing someone else fooled and emotional when they have lost a loved one, is somewhat sick if you ask me.

But I am sure there are shows that are entertaining, and not exploitative, maybe. If there are, and you enjoy the show, then great, but don't be fooled in to thinking any of it is real, like any magic show.

Have fun!

Update:

The debate has raged on, and one of the key points raised is the notion that this is at all like religion. That believing in a medium is like believing in a god, and a faith and everyone entitled to their own belief. I have to say strongly that this is not the case with a medium claiming to talk to the dead. Unlike most religions that are carefully designed to avoid questioning or testing of the religion, the idea of talking to the dead is very much something that can be tested. It is possible to test if someone comes up with information that only a dead person would know - even something simple like a locked safe that only the dead person knew the combination, but by any number of similar and properly testable means. This is a testable claim and there are many prizes for genuine mediums to claim if they can pass such tests. So this is not a vague matter of faith or belief - it is a matter of testable fact. Next time you talk to a medium claiming they are real - ask them, on stage, why they have not claimed the prizes offered? If they say they do not want/need the money, ask why they have not claimed it to donate to a charity - why deny a charity $1,000,000 if they are genuine?

Update: All rational discussion has clearly ended...


Quiet?

Well, I have several things brewing which will make some good blog posts - but they are better posted as the whole story when finished. One on spammers, one on TPS, and one on the council, at least :-)

As for Blizzard, they have stated that they do support IPv6, and even emailed me for a tcpdump. They then ignored me again and again! They have changed things which has removed the delay as they now send a firewall response to the IPv6, so still broken. Oddly the first reaction to my blog on the IPv6 mailing list was :-

The good old "lets make a uninformed news article to force them to do 
something that nobody cares about" post. I don't see any signal there.

Which is odd, as I did not consider myself "uninformed" on this at all. Also odd, as on the IPv6 mailing list where Blizzard announced the IPv6 support originally you would think it was not something "nobody cares about" either. Oh well.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Blizzard drop IPv6 support?

Whilst the rest of the world are adding IPv6 support, Blizzard seem to be dropping it.

That is the only conclusion I can draw as they have a number of realms not working on IPv6 at present, and still have the setting default to unticked.

IPv4 addresses have run out, and already ISPs are struggling with messy systems like Carrier Grade NAT. IPv6 is the current version of Internet Protocol and once again brings the Internet back to the way it was designed. For gamers this means less messing with the traffic, either by their own router, or systems within the ISP.

Looking at this in more detail, and looking at a similar forum post from someone else back in October, it seems that they are using SLAAC assigned (MAC based) IPv6 addresses for servers. This is just lazy, and means that any change of hardware can cause the address to change. I can only assume that has happened and they have failed to update server IP lists or DNS to use the new address. They should probably manually assign IPv6 addresses.

If it had been the IPv4 address not working, they would find a way to fix it.

The problem is that they are totally uninterested in fixing this, which, to me, means that they HAVE WITHDRAWN IPv6 SUPPORT for World of Warcraft. They closed the ticket I raised (EU47550106) as "resolved", even when it clearly is not. They have simply ignored at least two forum posts (they suggested I post to the forum when closing the ticket), 12365247226 and 12844094863.

It is a real shame. I was impressed when they launched IPv6 support a few years ago. They were ahead of a lot of people. Now we see FaceBook, Google, and lots of content via IPv6. Even large ISPs are finally planning IPv6 deployment (A&A did it 12 years ago). The Internet is finally growing up, except for Blizzard. Poor show.

Side effect of tracing IP addresses

We see the government wants to trace IP addresses to a person.

We know that is impossible, but tracing IP addresses to a subscriber is more possible. For a lot of ISPs though this means using some data from CGNAT gateways, which is a lot of data to log. It may be that some is logged for a short amount of time, for the ISPs own usage (diagnostics, abuse, etc), but it seems the government want to log everything for a year.

Even so, it is generally a tad pointless for the purpose of identifying a person responsible for something for lots of reasons.

