Saturday, 30 January 2016

Terabyte services launch

We have to update all of the web pages yet, but I have linked in the new ordering system and a page about the new terabyte services today so customers can order.

The ordering system has had a month of development and testing, but the real proof is letting it loose on real customers.

The service itself does seem to work, and the operations team at A&A are monitoring carefully - we have plans to upgrade the core network and have already started with additional routers. Will be setting up our 40Gb/s ring soon and new LNS links over the next few months to increase capacity.

Exciting times. It is nice to see how we have grown from dialup services which managed 64k on ISDN lines back in the last millennium to services where people bond multiple 80Mb/s circuits and have terabytes of download allowance. I have to wonder where the next 18 years will take us.

Friday, 29 January 2016

BT Engineer appointments

Obviously I had a bit of a rant yesterday, so maybe a chance to be a bit clearer on the real issue here...

Clearly mistakes can happen, appointments can be missed, work can be done wrongly or not completed, shit happens. It always seems to happen too much, but that is largely because we only "see" the problems.

The big issue here is how BT deal with such things.

The basic process is to arrange another appointment to rectify the problem or complete the work - and this seems to be done as a "normal" appointment. There is no concept of this being a screw up or having any urgency.

Now, we know BT can do work quickly - orders can be expedited (for a fee), and fault work can be done on a 24 hour a day working basis and 4 or 7 hour fix targets, if you have paid for the right service or the right "care level".

So it is possible to get another engineer out now, even if it is 8pm, and even if he is on overtime, to finish the job that should have been done by 6pm. It is possible to send someone on Saturday or even Sunday to finish.

It is certainly possible to make the failed job the first job for the engineer the next morning. That would not even add any cost but it would make a massive difference to end user perception.

But right now there seems to be no concept of a "priority" appointment for where BT have screwed up! Of course, where the CP has screwed up and not BT, BT could sell priority appointments for a fee as well.

If this does add cost that simply adds an incentive within the business to avoid the errors in the first place, and that is important. Without it business processes can simply become lax. Indeed, in some cases the problems mean more paid for work (I am thinking failed SFI visits here).

So, that is what I think needs to change.

P.S. why is a missed appointment charge about £80 where an engineer can simply go on to next job wasting maybe 10 minutes, but when an engineer missed an appointment wasting the end user a half day, BT pay out around £30? Is a BT engineer's time really that much more valuable than the end user's?

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Infinity, unless it is for a competitor

We have a new service, our Terabyte VDSL products that we are launching this weekend...

The way it works is using VDSL from the local street cabinet. The cabinet has (usually) fibre back the the exchange, and that provide a means to allow high speed internet (capped at 80Mb/s down and 20Mb/s up) using a VDSL modem.

The real trick is that we are using a different back-haul provider. It is still BT plc owning the copper, and the cabinet and the fibre back to the exchange, but from there it is someone else. In this case TT Business.

This has allowed us to tackle one of the most expensive bits - the cost of the back-haul. In BT it is ludicrously expensive compared to transit (which is getting data all over the world). It is not like TT are free but their pricing allows us to offer these terabyte services at fixed cost.

We really hope this is a way forward and BT will offer the same some time, and we have a more even choice, but for now, this is a new product.

So, we have some early adopters, thank you all. Most are going swimmingly, and we expect to open up ordering to all this weekend.

But I have one early adopter, an friend of mind, who is also doing decorating in the house. A local tradesman with a family, and ideal for this new service.

All I can say is that I am hugely embarrassed by the whole fiasco.

I am so thankful this is done as a new line and he is not without Internet for his family, but it is a mess.

Our friends, BT plc trading as Openreach, are making a total balls up of the whole thing!

Their one job, last Friday, was a simple new phone line with FTTC (the VDSL service to the cabinet). They turned up and fitted a socket and left a modem, but did not finish the job as such, hmmm. No clear idea why.

They turned up unannounced 9am on Sunday to finish, but even though the BT VDSL modem did not show as working, they left.

Then we have Tuesday - appointment - not bothered!

Then we have Thursday - appointment - cock up - not bothered!

No sense of urgency whatsoever - this a cocked up install from a week ago, and they do not make first job of the day, or have any priority, just a "maybe" they will turn up and make it work. Next attempt is tomorrow.

