Sunday, 31 August 2014

I can cook!

And the end result

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Migraine trigger?

No migraine for nearly a week! What changed?

I thought it very strange that for several days I got a migraine around 7am.

Well, I have a clue. I realised I had woken early with a cracked lip and used some of this blistex relief cream.

It contains Stong Ammonia. Googling Ammonia and Migraines suggests there may in fact be a link.

I am a little reluctant to do a positive test, but having stopped using this I have not had a migraine since.

Update: Bugger - a week with no migraines, then one at 7am. So not that.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

I've got your six

The rate of change of technology over the last few decades seems to be even faster than any time before. It is not that surprising, and it is clearly an interesting time in which to be alive.

I recall a conversation when I was younger with someone explaining that there was (of course) a time before traffic lights when busy junctions had a policeman directing traffic. It is interesting seeing old films that show that, and some horse drawn vehicles.

What I find especially interesting is technologies that are vanishing from the face of the earth so completely that anyone younger than a certain age has no clue what the hell you are talking about.

Things like the "Phone box" are vanishing quickly. The rotary dial telephone is so unusual there is a whole generation that would have a had time recognising it as a phone, let alone using it. And an audio cassette tape would baffle them. I have heard people very confused by the concept of paper maps even!

It is especially interesting when you have technology that was new when I was younger and has now almost completely vanished in just a few short decades - like the "CD".

Watch Back to The Future II - it amusing how they assume CD and video disks will be with us so much in 2015 and still have phone boxes! The barcode number plate is especially amusing - realising that a machine readable ID is needed in the future but not realising that computers will be able to read letters or more likely that cars will all have real time wireless location reporting as a normal feature some day.

I was today trying to clarify some artwork for an engraving job, and got the very sensible answer: "The notch goes at 9 o'clock". But it struck me, I am not sure my kids would know what was meant by that phrase. A "traditional" analogue clock face is getting rarer and rarer these days. It won't be long before phrases like "I've got your six" lose all original meaning and become one of those strange quirks of English (or possibly American) language.

As I say, an interesting time in which to live.

When does the taste not matter?

I have some nice whisky from the Scottish Malt Whisky Society.

I am actually quite pleased that I joined - previously whisky did not hold much appeal - it was always a bit rough and after a few shots you started not to notice.

Then I was given a bottle of G7.4 which was, well, just really really nice. I have tried several of their whiskies since. I don't like the peaty once, and prefer those that are slightly sweeter.

These are not cheap bottles, but they last a while and are quite strong (sometimes up to 60% ABV).

I got some bottles for various friends once I joined, and I am told by Simon that we spoiled him and his dad for drinking normal whisky for weeks.

I was however making the joke that someone told me about not drinking any whisky aged less that you are yourself, and realised that a 50+ aged whisky would be pretty rare and expensive. Someone pointed out Glenfiddich Glenfiddich 50 Year Old at a mere £19,995.00 (plus £5.95 shipping). Now clearly that is crazy.

I did look on the society list and did not find any 50 years aged, but I did find an interesting bottle (pictured) 35.101 which is £280, aged 39 years, and looks nice. The clincher was that it was distilled on my 10th birthday, so I decided to order a bottle. Just the one :-)

The problem is, at that price, it is £10 per 25ml shot of whisky FFS! OK, I am pretty sure I have been in bars that charge nearly that before, but still, this is an expensive bottle.

So, I'll find a special occasion to drink it I think. Alex suggested "Friday" constituted such a "special occasion", but I am unconvinced. I just hope it does taste nice. I do think an occasion to try and share it with some people that will appreciate it will be sensible. Maybe I should do a garage warming party...

But you have to wonder - at what point is it simply too expensive to drink. A £20k bottle clearly is never expected to be opened. At that price, it could be vinegar for all you know as nobody will ever be able to afford to try it, or to risk that having tried it they did not like it!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Scottish Broadband?

We don't currently offer services to people in other countries. We are simply not set up to do that.

If Scotland did become a separate country, what would that mean?