However, we may well see side effects of this if the happens. Obviously the legislation has rules around this, and RIPA is relevant for access to the data, and so on, but once you have the mechanisms in place and the tools and investment necessary, data does not stay compartmentalised.

One of the ways it can cause problems is with the courts.

We have already seen a number of court orders on large ISPs to block access to web sites. This is something that never used to happen even though the law allowed for it. The reason it is happening is that there is almost no cost for an ISP blocking child abuse images to extend that to block some extra web sites. So we have a side effect of something that people think is sensible, such as blocking people encountering child abuse images by accident - in that the technology to do that is now extended to other things. It was a side effect some of us predicted but I am not sure we expected the issue to be with the courts.

So will we see the same side effect for tracing IP addresses. We may see many more Norwich Pharmacal Orders to ISP. If there ends up being an API for tracing IPs to subscribers for ISPs to work with RIPA, then how long before the courts demand that the API is provided to copyright trolls as well, as no extra cost.

Obviously breaching copyright is not right, but neither is the way that many of these company intimidate and embarrass innocent parties that are just the bill payer for a household in to coughing up money when they have not done anything wrong.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Update Unavailable with This Apple ID

Why tell me there is an update and then tell me you cannot update it?

Why Apple? Why?

Pages comes with the iMac, but on both of the new iMacs it tells me that there is an update to Pages. On both of them I cannot do the update. So I am forever stuck with a badge on my app store icon.

Anyone know how to fix this, as I cannot be arsed to book a genius, or take a 27" iMac in to the store to show them!



[update: see solution in the comments, thanks Jonny]

Monday, 1 December 2014

Razer Naga SHIFT key use on iMac OS X

I have an iMac and I have a Razer Naga game mouse.

The mouse has 12 keys on the side. This makes it excellent for games like World of Warcraft as you have a set of actions (weapons, spells, etc) that are usually tied to a number key 1-9,0,-,= on the keyboard.

The Naga has, by default, those keys as if it was an extra keyboard.

What makes it extra useful is that you can have a further 12 keys when used with the SHIFT key, and another 12 when used with the CTRL key. But these modifier keys are on the main keyboard, not on the mouse. Even so, left hand on SHIFT, right hand on the mouse button, works well. Been using it like this for years on Linux and the other iMac.

I installed the new iMac, and the Razer mouse driver package, and WoW, and tried to play - only to get killed rather quickly. The SHIFT and CTRL modifiers simply do not work !!!

I closed WoW and checked on the console, and sure enough the keys typed 1, 2, 3, etc on the console even when used with SHIFT.

First thing to check was the 123/NUM button on the bottom of the mouse, but that was set to 123 correctly, so the keys works as the normal number keys.

I googled, and there are loads of people with this problem from a few years ago, it clearly crops up a lot, and there are lots of solutions. I tried some, such as setting the keys do F1-F12 in the Razer driver, but still SHIFT/CTRL did not work. There are also some software packages which I was wary of, and even settings in WoW itself. However, as this affected a simple terminal window it was clearly not a WoW specific thing.

I have, however, found the answer, and it is very simple, and explains why it works on my other iMac. My mistake was installing the Razer drivers! Removing these (and rebooting) it just works. In a console, pressing SHIFT on main keyboard and "1" on mouse gets me "!". It works with WoW.

How annoying, but there you go - if you want to use a Razer Naga on an iMac under OS X with World of Warcraft then don't install the Razer drivers.

Sneaky change of BT terms that affects BT infinity

BT have terms and conditions which cover the Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) services we buy. Until recently there was a very useful term that said that if the install did not reach the forecast speed, then BT would tell us and give us the option to cancel the install (re-instating ADSL if necessary, and refunding costs), or re-appoint to try and get a better speed, or to accept the lower speed.

In practice BT seem to have no means to ask us that question, and so complete the install at the lower speed and we have to complain and dispute the billing if it is cancelled, and so on.

However, it has come to light that a couple of months ago BT changed these terms!