BT need a kick up the arse, sorry. The definitely need a "BT screwed up" flag on jobs (would be set lots of times) to make jobs priority.

At present, once they screw up, that is it - no incentive to ever actually fix the problem - compensation (if any) fixed as "a screw up" so no reason to fix it ahead of other jobs. Tough!

Maybe the title here is not fair - maybe they would screw up if the end user contracted with BT plc instead of a competitor - who knows. Suffice to say I do not think I have ever seen this level of cock up on a BT FTTC rather than a TT FTTC? Perhaps that is just me. Seems odd to me. But at the end of the day, what do the people on the ground has as any incentive to actually fix this?

Update: Appointed for Friday - but then appointment moved to Monday. Guys at TT were on the ball and chased Openreach and managed to get the job done Friday afternoon, though the engineer did not read the notes still. Well done TT.

Rejected Petition

"Dear Adrian Kennard,

We rejected the petition you created – “Will Govnt allow companies to offer communications services which can't be read?”.

It’s not clear what the petition is asking the UK Government or Parliament to do.
We cannot accept your petition as it does not include a clear request for action from the UK Government or Parliament. You may prefer to contact the Home Office directly to ask your question on this matter."

FFS I was asking the government to ANSWER A SIMPLE QUESTION.

That is what I wanted them to DO!!!

The fact they will not answer this question, and neither will the Home Office, is actually the problem - they keep skirting around the point and not answering it.

Trying again...

sponsor

My petition:

Will Govnt allow companies to offer communications services which can't be read?

It was not clear what I am asking the government to do last time?!

I would like the government to ANSWER A SIMPLE QUESTION!

That is what I would like it to do...

The above question - please answer it.

It is possible to send secret/private communications using nothing more than pen and paper and dice which cannot be read by anyone else, not even GCHQ or NSA. So terrorists and criminals can communicate anyway. But the Investigatory Powers Bill asks companies to remove any "protection" someone has applied. This can only serve to invade privacy of the rest of us! So the question is whether the government wish to allow iMessage, WhatsApp, Signal, https, etc, with no intercept, or not? Yes/No?

P.S. If this does not work I'll petition for a system like the petition system to have questions asked from the public at PM question time.

P.P.S. I have sponsor / sign "Provide a means for members of the public to present questions for PM Questions?"

Monday, 25 January 2016

Applying for credit these days...

The arse covering is strong with this one.

To be clear, I am not in a position that I have to apply for credit - I do have a mortgage, but largely because I have such a stunningly good rate on that it is is almost silly to repay it. I am, finally, at this stage in my life, reasonably well off. I too am surprised at this, and I know it could change any day - the industry I am in is very variable, and running a business is always a risk. I have had a lot of very much not well off years too and so am reaping some of the rewards of that at last.

But, my daughter wants a loan - and I am trying to make them all stand on their own feet and not just scrounge off me all the time. Sadly she is just starting with a job and rented house, and so she is not good on the whole credit rating, so needs a guarantor. It is not Wonga, thank arbitrary deity, but not a brilliant rate, but she will learn.

Being guarantor, I am happy to do, but it means I end up going through the whole fiasco of credit checking as if I was getting the loan!

It is a fiasco and arse covering exercise and not really a solution. OK, maybe some people are stupid enough to call up and give actual details and be turned down, but even the thickest of people will soon realise that you can just make shit up.

At the end of the day there are two types of information - things they can verify, and things they cannot. Now, having had the conversation, they can verify exactly what I pay on my mortgage each month - so WTF ask me that! They can also make good guesses at food, council tax, TV licence, and so on. What they do not seem to actually know, and what really matters, is income. I was honest as I had no reason at all not to be, and having stated my income they could have cut the whole process short on the basis that anyone earning that much is not going to have any problem with the loan repayments.

But no, they insist you cover every detail, including that apparently I have a mobile phone account with someone that has a £3 balance. I suspect it is a credit balance on some pay as you go type thing from years ago, but that needs to be explained!

The real stumbling block here was mortgage payments. I have a base rate plus fixed offset mortgage. So guessing payments over next 5 years, which is what they wanted, depends entirely on the Bank of England base rate changes over next 5 years.

I am sorry, but I do not have a crystal ball - I cannot predict that. It is not reasonable, or helpful, to ask me that!