From a simple engineering point of view, we would not expect much to change. I am sure BT would continue to offer services in Scotland, or set up a separate company to do so, and would still provide the same sort of backhaul to allow us to offer services. The engineering is likely to be simple - good!

But trading with a different county has a lot of possible implications.
  • We may have to be VAT registered in that country, and collect and pay VAT to their VAT office.
  • We may have to pay corporation tax to that county.
  • We may have to do currency exchange on payments.
  • We may have to pay surcharges on international bank payments even if in same currency.
  • The legal implications if someone did not pay, and how we would sue them, could get a lot more complex.
  • We may have to be part of that countries ADR scheme.
  • We may have to deal with their telecoms regulator.
  • Shipping routers may cost a lot more and may involve customs.
Broadband is not a high margin business at the best of times, and all of this extra burden is a cost that may mean it is simply not viable for a small ISP to bother.

Obviously we can't say for sure what would happen - nobody knows the details, assuming Scotland even votes for a split, but it sounds like hassle to me.

So I wonder how many ISPs and other service businesses based in England would simply cut off Scotland, just because of simple commercial common sense.

One also wonders on impact for the likes of BT. The currently have a universal service obligation so the considerable extra costs of serving some Scottish islands are aggregated over the whole business. With no OFCOM, they may be able to charge Scots the actual cost of serving those communities. That may, of course, mean we have to pay a lot more for tails in Scotland too.

Monday, 25 August 2014


A couple of years ago I had my first ever migraine, and it was scary as fuck.

For the first time ever my vision was broken, I could not see properly on one side, and the effect was growing. Lasted half an hour or so, and then I had a "thick head" for a while and was generally not feeling well. A second incident a week later and I went and got my head examined (nice MRI images) and told "tough" it was a migraine.

I have had a handful since, but the last few weeks they are way worse. Several days running. On top of which I am getting migraine-like cluster headaches (with no aura) after a bit too much drink. The latest migraine was after two days not drinking (I had orange juice at the school reunion even) so there is more at play than just one trigger here.

The only clue is my blood pressure may have started to get high, so I'll be on pills for that soon. Let's hope that is it.

This afternoon I had a migraine again, so decided that I may as well have a few drinks this evening - we'll see what the hell happens.

Update: Well I did not get a headache all night which was great news, sadly I got a migraine with aura at 7am, but those are way less hassle as I can just go back to sleep for a couple of hours. And now (10am) I feel fine.

Photo sniping?

Well, we know what photobombing is but I was not sure if there was a word for another practice with photography.

It is a bit rude, but it is somehwat showing off and so hard to avoid if you have a nice camera.

You see someone at an event, and they have a group of people posing for a shot. They are trying to take a picture with some compact or, more often these days, a camera phone. Even more amusing if the person taking the picture has not used the camera/phone before so has no clue what button to press. Even so, they take an age to frame the shot, and get it to focus, and then delay on shutter button, maybe even a double flash to kill red-eye (by ensuring everyone has blinked and closed their eyes, or whatever).

Anyway, in the time they have composed the shot you have rattled off half a dozen shots, different angles, close up, wide angle, portrait, landscape, all done at a nice low f/2 or some such giving the background some blur with no shutter delay, near instant focus, and 18+ mega pixels. All before they have managed to work out which button to press.

I found myself doing it a couple of times at the school reunion this weekend where I was sort of unofficial photographer. Sorry.

It is clearly a bit mean. But what do we call it, apart from just "being a prick"?

Roaming UK SIM testing

I was somewhat surprised to find that Worcester is a rather good area for testing UK roaming SIM cards, especially by the County Cricket Ground. This is largely because it appears to have crap coverage on pretty much every network. The locals say that mobile coverage is generally bad in Worcester, it seems.

I went up there by train for a school reunion, and the train from Reading to Worcester was, as expected, quite intermittent for mobile coverage.

