Archive for February, 2006

Mardis Gras

Tuesday, February 28th, 2006

I just booked my flights over for ajh’s bash next month so I’ll be in Ottawa for my first weekend trip on March 25/26. Basically more time in the air than on the ground! Yay! Yes, I am quite, quite crazy but hey! If you’re around and want coffee, mail me!


Mailbox is now Tiscali

Monday, February 27th, 2006

“As a smaller ISP we like to present ourselves as being humans, not a faceless corporation that sticks rigidly to policy.”
— Mailbox Internet.

Tried calling Mailbox support lately? Or sales? Not had any luck? Me either. And they don’t bother to call you back. I’ve suggested it might be easier if I pop up to Leeds and have a coffee with them if talking to a customer on the phone is going to cause them too much inconvenience. I’m quite happy to actually do that too – that’s not a threat as I’m only interested in talking to them about the service since 186K took over and I’m happy to make an appointment. But it might be that it’s the only way to have that conversation.

Incidentally, Mailbox switched to TISCALI as a backend provider today (if my ADSL connection logs are to be believed) and are now nothing more than another virtual ISP in the 186K pile. Oh well. Well and truly dead. They didn’t send me any email I recall reading with the words “we’re going to fuck up your connection and screw up routing on existing sessions on Monday 27 Feb” but instead just silently broke it for a while. Lovely. That’s real nice. Thanks folks!

I’m very likely to switch to the folks at Blackcat (BCN) but only if they give me a t-shirt and that’ll take some time as I can’t just literally switch (I’m not wires only). It’ll be too much hassle to not just have two services for some level of continued service but that’ll also mean I need a line moving to another location first. Anyone else interested in writing a formal letter of complaint to Mailbox about their service these days? If you’d like to get involved in asking them what the heck went wrong, drop me a line. I’m quite happy to follow this for a while in the name of the greater good of getting better service.

Here’s my most recent mail to Mailbox/186K:

Hi folks,

I’m a customer of Mailbox Internet. I have been for quite some time.

Service has not been so good lately and again was unavailable earlier today. I tried calling and was assured of a call back as soon as someone was available, but had no call. I’d really like it if you could go ahead and get them to call me as promised (+447776131337) because it’d be great to find out when the service is going to be back to the old Mailbox standard.

Anyway. If that’s going to cause you too much inconvenience (I appreciate that making phone calls can be quite a demanding experience) then I’m happy to come meet with your representatives in person instead, if that’s easier for you. Just let me know – I’m down in Reading, but it’s really no hassle to sort out an appointment if that suits you. It’s a little harder than it was talking to or visiting Mailbox, but those are the breaks in life.


Reading Groklaw is fun

Monday, February 27th, 2006

So I was reading about the latest round of stuff that happened with those people who do those things over at Groklaw. I felt like some amusement, so I headed over to the website of that other company. Look at the impressive new features in OpenServer 6:

  • File support up to 1 TB
  • Multi-processor support increased to 32 processors
  • Memory support up to 64 GB

Like, wow dudz. Such state of the art features. It’s not as if these have been in most other popular UNIX and UNIX-like Operating Systems for a bazillion years or anything…


Heathrow Fun

Monday, February 27th, 2006

Photo: Adding insult to injury. A late train leaves Paddington on a Sunday night (as usual).

I’ve added a new category to my blog – “UK Annoyances”. That’s so you don’t have to read them if you don’t want to (I’ll figure out a cool way of spliting this out into sections later). Some of you are quite happy with this country and not as pissed off with things as I can be – but I’ve created this section for anyone who ever agreed with me that signage in the UK is designed to be confusing, that it’s not acceptable to expect bad service every time and that things could actually be better.

Heathrow Fun

Ticket to Brussels: 92.50GBP return.
Time inflight: 45 minutes.
Time spent being fucked over: 4.5 hours.
Spending more time in Heathrow: priceless.

There are some things money can’t buy, for everything else, there’s London Heathrow.

So, I got to Brussels airport (BRU) earlier. The gare central in Brussels might be ugly, but the train was exactly on time and got me to the airport right in time for my flight. Great. The flight was even on time (though it was the second BA flight this weekend and has helped me to confirm that I dislike them as much as the rest of One World) and got me to Heathrow within around 5 or 10 minutes of the anticipated time.

There then followed the typical “I’ve only got hand luggage but it still takes 40 minutes to get out of Heathrow” problem that seems to be unique to this one airport (even Mumbai was better. And that’s saying something). So I get out through the silly passport control stuff (they’ve now got one of those Iris systems that myself and others know to be a weakpoint stupid waste of time and effort – but I bet that’s a really good way for people to enter and leave the country with only a machine to stop them, and nobody was using it either) and into the lobby and debate the fact that I know I’m going to now have to go to the central bus station to get the Railair bus service to Reading (this I found out through imperical experimentation last time, while they were figuring out how to fuck it up even more.