They moved on to the "what would you be happy with", well, (a) I would be happy if it stayed as now, and (b) it does not matter if I am happy, if the rate goes up I pay more - I have a contract. As I explained, if the rate was not reasonable I'd start clearing it damn quick.

I ended up along the lines of "what is the balance left each month - I'd be 'happy' with mortgage rising to consume all of that"... It is a nonsense question to ask, and clearly does not actually represent any sort of "responsible lending"...

Being a responsible lender should not be covered by an arse covering script like this, and when anyone that can afford to pay has to go through this, they should have some simple short cuts. I should have billed my hourly rate for this as it was well over an hour.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Will UK government allow companies to offer communications services which can't be read?

Latest attempt at a petition [also first attempt at a video blog post].



Please sign here.

Will Govnt allow companies to offer communications services which can't be read?

The Home Office answered my last petition with a contradiction, so this is a simple yes/no question.

Encryption means people can communicate privately, so their communication is impossible to read. This means terrorists and criminals can also have privacy.

Will the government allow this?

It is possible to send secret/private communications using nothing more than pen and paper and dice which cannot be read by anyone else, not even GCHQ or NSA. So terrorists and criminals can communicate anyway.

But the Investigatory Powers Bill asks companies to remove any "protection" someone has applied. This can only serve to invade privacy of the rest of us!

So the question is whether the government wish to allow iMessage, WhatsApp, Signal, https, etc, with no intercept, or not?

Yes/No?

Please sign here.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Counting the terabytes

I have to admit, when I was a kid I am not sure I even knew a terabyte actually existed. If I did, it was a mythical beast.

We are finally launching our terabyte (or more) per month download usage tariffs!

More here.

This means that, for the first time, the download usage limit is measured in terabytes. A terabyte is 1,000,000,000,000 bytes. That is enough to actually average 3Mb/s on a broadband line and not blow the monthly limit!

Just imagine what that would be in floppy disks!

Indeed, on the 1TB service, the impact of over usage is to be capped to 3Mb/s until next month.

The current state of play is (apart from the trial mailing list) a prototype ordering system which I have finally had one customer try out for real and mostly work.

I am happy to do one by one test orders with customers (ask on irc). There is a free dragon up for grabs!

It is based on CHAOS2, the new ordering system API, and uses javascript to feed that. I am coding it (the back end), and it is one of those somewhat tedious jobs - the code is rather monolithic and has to embody business processes (not just A&A, but BT and TT) so as to offer the right packages in the right way at the right prices. This is very annoying code!

My plan is this should be live, even if not all options available, but end of Jan, and specifically must allow ordering of new Home::1 Terabyte, SoHo::1 (2)Terabyte and Office::1 (10)Terabyte as well as regrades. I think we are pretty close to that working as planned, and will be doing more testing this week.

We have dozens of people signed up using the trial mailing list though, so thank you all for that. We'll be making a proper "launch" soon, and I feel it is a good product. None of this "unlimited" crap, but none the less a limit that is really high.

At the end of the day, a terabyte is a heck of a lot of porn :-)

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Latest nonsense from ASA in collusion with OFCOM!

The latest from the Advertising Standards Authority is another fun bit of stupidity.

It is well intentioned but lacks understanding of the market.

We have seen a lot before including a requirement to only piss off 90% of people confused by the term "up to" instead of 100% (by quoting 90th percentile figures), and hence lying to 10% of people who get more than the quoted "up to" figure.

We have also seen the idea of describing something that is absolutely and categorically a COPPER coax cable as "Fibre optic".

But the latest tackles the issue with "line rental"

So, let's explain. Many broadband services are an '"extra" on top of a "phone line", which means you have to pay someone for the phone line rental as well as someone for the broadband service.

For a start, this is not always the case, but it is often the case. What makes adverts annoying is that some broadband offers only work when you buy the "line rental" from the same company.

So you see the likes of "free broadband for 6 months" with "when you spend £zillions a month on line rental with us". OK, to be fair £17 or £18 is pretty typical for the line rental there.

You can understand the problem, and I sympathise. I would say that any offer that ***REQUIRES*** line rental from the same provider as part of the offered package should include that in the headline price to be clear.