I have one of our O2/EU roaming SIMs in my iPhone and iPad. These SIMs have two identities. One is O2, and that is the default - so it locks on to an O2 signal and if that is not available (as happened on the train) then after a couple of minutes it switches to the EU identity. This allowed it to use any UK network and I found it locked on to a Vodafone signal. After a little while it changed on to EE instead.

This meant my phone continued to have coverage for calls, texts and data, in spite of a very changing and intermittent signal. The only downside being a bit more expensive.

What I did notice is that it did not switch back to O2 just because there was an O2 signal, it stayed on EE for some time. The phone makes it pretty clear it is roaming on to other networks (more so when not using iPhones) so I know of the extra cost. It switched back once O2 was the best signal. Having roamed back on to O2 in the EU profile it then switching back to the O2 profile and back to the lower cost. I could also force it to switch back (on the iPhone) using the SIM application menu. Indeed, when the O2 signal was just about present but other networks were way better I could use the SIM application menu to force it on to the EU profile for a better signal.

During the evening I noticed that some times I had O2, but often I was on Vodafone or EE. Oddly I did not see it use Three at all. The phone and iPad would change identities and roam depending on signal. It was quite amusing. Sadly the data coverage on Vodafone and EE in Worcester is also poor, often ending up on GPRS not 3G, but it worked well enough most of the time.

This was my first real use of the UK roaming feature myself, as my usual haunts have very good O2 signal, and overall I am quite impressed. The switching of identities is quiet a neat trick. Obviously if I wanted to avoid this (with the few minutes it can take to decide to switch) I could just use an EU only SIM, but with the higher costs, as that would roam to find the strongest signal regardless. The fact I can force the profile to change on the O2/EU SIMs does help though.

I'd be interested to hear feedback from customers using these SIMs .

Friday, 22 August 2014

Iridium: Technically Incorrect

Dealing with any tech support dept can be hard work at the best of times, but Iridium seem to be a tad special.

We have got a sat phone (Iridium Go) as a bit of research. There are some technical improvements on the cards for Iridium coming along soon which will make it an interesting option, albeit expensive, for some broadband cases. But for now it is partying like it is 1989 with 2400bps data calls (no, I did not miss a "k" or "M" there), phone calls, and texts. It does, however, work, and can even be told to send GPS update texts periodically as this device also has a GPS. Yes I have made a tracking app with google maps and so on.

I'll post more on this, and using Inmarsat and mobile roaming data in a little over a month. For now we are just getting started and testing. One of the staff is doing an antarctic expedition at Christmas, and that will be a very interesting use of this.

When testing calls from the phone I was a tad surprised to find the CLI was wrong. My number is +881622490112, and I would expect to be presented as that or 00881622490112 on a phone I called.

However, calling Three, and EE got me 001881622490112 and calling landline got me 0881622490112. Both of these are obviously wrong.

So the tech support journey begins.

1. I tell them that calling Three and EE get the 0018816 version and landline gets 08816 version

They ask for details of the test calls I made, times, called numbers, CLIs shown. Vaguely sensible request.

2. I tell them times and called numbers and presented CLI as requested.

They ask which carriers each call is with? Well, I said that in the first place and they can tell from the numbers, but what the hell!

3. I tell them which carrier it is for each as requested, again.

They say, and I quote: "I don’t understand the problem. Please advise." !

4. I explain that the CLI is wrong, as per the subject line! How simple can you get?

They say, and I quote: "The numbers are technically correct." (yes, the best kind of correct, I know).

WHAT?!?!? I am sorry but they are not!

They say that they aren't being translated correctly on the Mobile providers[sic] end. That is not really a good answer as no translation is needed, and in fact a "1" has been inserted which is not a translation you would ever do.

But Iridium are losing money on this!

I don't understand why they seem not to care. If I were Iridium I would be making damn sure the CLI was right everywhere because that way people could call back when a sat phone user has called. Calling Iridium is £3.60 a minute (from BT) so you would want people to try and call back. Anyone trying to call me back gets a dentist in America!

Anyway, next trick is to contact the mobile providers and ask why the CLI is wrong. But seriously, Iridium are crazy if they are not on top of this.