Now, they only have to meet the 10th percentile of the forecast, which is, oddly, below the "Minimum" they state on their forecast, so is some new definition of "Minimum" of which I was previously unaware. They do have a spreadsheet to tell us what the 10th percentile is from that.

They have also changed it so that the only option is to cease the service if we don't accept the lower speed.

This is a nasty change - previously it was clear cut and also very easy to explain to customers. Now we have a much more complex scenario to explain to customers.

What is also annoying is that BT made this change with no specific notice to us that I can find, and I think against their own terms. The terms allow changes if they are to "improve the quality of the Service" or "do not have material adverse effect on performance or provision of the Service". Well, clearly this does not meet those criteria, so I am not sure the change of terms is even valid!

Changes are page 17, over version 9, 10, 11 and 12 of the BTW FTTC handbook. We've written to BT plc to say these changes are contrary of clause 3.8 of our contract.


Update: I have to question the 10th percentile as well, on the basis that it would mean 1 in 10 lines fail to meet this extra low (below minimum) speed, which seems somewhat unlikely.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Nominet being strange

[update: see Nominet reply in comments]

I know, silly title, especially related to Nominet address checking. Anyone that deals with Nominet will be used to them being a tad strange.

However, we had a somewhat surreal conversation with them yesterday over a domain we were registering.

To put it in to context, Nominet are now trying to ensure the registrant details for domains are "correct". This is part of the new .uk level domain registration process. However, checking details are "correct" is not simple! It kind of brings me back to my discussions on "legal entities", but more so.
  • A domain could be registered by someone anywhere in the world (though a UK service address is needed for .uk domains). The rules on "legal entities" and means to check those vary from country to country. It would be almost impossible for Nominet to check many of these.
  • Even just considering the UK, an individual does not have to be traceable. I.e. it is quite valid for a registrant to not be on the electoral role; not have any utility bills in their name,; not have a driving licence; and not have a passport, especially if young and living with parents. Even so, they still are a perfectly "valid" person with a perfectly "valid" UK address. The only real way to check such details is to post something to the address and check it arrived. I have no idea if Nominet do that.
  • There are, of course, various other types of legal entity that could be more complex, but most come back to the issue with an "Individual" who is responsible, so the same problem as above.
  • However, there is one type of registrant for which it is very very simple: UK registered companies. A UK company has a name, company number, and service address that are all public record and available to be checked from companies house on their web site. Checking the basic details for a UK registered company is very simple.
What happened is that we created a new company and registered three domains (.co.uk, .org.uk, and .uk). Opening up .uk just means paying for yet one more domain when you make a company. However, they were flagged by Nominet as invalid!

Alex called Nominet. They confirmed on the phone that he was the contact (checked name and email used), and he checked and confirmed that he had not mistyped the company number, name or address and that Nominet had all of the right details. The guy on the phone was happy to sort this out whilst on the phone, yay!

He did explain that Nominet do not have a direct link for checking companies and as it was a new company then that is why it was flagged as invalid. That, in itself, seems odd as I am sure companies house have such services. Indeed, register a company, and you have spam post the next day from people that use such services. Why don't Nominet have a proper link in to companies house?

Anyway, this is then where it got a tad odd. Having confirmed that this is, indeed, as per the registration details recorded, a UK limited company; and that the company name, number, and address were right, you would think that would be the end of it. It means Nominet can check the details independently at companies house - something that takes seconds.

But no...

First off he asked Alex to email a reply, while on the phone, with a link to the details on companies house. This seems odd - and time consuming - compared to just typing an 8 digit number in to their web site. It is also slightly open to abuse as Alex could have sent a link that looked like companies house but was not. However, if you have ever used the companies house web site then you will know that the details for a company are not on a simple link / URL.

At this point, if it was me, I would have emailed http://companieshouse.gov.uk/ to him and said click company information and type the company number... But Alex carefully explained the inability to do a direct URL.

So the guy from Nominet then insisted that what Alex does is take a screen shot, put it in a pdf and email it.