The problem is that a lot of ISPs (hundreds) sell broadband separately or independently to any "line rental". Many do not even do "phone lines" at all, only the broadband side. Such people have no tie in that you have to get their (expensive) line rental as part of the price, and so for them, even attempting to quote an "All-inclusive up-front and monthly costs; no more separating out line rental" makes no sense.

The good news is ASA seem to actually have no power, all they actually do is refer people to trading standards, but we assume trading standards do listen to some of their crap - who knows. The bad news is that OFCOM are involved and they do have some powers. We'll see what the actual rules are.

For A&A is it tricky - we do offer (but generally do not required) "line rental" but we don't sell a phone service on it, we sell as a "copper pair to support broadband". So we may have to sell our Home::1 package not as £25/month but as "£35/month* including line rental of £10/month which may be considerably higher from other providers" or something whacky like that!?!?

What is needed is simple - adverts to be *CLEAR* on what they mean. If they require line rental from same provider, say so and say total. If not, say so. Avoid the stupid small print!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Forget the technology

I am not sure I dumbed it down enough on the last post, so here goes.

The government have said they are not requiring "weakening the security of internet services", good.

The security of internet services is such that it is possible for two people to communicate where it is impossible (in any practical sense) for a third party to see that communication (without the one of the people telling them).

This is privacy, and it is important, as it saves us from criminals where that third party is a criminal.

But, the government have said they want "access the content of communications of terrorists and criminals".

But as we said, the security of internet services now can (and often does) mean it is impossible for a third party (even if that third party is the police) to access the content of communications.

There is a way to make it possible, obviously, and that is called "weakening the security of the internet".

Do you see the contradiction now?

The exact technicalities do not change that fundamental contradiction.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Mathematics does not bend to the law

My petition got to over 10,000 signatures and so we have a response from the government.

As expected, the response basically contradicts itself. I am tempted to do another petition calling for the government to admit it does not understand what encryption means.

Encryption is important

The first part is good. It says "This Government recognises the importance of encryption, which helps keep people's personal data and intellectual property safe from theft by cyber means. It is fundamental to our everyday use of the internet..." it goes on to explain how important it is.

This is good - well done HMG, you understand it is important!

Indeed, the threat by "cyber means" is real, we see it every day in phishing emails and hacking attempts. It is way more of a threat than terrorists.

CPs already required to remove encryption

There is a bit that makes less sense: "There are already requirements in law for Communication Service Providers in certain circumstances to remove encryption that they have themselves applied from intercepted communications."

Now, this does at least finally confirm that when they say "protection" in the new bill, they are referring to "encryption".

But it makes no sense - why would you have an intercepted communication that is encrypted - surely you ask the CP to intercept at a point where it is not encrypted. If they are a party to the encryption (as is the case for GSM mobile phones which are encrypted on the air) then why not simply have the CP do the intercept at their end where not encrypted (as is the case in the normal telephone network).

So it is not clear what the use case for this legislation is?

The issue here is what happens when the CP is not a party to the encryption, but is somehow deemed to have "applied" it? This is where it gets more complex, and silly. For a start, any CP that has "applied" encryption which is in fact "end to end" can simply make the party that does the software for the encryption (the "app" on the phone) a separate legal entity that is not a CP, and bingo, that clause in the the law is simply meaningless. If the law passes and CPs get asked to remove end to end encryption that is a very simple side step to fix the issue.

There could, perhaps, be a scenario where there is an intercept at a broadband provider which captures https traffic, and the web site provider is somehow considered to be a communications provider and asked to remove the encryption. Again, better to intercept at the web site where the data is unencrypted, but in this scenario could the web site operator remove it? Well, no, encryption has moved on in the battle against criminals to make that impossible. The treat that a criminal could have intercepts and later get access to the keys was a real concern and systems have been designed to avoid that.

So the issue here is whether the requirement to remove protection when asked means that CPs have to take steps now so that later they will be able to comply? Such steps are exactly what the government has stated they do not intend "the Government does not require the provision of a back-door key or support arbitrarily weakening the security of internet services".

So if people are not expected to weaken security of internet services, they are not required to make it so they can later remove encryption if asked?

No safe place for people to communicate

The bit that is really contradictory is "There shouldn’t be a guaranteed safe space for terrorists, criminals and paedophiles to operate beyond the reach of law."