Update: Power of the blog! they are making test calls and trying to sort this.
Update: Their test calls all worked but real calls are just the same!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Why did I buy a Makerbot Z18?

We got a Z18, so why? There are literally hundreds of other 3D printers out there - some large and some small, using different printing systems, the choice is endless.

The simple answer is that we had a Makerbot Replicator 2. That really is a "plug and play" 3D printer. It just works. The software just works, the printer just works. The fun is in designing things to print, but the printing itself just works. Makerbot did a good job with the Replicator 2.

The Z18 is the newest and biggest from Makerbot. It has the next generation of extruder, and it allows much bigger prints. It has a heated chamber which should mean it can print large items without it curling-up as it cools. It is the obvious next step from the Replicator 2.

We bought the Z18 almost entirely on reputation and experience with the Replicator 2. Makerbot had a good reputation!

I believe the Z18 was launched back in January but only just began shipping recently. It is not a beta testers or early adopters model. It is launched.

But now we find that the main reasons for buying it are bogus.

It is not as good as the Replicator 2 - the prints are not as robust, the base/raft is difficult to detach. We printed a door-stop and it could be crushed in your hand accidentally! It is slower than the Replicator 2, and on top of that it spends ages levelling and preparing before it starts any print. The Replicator 2 just starts: Heating and then one cleaning strip of plastic on the edge and off it goes. Simple. The Z18 takes forever. The heated chamber seems not to actually be possible to enable. The support staff seem to be of the impression that they have not really finished the firmware yet.

It is, overall, a shambles. It is very likely to go back.

Which means I have to wonder if and what we get instead - what is the best 3D printer out there now? Ideally we want something we can use commercially and sell printing and our expertise.

Update: We tried printing something larger - the main reason for having a Z18 is the large size of print. We were not actually trying to print angel hair pasta, honest.

Monday, 18 August 2014

13A socket

Slightly puzzled, and happy to be corrected here.

Adverts on car radio yesterday as we drove to Harlow, over and over again, with wording along the lines of :-

"It is not hard to overload a mains socket - simply plug in too many high power devices to an extension lead like a hair dryer or heater - but it not so easy to put out the fire - fire kills"

Am I being thick here?

If you plug too many things in to an extension lead the fuse blows.

That is what happens.

Not a fire. The fuse blows. That is all.

That is why we have fuses.

Or are we saying fuses don't work? Is so, why do we bother with them

Or are we saying a 13A socket cannot handle 13A?

What am I missing here? And why is it worth someone (who was not named in advert) paying to run the advert on the radio rather a lot?

I really hope it it not my tax paying for this?

[AFAIK fires are far more likely from faulty chargers or appliances over-heating than simply plugging in too many appliances in to an extension lead that has a 13A fuse in its plug]

I also wonder what the public should do as a result of this advert? Do we add up current of all appliances, and if less that 13A it is OK? What is the load allowed on a 13A socket? If we have more than 13A and the fuse did not blow, who do we sue?

Saturday, 16 August 2014

A&A summer barbecue

A&A Staff summer fun day today...

That is how you do a hog roast -

We pulled out the A&A bouncy castle (yes, we own one).

The only slightly disappointing thing was the "Giant Games" from carousel windsor. Not that giant, and cost £420 for the day when the games appear to be maybe half that to buy new! Oh well, you live and learn. The kids seem to find them fun enough, though we were tempted to go get a circular saw and some fence posts from Wickes down the road and make a real giant jenga :-)

Of course there are cheaper games the kids really liked - latex gloves and marker pen - genius idea from Lee.


And being A&A, the caffeine was on standby...

Friday, 15 August 2014

Latest email to ICO...

I understand from my MP that the next step is to make a formal complaint
about the ICO, and if not satisfied then there is a Parliamentary and
Health Service Ombudsman to pursue.

So, I would like to complain that I am being ignored by the ICO.

I have made a lot of complaints about one (or possibly more)
organizations that are making calls in breach of section 19 of The
Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003
and possibly other sections.

