2022-07-28

Research on misdialled numbers

I am considering if there is research on this, and even if I should do such research.

This is slightly relevant to things like W3W. I don't think they did any research of mis spoken, mis remembered, mis heard, and mis typed, random words, to be fair. Words work well in context and are shit when random from a huge dictionary (especially when beyond most people's vocabulary and available in multiple languages). Heck, even in "context" the classic game of "Chinese whispers" shows how shit this is.

But conveying numbers is a totally separate issue - a much smaller space to play with, except people "group" numbers internally. The whole concept of phone numbers in UK works well with area code (a familiar number sequence) and then number. People cope well with local numbers. They cope well with numbers in neighbouring area codes.

It has been long known that people can "transpose" digits, and this is why some check digit systems (like used on credit card numbers) specifically target digit transposition.

But people can also group sequences of digits in various ways. The ways they are presented with spaces matter. They create patterns. People are good with patterns.

I am well aware of two distinct misdials, and they are quite different.

One is seeing 0XXXX 400 000 and dialling 0XXXX 400 400. This happens a *lot*. We changed to not even publish 0XXXX 400 000 so as to avoid this.

One is seeing 0XXX 0 112 112 and dialling 0XXX 112 112 0.

This latter one is weird, in my view. I don't grasp why it happens, but it happens around 4 or 5 times a month. People misdial Screwfix's number and get me!

This is really not something I expected, which is why I wonder if numbers being mis handled is a topic for research.

We know W3W is crap, but can research make normal grid references and phone numbers better, if we understand how people get them wrong?

2022-07-19

How did the aircon cope?

Well, it coped quite well.

The red line is the temperature at my desk, which I was aiming for 22C. In practice the floor ends up around 20C.

The interesting bit is the blip around 13:00 where it got colder. It seems that the aircon is not doing what I expect. In order to control the temperature at my desk rather than at the wall controller or the air inlet in the loft, I tell the aircon a target temperature. When too cold I tell it to to cool to 5C higher than the wall controller. When too hot I tell it to cool to 5C lower than the wall controller. This works to turn the compressor off or on. But as the inlet (pink line) got hotter we got to a point where telling it to cool to 5C higher was not turning the compressor off. This means that it is clearly using the inlet as a reference, or possibly inlet and controller average. The inlet is interesting as (being ducted) the air leaves my room, via some ducting in to the aircon in the loft, and the loft temperature was up to 40C, meaning the inlet temp sensor was way hotter than the air actually leaving my office.

This is rather annoying as there is an explicit field setting to tell it what to use as a reference and that is set to the wall mounted controller. The fix was to change my code to allow me to expect the reference to be the inlet temperature or the controller or average of the two. As you can see, that fixed it.

However, from around 14:30 it was not going below 22C. The thicker line is my code making the fan speed higher in an effort to get it to go down to 22C. The compressor was on and the coolant was cool. But it was struggling. My office got up to a roasting hot 22.4C :-)

All this was on one of the hottest days of the year. So, yes, I think it is working well :-)

2022-07-15

It's bad luck to be superstitious

How was it not Friday the 13th today?

I am not one for "bad luck", but today has been quite special, so much so I felt it worth some blogging, sorry.

It all started quite innocently - the locksmith was finally coming to fit an EL560 lock on the back door with my Solar System door entry control system. The plan for that door is that it will be "unlocked" during the day, only having access within our grounds. But locked when we leave and alarm set, and locked at night. This means we need a way to "lock" the doors at night. So I decided to install this - you press the button when going to bed and that makes sure all doors are locked.

Yes, it is a mess, and that is partly because of the first issue - there was a wooden stud in the way, even though I was sure I checked. So a lot of chiseling. Plaster and paint will fix.

Installing this should be simple, need live/neutral from adjacent light switch. It is a Shelly Plus 1 running alarm code and linked to the secure alarm network, so simple. Except things went wrong.

  • First off I managed to "borrow a neutral", which does not go well with RCBOs. But easy to sort, get live and neutral from the same circuit. I forgot the light switch was on both down and up stairs lighting circuits.
  • Then, well it did not come on. In fact none of the lights in the south of the house came on, it seems.
  • The light was fed from another light switch - now this is a house rewired only a couple of years ago by the previous owners, so I take no responsibility for this mess
The light switch from hell

Somehow this was not right, no power. I checked for loose wires, and no joy. OK to be fair, one earth and one live were not connected (!) but putting them back did not help. No power on any brown wire in the box, well, any wire at all. I even re-did all the WAGOs, and no joy. I even checked the RCBO in the consumer unit. No joy. But I realised one light was on. So the issue was between the lights.

Just to add to the "not actually Friday 13th", in the middle of this, when testing on another switch I was puzzled that the switched on the upstairs lights did not show live. I was using a simple (and I know they are iffy) electrical test screwdriver, and it was showing nothing. It seems, in the middle of my trying to diagnose this, my screwdriver had actually failed! I got a new one from Screwfix.

At this point it was time to bring the sparky in - wiring an extra switch I could easily do - solving this was getting beyond me. I mean I have A level physics, and a degree, and I could work it out I am sure, but really, to be on the safe side, getting someone who knows the conventions and rules for wiring a house was in order.

So the sparky tried to trace the issue - it looks a lot like a break in live from the light that is working to that light switch from hell mess. But not completely open - showed some voltage. Great. But then we realise the cloakroom was on, and that is a second light on the same circuit, so let's test from there. One touch of the wiring and the circuit trips.