They want it so that a warrant can be issued to "access the content of communications of terrorists and criminals in order to resolve police investigations and prevent criminal acts". Well, that would only be possible if you banned encryption or "weakening the security of internet services". A contradiction!

Remember that encryption is possible with pen and paper!

Explain it as you would, to a child...

To keep us safe from criminals we need encrypted communications. If you have encrypted communications which is not weakened in some way then that means Alice can communication with Bob without Charlie being able to see that communications.

For this to work it needs to be MATHEMATICALLY IMPOSSIBLE (within any reasonable timescale) to get access to the communications as a third party.

This means that it does not matter that Charlie is a policeman with a warrant, and it does not matter how carefully controlled and restricted and monitored the issue of warrants is, it still remains MATHEMATICALLY IMPOSSIBLE for Charlie to get access to that communications.

Anything short of being MATHEMATICALLY IMPOSSIBLE is unacceptably weakened encryption and will not keep people safe. The government have stated they do not intend that. It would mean there was a vulnerability to criminals accessing the communications as well.

It also does not matter if Alice or Bob happen to be criminals or terrorists. Mathematics does not have special ways of working when a criminal is the one operating the calculator or computer.

They are clearly confused

The fact that the government claim to support encryption but still think that they can get access to communications (with a warrant) means they basically do not understand what encryption is. They should admit that and remove the requirement to "remove encryption" and perhaps even make it law that nobody should every be required to remove encryption.

P.S. Just to be clear

Some people think I have misunderstood their response. They are very clear that "The Government is clear we need to find a way to work with industry as technology develops to ensure that, with clear oversight and a robust legal framework, the police and intelligence agencies can, subject to a warrant which can only be issued using a strict authorisation process where it is necessary and proportionate, access the content of communications of terrorists and criminals in order to resolve police investigations and prevent criminal acts."

This can only work if :-

(a) The terrorists choose not to use encryption in which case there is no real work involved.

(b) The use of such encryption is outlawed and that legislation is somehow effective and stops the terrorists using encryption even covertly. They say they are not intending that, and it would be stupid anyway.

(c) All encryption is weakened such that is does not provide the parties to the communication with absolute certainty that no third party can get access. If that happens it is not acceptable for privacy and security as such a third party could just as easily be a criminal than the police. Again they say they are not intending to do that.

I cannot see any other options - do say if I missed one, and as (b) and (c) are clearly stated as something the government do not intend, the only option is (a) terrorists choose not to use encryption. Well, if that is the case, none of this legislation is needed.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Busy week

I am working on CHAOS2, the new API for A&A broadband and other ordering, and all is going well.

We have a working javascript front end for testing, and a working test/dev control and accounts system, and we really hope this week we can release some working ordering to our trialists for Terabyte services. We also want to get a generic test "on-boarding" system in place soon as well so dealers and customers can play with the system safely.

I am also talking at The Real Time Club tomorrow, and then running a FireBrick training course.

All in all a busy week.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

How many grammes long is your parcel?

Well, we have the Royal Mail Shipping API working, and working well.

We finally have the "Tracked 24" and "Tracked 48" services, which are volume related, aggregate prices, and quite useful services from Royal Mail.

We had based 1st and 2nd class, recorded, and normal pre-1pm Special delivery already. One wonders why anyone uses a franking machine as this is the same price or cheaper, but no machine rental, no ink, and RM even provide the labels.

Obviously, we're happy to provide consultancy to anyone that wants to integrate this in to their systems for a small(ish) fee :-)

The API is confusing - we found they list "service enhancements" for tracked signed, and safe place. But the Tracked services must not, in fact, have any of these set but instead have separate fields for such things. Indeed, we see no cases that do use those service enhancement codes. So annoying.

We have had great fun integrating with our systems to pick up the tracking details.

The Multiple Tracking Summary request is useless as it seems some types of delivery cause an error that means no response on any of the (up to 5) tracked items being queried. So we have to request one at a time. There is also a rate limiting (not just for out usage though) so we have to keep trying.

However, we have managed to create a polled tracking system to update, and if possible get "Proof of delivery" data. The API defines the signature image even.

However, some late addition to the API is that we get the size of the signature image in pixels, but not the image itself? Why? Data Protection. But the web tracking shows it. Indeed, one can grab the image from https://www.royalmail.com/track-your-item/proof-of-delivery-image/XXXXXXXXXXXGB with no session or cookies or anything, so we do, once we know there is a POD signature to get. How pointless to remove from the API FFS.