Each complaint has been sent in by email, and it seems you are now
officially ignoring me. I noticed that for a while I was no longer even
getting the "We have received your email" reply until I changed the
sender address for each complaint, suggesting you were actively
filtering my reports.

You have raised a lot of excuses as to why you are ignoring me, none of
them valid :-

1. You could not play the call recordings, but I understand that has now
been sorted, and I am now sending in MP3 format to make easier.

2. You do not have legal powers to trace calls - I explained the many
powers you have granted by the PECR modifying the DPA, and I have not
had any response to this. You do have powers to investigate, and indeed
an obligation to do so, but are refusing to do your job.

3. You have said you do not investigate individual complaints, but I
have now complained hundreds of times. You have suggested that each
email somehow counts as an individual complaint, which seems little more
than a contrived excuse to not do you job. I have even sent multiple
complaints in a single email to bypass this excuse but to no avail. Tell
me exactly how many complaints are needed for you to take action.

4. You have asked me to report via your web site rather than via email,
but as I have pointed out, there seems no form on your web site for
this. I can see an option to "report a concern" via some sort of survey
web site - but I cannot see where I formally request that the
commissioner to exercise enforcement functions in relation to this
breach as per section 32 of the regulations. If you show me where that
form is, I'll use it.

It seems that the ICO are simply refusing to do your job in spite of a
request as per section 32. Given that, in the absence of section 32,
anyone could make such a request anyway, the only reason for section 32
existing is if such requests have to actually be acted upon by the ICO.
I would hope a judge and ombudsman agree with me on that. I note that
section 30 allows me to sue any party in breach of the regulations for
damages and at this stage I consider the ICO to be in breach by refusing
to do your mandated job - so maybe I'll sue you for damages.

If I do not get a satisfactory response in the next 14 days I will
pursue this with the ombudsman.

I look forward to your formal reply.

Update: I did not get the normal automated reply to my email, so I sent again from a different source address - this time I did. So it looks like they are actually filtering my email address. Now that is naughty!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

UHD TV as a monitor

The new breed of UHD TVs (3840x2160) are pretty impressive, so I decided to see if one can work as a usable monitor.

I got a 40" Samsung UHD TV. The main reason is that my nice 30" apple monitor was nicked. This is only around £600+VAT, which for such a huge and high res monitor is stupidly cheap.

But it is a TV - so what are the downsides here? The issue I have is that fundamentally the panel itself need not be any different for a TV or a monitor. Gone are the days of dead pixel counts and so on. So surely a TV will be just as good. That said, TVs are traditionally a lot cheaper than a monitor even though they do a lot more (tuner, motion interpolation, and all sorts that I do not need).

Arguably, a TV these days being a "smart TV" has to be able to show a web page properly, and that is basically what we expect from a monitor...

There were a number of issues, not least of which is that 3840x2160 is not something even slightly older graphics cards can manage. My linux box needed a new card. We even decided to just buy a Mac Mini to use instead and found it was not able to cope, so got a new graphics card for the linux box anyway. Even so the card can only drive the screen at 30Hz refresh.

The linux box did insist on trying 4096x2160 not 3840x2160 which causes odd effects until we realised what it was doing. The TV, by default, did overscan (why? why? why?) but could be convinced not to, and convinced not to try and run a sharpening effect or motion blur reduction algorithm on the image. Lots of tweaking with settings. Even things like a "4 hour auto turn off" needed fixing.

However, the end result is a desktop that is 3840x2160 at 40" and working!

The 30Hz is not an issue (it is not like LCDs "flicker") and for my normal usage (web pages, text editing, even viewing video) it is fine.

Overall, I am happy, and getting used to the larger real-estate that a large monitor offers. 40" is a lot, but compared to two monitors is not that bad at all.

Sadly there are compromises. The first, and rather unusual effect, is the screen edges, which lose several pixels when not viewed straight on. I need to move things in a few pixels to avoid the effect. It is like the LCD is folded back in to the monitor at the edge! The other issue seems to be some compromise on bits per pixel somehow - blue on red is bad. Most stuff looks fine, but not all.