WHAT?!?!?! [a phrase I am having to type rather a lot on my blog lately]

What exactly would he do with this screen shot? Surely the only possibly thing he could do is check it. The only way to check it is to go to the companies house web site, type the company number, and see that it looks the same, having checked the screen shot matches the registered details for the domain. Surely it would save time and effort for all to just do that in the first place. Of course, if he is not going to do that, then Alex could, very easily, fake the screen shot.

Alex explained all of this, but to no avail. A screen shot had to be emailed!

It does remind me of RIPE who have the same problem, and wanted a copy of the company certificate for something. They eventually accepted a screen shot of companies house (which could have easily been faked, just like a certificate). At least RIPE have the excuse of being in a different country and so perhaps not knowing how UK companies work.

Well done Nominet - you have unlocked the achievement [Pointless extra bureaucracy]

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Ed Vaizey says that once you are 70 you don't have to pay your bills?

Well, that seems to be what has been said in relation to a case mentioned in parliament. The actual case seems rather odd, and clearly we don't have all of the details, but it involved a dispute between an ISP and a customer which was resolved by the Ombudsman in favour of the ISP. The issue was raised by an MP at the request of the customer, his constituent. This is good of the MP, I agree.

We really don't have all of the details to comment on the case itself - what was mentioned in parliament seems like a clear cut case of an ISP mis-selling, but my experience of the Ombudsman service is that they would always favour the customer so the case must have been pretty clear to favour the ISP in this case.

Ed Vaizey is reported as confirming this: “In most cases, the ombudsman proves to be a powerful and effective piece of consumer protection. It does work, and figures show that it often works to the consumer’s benefit"

However, the next comment really does puzzle me, as he is reported as saying:

It seems astonishing that a telecoms company would pursue a man in his 70s … Having won its war with Mr Jones through the ombudsman, it should recognise that its corporate social responsibility should dictate that it should waive this bill.

WHAT?!?!?!?

For a start it seems odd to say "having won its war with Mr Jones". It is not a war to expect a customer to pay their bill. Also, it was Mr Jones that pursued a case against the ISP via ADR and the ISP has has to pay for that even though they won!

But surely, having won the case, it is perfectly sensible, normal, and even responsible to the shareholders as required by the Companies Act for the ISP to expect the customer to then pay up.

It seems that Ed Vaizey is saying that even when a third party has confirmed that the money is owed, because someone is in his 70s it is some corporate social responsibility to waive the bill?

Does this mean that when I get to 70 I can simply choose not to pay bills, and even if taken to court, or some other third party arbitration, I should still not have to pay them?

What exactly is Ed Vaizey saying here?

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

CTSB

The Counter-Terrrorism and Security Bill was published today.

There are also explanatory notes and impact assessment that give some clue to the plans of the Home Secretary, but at this stage, with the bill as it is, all it does is change a definition in the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act so as to allow a wider scope for secondary legislation on data retention to be made by the Home Secretary. The change of scope is to add some additional data such as port numbers to IP addresses in what is logged.

The underlying intention is not entirely clear - it seems to be an attempt to match IP addresses to individuals or devices.

This falls down for several reasons.

For a start, an IP address (and timestamp) is simply not going to be enough, and that is often all you have from the likes of web logs on a web site or some such. You need the source port at least, and in some cases the destination IP and port as well because some address translation systems use the full set of IPs and ports both ends to make a connection. Even logging all this in the ISP would not help if all you have is an IP and date/time.

But then it is not clear how they could go further than just identifying a subscriber. Getting to a device or user is pretty much impossible. There are two things in the way...

End user NAT router

It is commonly the case that the end user has a router that does network address translation (NAT) which makes all of the devices in a home or office appear to be one external IP address. This translation is not normally logged by such devices, and even if it was - the device is outside the ISP. The ISP would only have to log if they generate or process the data, so any data outside their network does not have to be logged. Maybe some large ISPs that provide the router and manage it for the end user could have some sort of back door to log this, but it seems unlikely and not something any ISP really wants the hassle of doing. All they have to do is say that the kit belongs to their customer and bingo: not in their network; not data generated or processed by them; not logged.