The most annoying and unexpected issue is international parcels. We have, this week, had cause to send a couple of small items to EU addresses. Previously we printed a stamp, that was it. Within EU no customs crap to sort.

But the API wants a load of crap, or so it seems: descriptions, country of manufacture, value, all sorts. The whole customs declaration crap. And what is worse, when we asked for an example, they sent one showing we need length, height and width of parcel (as well as weight).

But go for really special, and symptomatic of the support, the code they sent could not have been tested, they had the length of the parcel measured in grammes, whilst width and height were in centimetres.

Yes... That is right...

Royal Mail want us to say how many grammes long our parcel is!

CHAOS2

What is the next milestone on terabyte services?

Basically, we are now taking enquiries to the trials email address, and sending orders in for new installs and take overs. It is a trial simply because we don't have all the processes sorted 100% and there is more staff training and so on, but so far looks good.

So yes, don't hassle sales staff directly, use the trial email address (on that page) and we'll be in touch.

But CHAOS2 is going well.

The spec is being refined as we work on it. We have a development platform but not yet an "on-boarding" platform for customer/dealer usage. The issue is Data Protection. We can't simply have a copy of clueless on there as it only needs to be slightly our of date to have old passwords that on the live system have been changed, and so allow some access to personal data without the right credentials. It is a nightmare.

The on-boarding will be limited dummy data and dummy accounts and so on, and cleared out regularly.

Even so, progress is being made, and the system is coming together.

The design seems to work - a simple request logic, and a response that provides details of what is needed to go further. It works well to allow a generic javascript front end, but also provides a degree of self documenting interface for machine to machine logic.

There are a lot of scenarios though, and the idea is that this one system will cover all broadband ordering, replacing home::1, office::1, and old units ordering as well as ceasing, all in one system.

I think I will push for getting an on-boarding platform sooner rather than later so people can play with it and give feedback, to be honest. The more feedback we get the better we can make it!

I am trying to work out whether I should launch with limited functions for the sake of expediency, or if doing that means the rest never gets finished. Tricky. Certainly we expect to overlap with the old ordering system for a bit to be sure we have it all sorted.

As ever, one of the big issues in any system design is exception handling. We are now expecting to pin down a BT "Gold" address on orders and so need to have sales staff handle cases of porta-cabins in fields and stuff like that. We do quite a few of that sort of thing for some construction companies. Possible, but hard work and even harder to forecast broadband availability before a line is installed.

Either way, end of Jan for normal ordering of Terabyte services is my ultimate target and I hope to actually get something live well before that.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Live on the ocean

We face two big problems now - population growth and global warming.

Both are solved by one thing!

If we find a way to create cities on the ocean - it does not matter if floating or on a platform - we solve both issues - we have the space for population growth and we have the space for when the sea levels rise.

Two thirds of the space we have is ocean!

Why the hell do we even bother with trying to reverse climate change at all - yes, we may well be responsible for climate change, but we are "a drop in the ocean" compared to what nature can and will do in the next 100 years. So forget fixing this cause of problems and start on handling the result of the problem instead - two birds with one stone.

Simples.

P.S. Please do take this as just a wild rant to start a bit of debate - such issues need a lot more serious discussion. P.P.S. I was drunk when I posted it :-)

Friday, 8 January 2016

Next milestone

It has been a busy day, but the Terabyte services have another milestone...

(see http://aa.net.uk/news-2016-terabyte.html for details)

We now have the XML ordering in to the carrier for the FTTC and MPF services. This is quite a major step, and means sales staff can manually handle orders using clueless. But please do not hassle them yet.

We have put through several orders today, both migrating the PSTN and a new install. All looking good. This step allows us to fine tune the processed, and ensure our order tracking systems are working as planned.

The interface is SOAP XML, but it is so far from with Royal Mail or BT that it is a breath of fresh air. They actually tell you want fields they did not like in the error messages. The authentication is simple. They do not even care for order of fields. Only hit one bug in the spec, which is not bad. The staff are helpful and were able to identify issues promptly and provide example XML to check my understanding. Well done Katherine at Talk Talk Business (the wholesale back-haul we are using for this).