It is a shame - but one I can live with as a day to day monitor at that sort of price.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Does John Doe not work there any more?

We had not stopped laughing from the first call when they called again for Jane Doe.

First call - wav MP3
Second call - wav MP3

Not sure what else to say...

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Man cave

The term "man cave" is what several people have used to describe my "garage renovation project"... It is probably not that far from the truth.

To be fair - this is to be mine, though I know James is trying to get a piece of it. He has been left on his own by his girlfriend for a while at least while she does a teacher training course in another country.

The next stage really is clearing out the crap that is in there and that means Sandra actually doing something. Once cleared I can get on with it. No shortage of help from the staff, and it should be easy to make it happen real soon now.

I have a survey for air-con next week, and the builder coming in to take a look as discuss stuff. Right now I have a concept for the "work bench" which will be one whole wall. I think I need 5m long solid wood worktop sections to do this right. I think doing a 5m worktop with a second below in the middle as a T shape, a gap to the wall for power and cabling and a step/kick-board to support PCs and stuff, as well as sockets all the way along. It should look good with almost all cabling hidden from view, but be very practical. I need to sort some sort of storage, book shelves and the like and space for tools.

The rest of the room should be sofa, chairs and a big TV with gaming systems. I suspect a good gaming UHD 3D machine - might have to be windoze even, not sure. And James will want consoles of some sort, a complete set somehow. I am sure I can engineer a Sheldon style "spot" that is mine.

I'll sort some more optics and a fridge in to the mix somehow as well.

My best guess right now is that I'll be lucky if sorted by the end of the year - but I can try.

It won't be cheap, but I suspect cheaper than a sports car or absconding with some bimbo as some middle aged men might do.

Gourmet Society data leak

I use a unique email address when signing up for anything on the Internet. I have a whole domain I use for this.

So when I signed up for a Gourmet Society discount card (which is pretty good for Café Rouge in Wokingham) I used a specific email address. I even managed to mistype it, using gormetcard@... instead of gourmetcard@...

The idea is simple - if the email address leaks either by being sold for marketing, or by some sort of data leak, the source of the leak is obvious.

In this instance the leak is quite serious. I received a phishing email to the gormetcard email address claiming to be from paypal asking for my card details, but using an redirect which goes via https on (which have presumably been compromised themselves) which goes to http on which is an impressive hostname designed to confuse people.

Sadly the Gourmet Society have not replied to my email on this. Very disappointing. Time for an ICO report I feel.

Update: The Gourmet Society have finally replied - they are looking in to it.

Monday, 11 August 2014

The long journey home

Having said Cyprus was generally OK, I posted before we actually got home...

Sunday was always going to be odd - we had to leave the villa (and its air-con) at 10am but the flight was around 10pm.

So we went to a bar for a bit, then to a "Sunday dinner" we had booked at Haris restaurant in Coral Bay - good food for a very reasonable price.

We then went to the O'Soloman's Irish Pub in Coral Bay. It has fans, not air-con but managed to find enough of a breeze as well and was bearable - they watched football on TV (BT Sport 1 channel). We had some drinks and some foods and eventually decided we may as well head to the airport.

One of the cars did not follow the signs to the airport, and when we lost them we went back and followed them, only to be 5 miles behind them as they had, but some total fluke, found a back route. They then had to go back to fill up the car from the petrol station while were we going the other way, and texts were somewhat confused as to who, where, when and why.

The petrol station was a challenge! It should not be, but on a Sunday they are apparently all unmanned. The instructions on the pump were very clear and in English. 1. Enter required amount, or press a specific button to change to enter a required volume. 2. lift nozzle and dispense fuel. Simple. Did not work, and no clue why. Eventually other cars turn up and someone explains that there is a small blue box by a totally different pump where you put in cash or a card and enter the pump number, then you can full up, ignoring totally the instructions on the pump. We also (for some inexplicable reason) had to get receipts when returning the cars full of fuel, which we still don't understand. As you can imagine, that took a while, especially as neither my Barclays or my Lloyds cards would work. Thankfully one of us has a Santander card that worked.