Carrier grade NAT (CGNAT)

There is another type of translation that is starting to happen. This is where an end user does not have a public IP of their own but is sharing it with other unrelated users by some means in the ISP network. There are a lot of ways this can work, but some include a big box that does the translation. This assigns a new port to each session at the TCP or UDP level so that the shared IP can be identified to the original customer. It may even assign different IPs to the same customer quite quickly. It could "overload" the IPs it uses where the same source IP and port is used to different target IPs and ports meaning you need all four bits of data (and the protocol and timestamp) to undo that translation.

Again, logging all of the CGNAT sessions is a massive job compared to now. At present ISPs subject to a retention notice (not A&A) need to keep their RADIUS logs where there assign an IP to a connection when it is made. That allows the IP and date/time to be traced to a subscriber. Having to log CGNAT sessions is millions of times more work. It makes CGNAT way more expensive.

Impact on IPv6

Increased cost for CGNAT should drive IPv6 deployment so as to get as little as possible running through the expensive CGNAT. That is sort of good news.

But even though IPv6 does not have the CGNAT or end user NAT router, it has privacy addressing which is not logged anywhere. So back to the issue that an end device or user cannot be traced.

Responsibility for use of you internet connection?

One thing that is definitely not being stated is that people have any responsibility for others using their Internet link. This is about tracing the IP to them, but it is still 100% legal to run an open WiFi. It is still 100% legal to run a TOR exit node or a VPN endpoint. You are not responsible for what others do with your network. Indeed, having an open WiFi or TOR exit node is a great way to create plausible deniability. In some ways this new legislation is encouraging that!

Totally pointless

There is still no tracing to end user as a person or a device with this, and it is hard to see how their ever could be. Being still legal to run a TOR exit node, and to use TOR or VPNs means that anyone can easily bypass all of this themselves, as well as having good excuses why traffic is leaving their network. The widespread use of TOR and VPNs encouraged by the default ban on porn makes this even more common and something of which terrorists will be well aware.

Illegal?

I am shocked that Theresa May has the audacity to make the statement on page 1 of the bill stating it complies with human rights. The ECJ said the EU data retention directive did not, and this legislation takes that an extends it. How can she say that a blanket surveillance of innocent users of the Internet in the UK is compliant with the right to privacy?

Bear in mind that in some cases CGNAT logs have to have details of what IPs you accessed to be useful, and so will basically log what web sites you visited and when. Well, "you", or someone using your Internet connection. That is a huge invasion of privacy. Notably the legislation seems to try and exclude that data, but without it many CGNAT systems are not logging enough to trace a connection back to a subscriber.

Impact on A&A?

  • We have not had a data retention notice so do not log anything for law enforcement!
  • Obviously, as now, if served with a suitable notice under RIPA to give out details of a subscriber from an IP we can do so, but that is targeted and with due legal process. We assign a fixed IP to all customers. We would always stress in such responses that the IP does not in any way identify a person that sent traffic and explain TOR and VPNs and open WiFi. I do not think we have had any valid requests for such data yet.
  • If served with a retention notice we can claim costs, and they will not be small! We can also make a few minor reorganisations which will minimise the level of logging. Quite what would happen will depend on exact wording of the new Data Retention Directive itself enabled by this if it becomes law.
  • Obviously we encourage IPv6 and are happy with people using privacy addressing which is default on so much kit these days.
  • Obviously we will clarify in our terms and conditions that we do not "run" the end user router so do not have any logs to make from that.
  • Obviously we encourage using https and TLS and your own mail servers to avoid logging.
  • If we had a retention notice, our only big NAT box which runs a public service experimental NAT64 gateway may have to change hands so not belonging to an ISP, i.e. I may personally own it and so not have to log anything. No way we are keeping CGNAT logs. Actually, Thrall Horde is a legal entity, he can own it :-)
  • In essence, nothing much changes for us, phew!
  • Though, maybe, I have to be careful if I ever leave the country :-(
  • Oh, and our voice SIMs do have a NAT unfiltered Internet connection, but the NAT is done outside the UK, so the legislation does not apply!