The next step is customer ordering system. This is where I am going to start from scratch. We started making a system called CHAOS, and it sort of works but never finished - largely as way too complex and adventurous.

The new system, CHAOS2, will be simpler - stateless requests with a flat list of attributes sent to the server, and a structured response, including a generic system to request additional data and offer choices with pricing information. This will then have a javascript based web front end to look pretty.

The format for data will be pretty flexible - I plan to allow query string form fields, posted form fields, posted XML, posted JSON, and even SOAP.

The response will depend on request and options passed and could be JSON or XML or SOAP.

The plan is a single system providing availability checking and ordering, but also direct access to control pages to check and adjust settings on services as well as check usage and CDRs.

We are setting up a development environment now, and even plan to create an "on-boarding" test platform for customer/dealer use as well.

Having worked on several systems recently it is worth considering CHAOS2 from the user's perspective and making it as easy to use as we can.

The next milestone will be a working CHAOS2 back end for ordering this new service. Then we have to do the user interface / web page that uses it.

Hopefully next week we can start taking some initial orders using the new system. Thank you all for your patience.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Terabyte service milestones

Just to keep people up to date on this - the new A&A terabyte services, which start with Home::1 terabyte at £60/month including the copper pair for 80/20 capped FTTC.

The first milestone was many months ago when I first mentioned this, and was sorting the contract and pricing with Talk Talk wholesale to be able to launch the new service. Sadly the paperwork took forever.

The second milestone was just before Christmas when we were able to place orders for this (manually) on two test staff lines.

Yesterday we got to our third milestone, which is two lines working! One was a new install of a copper pair and FTTC, which worked (i.e. all happened at once). The other was a take over of an existing phone line and install of FTTC.

The takeover is cheaper, but it seems that there is a slight snag. BT pulled the plug at around 1am, and it tool until 6pm for the new service to be working.

But no, we are not ordering lines for customers just yet - we have a couple of bits to do over the next few days to sort our back-end ordering systems. These will be tested on some more internal lines. Then we can start taking some early adopter orders. I expect this to be Monday.

However, the big job is a totally new front end ordering system for customers, and this will allow people to order new lines, and re-grade existing services. This will take a few days to get working, and we are hoping to actually have our new XML ordering system with an on-boarding platform and so on as part of this. So watch this space.

P.S. the actual service i described http://aa.net.uk/news-2016-terabyte.html

Update: This is quite an old post - we now have Terabyte services using ADSL or VDSL, and the copper pair / phone line can be added or use existing line as normal now.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Talk Talk (wholesale) once again do not understand what they sell

They sell us broadband, not a copper pair.

They sell a service with a demarcation point of a master socket. That means they are responsible for everything that side of the demarcation point.

Sometimes there will be a fault in some part of what they sell us that means the broadband service is not working. They may have to pay someone to fix that fault.

Yet again, like BT, they seem to think that just because they have to pay a subcontractor to fix some aspect of the service they are providing, then they can expect us to reimburse them for that subcontractor's charges.

They even sent some e-learning Q&A that tries to ram this home, down right condescending and offensive if you ask me.

I sent them some new Q&A to try and explain :-

Q1. The fault turned out to be in the BRAS. Talk Talk had to engage a subcontractor to replace a card in the BRAS. Is this chargeable.

A. No - because the work was Talk Talk's side of the demarcation point for the broadband service they provide, it is their responsibility to fix the service when it breaks at their cost.

Q2. The fault turned out to be in the DSLAM. Talk Talk had to engage a subcontractor to replace a card in the DSLAM. Is this chargeable.

A. No - because the work was Talk Talk's side of the demarcation point for the broadband service they provide, it is their responsibility to fix the service when it breaks at their cost.

Q3. The fault turned out to be in the exchange jumpering to the DSLAM. Talk Talk had to engage a subcontractor to replace the faulty exchange jumpering. Is this chargeable.

A. No - because the work was Talk Talk's side of the demarcation point for the broadband service they provide, it is their responsibility to fix the service when it breaks at their cost.

Q4. The fault turned out to be in the copper pair between the exchange and end-user premises, it also affected telephone service (i.e. did not meet SIN349). Talk Talk had to engage a subcontractor to fix the copper pair. Is this chargeable.