We ended up at the airport around 6:30pm, knowing we had a long wait. What was worse is we realised (and some of the party knew) the flight was actually scheduled 22:55.

Then I spotted some issues - I checked the Gatwick departures board for the inbound flight and it had not left. In fact, it did not leave until 3 hours and 35 minutes later than scheduled. This meant we finally took off around 1:55!

The airline are supposed to offer food and refreshments at 2 hours of delay, but there are no representatives of the airlines in departures, and the shows were actually closing at midnight!

We landed around 4:16 in the UK, slightly less than 3 hours late arriving. We had to wait for the second taxi we had booked. I was not really home until around 6:30 after about 12 hours "travelling" and bugger all sleep.

To add insult to injury - even though we paid for extra leg room, we did not get it, and did not have any paperwork on us to prove it.

I am a tad tired.

Saturday, 9 August 2014


We went to Cyprus for 2 weeks. Nine of us. A villa near Coral Bay (South Cyprus). It was hot!

I am the odd one out because I really do not like hot countries - I kind of went because I was the one paying. To some extent James is the same in disliking the heat. So I spent most of the time in the villa, with air-conditioning and Internet. I got some work done, so did James. I also read some books. I re-read The Long Earth, and then read The Long War and I am just finishing The Long Mars now. Good books. So that does mean I did take some time to relax, just not in the heat and sun like the rest of them.

Cyprus is an odd place, not just because of the politics of the island, but is seems somewhat run down. They are clearly trying - lots of new road developments and new shopping centre in Paphos, and so on, but the overall impression, as Louise put it, is "shit hole" and I am inclined to agree. So if all you want to do is sit in the sun by the pool all day, it is fine.

There were problems, as I have blogged. Aircon in the bedrooms on a 4 hour timer which therefore does not last all night (easily defeated with a bit of card to jam the button), no air-con in the main villa until we paid €250 extra. But once sorted it was OK. The bed is really terrible - and even though I brought my own pillow, I will be very glad to get back to my own bed at home. The internet broke, and I got a tad cross with the rep and the ISP insisting that "the Internet is getting to the Villa" when the modem was clearly out of sync. Eventually the owner came in and moved the modem to another phone socket - which I would have done if not for the neatly cable tied wiring behind the TV which included the modem PSU cable. That fixed it, which makes me wonder if the owner knew he had an iffy phone socket. Next time I bring a few tools! We even had the kettle break, but actually Villa Plus were very quick to sort that after I emailed them. The whole thing with the toilets is gross. But overall, I managed to get work done, relax, read a book, and have something of a holiday. I even went in the pool a few times, just after sun up when nice and cool. The OtterBox iPhone case is great for underwater photos!

Internet on the island is a bit iffy. There seems to only be CYTA (perhaps they are a monopoly), and mostly it is ADSL2 stuff. The villa was around 4Mb/s downlink. However, the Internet was really congested, especially in the evenings. The latency off the island was at least 100ms. I set up a FireBrick, which surprisingly was able to do direct PPPoE via the modem/router and was even offered a (not routing) IPv6 prefix! IPsec back to reality worked well enough. Mobile data worked, but was even more congested, sometimes unusably slow even on a really good 3G signal. Yes, our O2/EU roaming SIMs worked (at 10p/MB) which worked out quite sensible and allowed us of maps and so on while on the road.

Every restaurant and bar has free wifi. This is increasingly common in general but especially in touristy places like this, so no surprise. Very unlike the UK there were almost no captive portals - we saw one that was simply to get a password, and not to capture email or force agreement to terms. In general the wifi was simply passworded, usually with the name of the restaurant with a few digits like 123 before or after the name. One was just the default CTYAxxxxx SSID of an off-the-shelf CYTA DSL modem and the incomprehensible sequence of letters and digits that is no doubt the default password. Many others actually had the name of the restaurant/bar as the SSID. However, pretty universally, even these were in front of a standard CYTA DSL modem/router which is on with username "cytauser" and no password. Where an additional AP existed it was typically an extra layer of NAT on 192.168.2.x or 3.x or similar, but still allowed one to get to the DSL modem/router. This allowed you to see, and even change, the password on the CYTAxxxx SSID! It also usefully allowed me to see the backhaul speed/type. The modems were usually ADSL2+ with a few mega. The fastest we saw was in Paphos at TGI Fridays which was actually VDSL at 25Mb/s!