They should just accept that Heathrow will forever not be “quite right” and it’s better to leave it alone than constantly “revamp it”. This means that almost every time I come into Heathrow they’ve done something slightly different – moved things around like supermarkets do, just to annoy regularly paying travellers. They love to leave little inadequate signage which is only usable if you follow the exact routes that they did when they printed it, and they hate the idea of redoing signs when it’s possible to leave the odd confusion around for good measure. I decided to risk going straight to the bus station on this occasion, since I had previously learned that there is a grand plan to centralise everything (you get dropped off at your terminal, but come back tired out and have to walk miles and take trains just to get the bus home again). I did this, stood in line and got a ticket. I was helpfully reminded how I’d just missed a bus but assured that there was another one “in 20 minutes”.

Except, there wasn’t. In this country, we don’t have clear signage with bus times clearly displayed at otherwise high tech bus ticket counters and there is some apparent need to guesstimate things (the timetable was available outside the bus station by the stop for said bus after I had bought the ticket but all of those wonderfully useful looking flat panel displays that seem to have such potential within the station building were of course not functional at the time). Of course, it being a Sunday evening and because I was trying to get a bus, they decided this would be the time when there would be a new timetable and a 1.5 hour random separation between services. So much for the “from Reading to Heathrow, we’ll get you there, Railair” jingle and 20 minute claims. Even Saddam was closer to that. But I disgress.

So, I decide to get a refund. Of course this requires at least 20 people and lots of “umming” and “ahhing” before the computer system (which invariably is overly complex for the purpose) is finally used to get me a cash refund – since they can’t refund my credit card for some reason. Fine. I decide to get a taxi. Except those are 80GBP from Heathrow (quite excessive), so I decided that I was too fucked off with Railair (it had become a matter of principle by this point) to sit and wait and got the train into London.

Normally, getting a train into London isn’t such a bad idea. There’s a Heathrow Express to London Paddington and I live in Reading, which is a major interchange from Paddington. Except on Sunday evenings (they regularly try to screw me over there, but I know about it). Tonight it was another “waiting for a member of train staff” (which always means the driver – I know it was because I was listening to their radio. It pisses me off that they can’t just admit that) after the train was already late and a medical emergency then delayed matters further. Still, our chirpy pal in the buffet car is happy to continually announce such wonderous services as might be obtained if I’d only be bothered to get out of my seat. I wasn’t. I sat there while an overnight train and some engineering works ahead of us delayed my journey still further.

Anyway, it’s 01:24 and I just got home. I landed at 08:50, got out of that hell hole at 21:40 and finally finished getting shafted by various transportation companies just a few minutes ago. All in all, I’m fucked off with public transportation and have decided it’s easier, faster and cheaper to just pay the 30GBP weekend parking rate next time. Yes, I’m going to get that driving license sorted out and just give in to the car.


P.S. I’m not entirely wrong about some of the comments above. I’ve been bouncing some of the points raised here off friends in N.A. for a while now. Few of them would put up with this crap.

UK Internet Villain of the year

Saturday, February 25th, 2006

The UK has been named Internet villain of the year. Hardly surprising really. See, in the US they snoop on citizens too but it sparks consitutional debate – in the UK people just sit and have a cup of tea and put up with this shit through a combination of collective apathy and a lack of a constitution to protect them.

On a more fundamental level this story simply points out two things:

  • The average person in the street has no understanding of technology
  • This can be abused to push the concept of it being possible to track all people equally

Those of us who do have brains know that the bad guys have many ways around this trivial logging but that it does terrible things for the liberty of the average person. For me, I’ll just not use my ISP mail servers (which are unreliable and shit anyway) and if that becomes a problem, I’ll setup an account with a non-UK provider to shovel my mail someplace the UK government can’t do their evil thang.

If you don’t think this is a problem, I suggest:

  • Buy a copy of The News Of The World
  • Turn on the “footy”
  • Watch Eastenders
  • Join millions who let this stuff happen around them


Airport security (part II)

Friday, February 24th, 2006

So, I’m over in Brussels for the FOSDEM this weekend. I decided to fly because it was actually cheaper than taking the train.

I got to Heathrow Terminal 4 this afternoon to discover that they’re trialling millimeter wave scanning devices on random people. A sign stated that this was a trial and that you can elect for a full body search instead. Of course, I was randomly selected to be scanned by the machine and was compelled to decline their offer as they weren’t offering any guarantees as to:

  • Whether the machine is safe
  • More importantly, what happens to the images? Are they stored in a centralised retrival system from which any government whackjob with a ID Cards buttplug installed can come take a look at pictures of people naked?

No thanks. I’ll take the hand search, which I did. They were pretty ok about it (though my bag was searched with an ion scanner) and even went as far as to agree with me that there were too many open questions about the new machine (cunningly named the “Secure 1000″ – you can’t make this crap up). Until it’s illegal not to be anally probed and have an impression of your arse stored in a government database, I’ll just be saying no. You should too.


Canadian music – Shaydid

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

I quite enjoyed hearing Shaydid perform at the Heart and Crown in Ottawa last February. In fact, I went along a couple of times that they were there and met some other fans too – Jen and Lisa invited me to go with them to Toronto last weekend but I had some book commitments that had to come first and put pay to that plan.

Anyway, I decided it was about time to order their CD – Wrong Again. It’s good stuff – and available right now for a very reasonable price over on their website. Go buy it now. I submitted an entry to freedb so that when you buy your copy, all that shiney track information is available to you. And remember, you want to buy a copy now.