A. No - because the work was Talk Talk's side of the demarcation point for the broadband service they provide, it is their responsibility to fix the service when it breaks at their cost.
Q5. The fault turned out to be in the copper pair between the exchange and end-user premises, but it did not affect telephone service (i.e. did meet SIN349). Talk Talk had to engage a subcontractor to fix the copper pair. Is this chargeable.

A. No - because the work was Talk Talk's side of the demarcation point for the broadband service they provide, it is their responsibility to fix the service when it breaks at their cost.

Q6. The fault turned out to be in the end-user router/modem. It seems that a replacement router/modem had not been tried. Talk Talk had to engage a subcontractor to investigate. Is this chargeable.

A. Yes - because the work was not on Talk Talk's side of the demarcation point for the broadband service they provide. It shows that the ISP did not carry our the agreed steps to eliminate the end-user router/modem, so they have to pay, as a penalty, the cost of engaging the subcontractor.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Annoyed with @IKEAUK today

I have been told I am mad to go to IKEA any weekend. I have been told I was mad to go to IKEA, full, stop. But Sandra is not well and needed my help so I agreed to go with her to IKEA.

I was not keen as last time we went to IKEA was to Wembley and the whole trip was 5 hours due to some horrid traffic and weather.

This time we went to Southampton. Slightly longer forecast journey time of a little over an hour, but it did not allow for the second hour taken getting from 0.9 miles to 0 miles which was essentially the queue to get in to car parks in West Quay.

Finally in to the car park we could go to level 0 or higher levels, and there were numbers of spaces. I do not recall the exact numbers but both in the 20's I think. I do recall it was a close choice, and so we went in to level 0.

We immediately realise there were no spaces. Well, actually, there was one that was half blocked by a van, two spaces for car chargers, and two that were coned off for no apparent reason. Even the disabled and pushchair spaces were occupied. We went around and around for 10 minutes or so after a very long journey.

Eventually, while Sandra waited for someone that was waiting for someone that was leaving, I walked around and found that the coned spaces were no longer coned off - yay! Normal clear parking spaces, and she came around and was going to drive in to the one remaining space.

I was met with some abuse by someone that was expecting a van to park, advising that this space was for a van. That there was nowhere else for a van to park(?), and we had to move on. Now, obviously I was arguing, no way if I was driving would I not have simply parked in the un-marked, un-restricted parking space for which I had been waiting over 10 minutes. Sadly, Sandra drove off. It seems she thought clamping cars was still legal. We found a space a few minutes later, but the whole trip was marred by the experience.

I called IKEA, and still have not had a proper explanation of why these unmarked spaces are reserved for vans.

I'd like an official answer - if these are reserved spaces, why are they not marked as such?

If we had parked, what would have happened? I am told we would be asked to move, so what if we had said no, or rather "yes, when we have finished shopping"? Clamping is not legal. Parking in marked bays is within the terms and conditions. I cannot see that legally there could have been any recourse at all.

What makes that van, AU64 NYS, special? Why do they have a right to park before me and my wife exactly? IKEA, I await your reply. I appreciate "car size" is not a protected discriminatory factor, but I do feel I have a right to an answer on this.

I also want to know why your signs lie about the number of spaces available.

P.S. Round trip was 5 hours and 7 minutes. Will be better when IKEA Reading open (if we ever shop there?) - let's hope that is under 3 hours.

Christmas list

OK, I have explained my thoughts on Christmas and Birthday presents, so no need to be any specific date, but I though I would mention one thing I would like.

A working teletype.

It is a real nostalgia thing...

We had one at school. This is like, when I was 14 or something. That is a while ago...

It was 110 Baud current loop and I could type at just the right speed to jam it up. It had a real carriage return and line feed, and even bell!

I'd set up a Pi to connect it to irc or some such and set up in our meeting room. I'd need paper rolls, print ribbon and paper tape, obviously.

The picture looks right, just I do not recall the four clear button things. That may be my memory as every googled image I can find has them. It definitely had a paper tape punch and reader, so must have had controls of when to punch and when to read, and so on. We even managed to send paper tape that printed large lettering sideways on the tape as banners.

They are getting rare. So if ever someone feels like finding something I have not got and not been able to find - that is it... They must have made thousands, and I bet almost every one was scrapped.