Anyway, we did slightly more than just sit by the pool and go to restaurants. We also went to a go-karting place in Paphos. It was a cloudy day, thankfully, so a tad cooler (e.g. only around 30C). That was fun (I watched, I did not kart!). We went back on Friday but this time we came prepared. For a start I brought the 70-200 f/2.8 IS lens, and went up stairs to a better vantage point for photos. We also set up iPhones with headsets and TeamSpeak as a pit radio. This allowed me to advise James of lap times and so on, including things like "Contact between car 52 and 53 to be investigated after the race" when G and Mikey collided :-) Sadly teamspeak does not push-to-talk using the headset button, which would have been really useful. James also found a video app with telemetry recording, but failed to run it!

Some of the group took Bobby to the zoo. Do not be fooled by the elephant symbol on the signs, and even pictures of elephants on the posters and adverts - they don't have one! But they had fun. It was way too hot for me to go.

Overall I think most of them had a good time.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

ICO refuse to do their job, still

I have sent recordings of calls that are in breach of section 19 of the PECR. They are automated calls (several different types) where the caller has given no permission to make such calls. They are war dialling numbers.

I requested the ICO exercise their enforcement function, as per section 32.

The ICO refuse to. They have come up with lots of excuses including :-

  • Unable to play the recording, though they have now managed to.
  • Having no powers to trace calls, which is a lie - they have loads of powers from PECR in the DPA which allows then to get information for this very purpose. They did not reply when I pointed that out.
  • They don't investigate individual complaints (well, why not, that is their job!)
  • I must jump through hoops to fill in their on-line reporting form (I wonder if I can script that).
The latest stupidity follows from the "not investigating individual complaints". I pointed out that I have sent more than one, indeed, I am sending dozens of complaints each day, with full call details and a call recording, so this is no longer an "individual complaint" but a series of complaints.

Their response is that each report I make is an "individual complaint" and so won't be investigated!

I have sent a recording of two calls in one email now, saying this is not about an individual incident but two calls, so will they now investigate it. I bet they won't

They are insistent that I am not allowed to forward the calls to their switchboard. I pointed out that surely they would not take any action over that though - or do their staff get special treatment for junk calls? Also asked how they would know it was me forwarding the calls (especially if they have no powers to trace a call)? Not had a reply on that one yet.

Next step? I assume it is writing to my MP.

I am wondering about scripting their on-line form though. How hard can it be I wonder. I wonder if I can bill the ICO for that - after all section 30 lets me charge damages to any party in breach of the regs, and surely not doing your job as defined by the regs is acting in breach of the regs?

Update: I have written to my MP.

Update: On looking, the form on their web site is indeed just a "survey" for "reporting a concern". I cannot find where one formally requests that they exercise their enforcement action as per section 32, so I have asked where the form for that is located or what official means they wish me to use if not email. We'll see.

Friday, 1 August 2014

The use of complaining to BT plc?

Alex sent a long and detailed email explaining the problems with a specific (expensive) Ethernet service order to BT and got this in response:

On 01/08/2014 14:24, wrote: 
Your message was deleted without being read on 01 August 2014 13:24:40 UTC.

Not only have they ignored and deleted his email, their mail system was good enough to tell is that is what they did.

Thanks for that BT!

Update: Our new BT account manager (Debby, who replaced Martin), and who was copied on reply to that email notice, may be on the ball. Just got: You'll have a response from Openreach in the next 30 minutes addressing the issues raised in your emails and plan to resolve, I'm keeping in the loop and will assist further where I can.