We have now moved from an open circuit to a fault that trips an RCBO, but takes maybe a second to do so. The second working light had been working, but the wiring was in an old ceiling rose shoved behind the ceiling which promptly snapped, so replaced by a nice new joint box and WAGOs. If that was the cause of the fault it should all be sorted now. No such luck!

Still tripping. Arg. OK, so on to the light switch from hell as pictured above. So the plan was to try and work through its nightmare circuits one by one. First step, chop off the 8 way WAGO for 8 of the live feeds. Test, and WTAF, all the other lights in the house now working. The fault is gone, and the short is gone, and the open circuit is gone.

OK, test them all, and not problems found, to connect back one by one, and well, all 8 back and all working. These are a number of outside lights and stuff. But just reconnecting all 8 live wires to a new WAGO and it works. Arrrg!

Then we discover that somehow tripping the RCBOs has killed 5 of the Shelly in the lights, so next to work on that - but in the morning. That should not happen - I know some of the shit involved in electrical interference immunity testing for CE, and this should not kill a Shelly, really!

So that was the power nightmare - somehow two separate and unrelated faults happen when I am doing something minor, and one remains 100% unexplained. In the end, my switch and indicator are fine, as I had wired them.

Now for the lock fun - a simple job as the locksmith had practiced on my office door and the outhouse door already and was all over confident "simple, 2 hours". Then he realised he did not have to drill the whole door width for a power cable as it could be done with a groove, and that the keep was the same place and size for the new lock, and did not need changing. So he was all super confident this would be easy. Spoiler: it was not.

It went OK to start, but then the lock was not working, and the handles not working, and then the keep not engaging, and then the spindles somehow started to slip and stopped working, and well, everything went to shit - and he is on the clock, after 6 hours here, he has to catch a plane. So we now have a door that is "technically" secure, but far from pretty until he gets bank from holiday. With him, and the sparky, alternating in finding impossible shit happening with their jobs, at the same time.

So seriously a lot broken, a hell of a lot. Stuff totally unrelated all happening at once.

Then, to top off the day, just as things calm, and I decide I am doing nothing now but watching TV and drinking whisky, on basis they cannot go far wrong, I get this from my son.

Is this a bad sign, dad?

Err, yes! But at least he has a working screwdriver! It is a really sensitive LED based one though, so lights up if you sneeze too close to it - turns out he just had a loose wire in the switch.

P.S. Some credit to Shelly. Whilst we have had, in the past, some Shelly 1 struggle with heat and fixed by replacing with Shelly Plus , and I am pretty sure we have had a Shelly die before. On this occasion it looks like it was actually intended behaviour - tasmota code has a last ditch recovery mode config reset if you power cycle it several times quickly - which is, of course, what was happening, and resulted in four of them simply being factory reset, and hence easy to fix.

2022-07-02

A flaw in GDPR

One of the aspects of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR, and UK GDPR) is that you can expect that the personal data an organisation holds on you to be accurate.

Specifically, that if it is inaccurate, you have a right to rectification, and you can require them to correct it and make it accurate (even if the ICO don't quite understand that, it is the law).

This is important if the information is mistakenly wrong, but also if it changes over time...

  • If you move house and your postal address changes
  • If you change your name
  • If you change your gender
  • If you change your title
  • If you change your phone number
  • If you change your email address
  • Etc...
(obviously if someone has a record of "the postal address you had when you signed up", then that does not need to change just because you move, unless it is a mistake, but a record of "current address" needs to change when you move).

The organisation has to, legally, rectify the inaccurate personal information they hold on you when you ask them to. That is the law.

But, in my opinion, there is a flaw in GDPR. When "signing up", "registering", etc, when first becoming a data subject with an organisation, it is apparently legal for that organisation to impose rules on what they consider acceptable personal information.

A perfect example is, apparently, British Airways, this week, refused to accept someone that was female and a Doctor, as the gender and title did not match!

But organisations will decide someone cannot have a first name that is one letter, of that you have to have a first and last name, or that your email address cannot have a dot before the @, etc.

Of course, the person could have recorded themselves as male and a doctor, and having been accepted they could require the incorrect personal information be corrected, under GDPR. The same is true for email addresses that an organisation decides is not valid, or a phone number, or postal address or name, etc. Ultimately, legally, they have to accept the accurate personal information in the long run if you required them to rectify the inaccurate personal information they hold and collected at "sign up".

But it seems nothing in GDPR requires that organisations accept the "accurate" personal information from data subjects "in the first place". They can make any arbitrary rules they wish. So we see shit like this, even for perfectly valid email addresses.

To be fair, companies can, and should, validate that something like an email address is valid and is the subject's email address. That is part of GDPR when it comes to rectifying personal data as well. But if it is valid, they should accept it, in my view. Making random rules on names, genders+titles, email addresses, phone numbers, etc, are all stupid and should be fixed by an update to the law.

I feel GDPR (or UK GDPR) needs updating so that no data controller can discriminate (i.e. refused to accept a new data subject) based solely on the format or syntax or rules they have created relating to any valid and accurate personal information at the point of becoming a data controller, any more than they could at the point of being required to rectify inaccurate personal data later.

The fact this is not part of the GDPR, is, in my view, a flaw, that needs fixing.

I have written to my MP asking for this, maybe you could too?