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Friday, 29 June 2012

The Barclays fiasco

Here's the simple version. Barclays did something so naughty, they were fined £300 million.

Here's the more complicated version. One part of Barclays is responsible for reporting the rates that they loan money overnight; that's combined with a dozen or so other banks reports to give LIBOR, the "London Interbank Overnight Rate".

Another part of Barclays does financial trades. If you know in advance what the LIBOR would be, well, it's a bit like knowing in advance which horse will win a race. If you bend your report of rates a bit, that's like influencing the result of the race.

So, of course, one part of Barclays isn't allowed to talk to the other part. That's called a "Chinese wall". That's enforced by "compliance officers". That works about as well as you'd expect it to - how do compliance officers stop people meeting in the pub after work? In this case, they were even communicating via email and suchlike, and you and I know that a permanent record will be kept of that, to be used in future proceedings. They were so stupid, they couldn't even conspire in secret.

Guess what. Some traders noticed that they could cheat. So they did.

And it isn't just Barclays. Loads of other banks are being investigated for doing the same thing.

Why does that affect us?

Think about the horse race again. If you discover that races you've been betting on, were also bet on by someone who was also influencing the result in a naughty way, you'd be hopping mad, because you've lost money to someone who was cheating. And you'd want to sue someone.

I'd guess that substantial lawsuits are already being prepared, and that's one of the reasons why Barclays share price has dropped so much.

But there's worse.

If you know that horse races are being fixed, you won't want to bet in future. The financial sector in the UK is very important to our economy. And it's just had a big spanner thrown into the works.

I don't think that the reputation of bankers as a breed, had started to recover. The Barclays fiasco hammers another nail into the coffin of bankers' respectability.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Insured Health resolved

Gemma from Insured health got back to me. She's found out where they got the data from, they won't be sending me any more spam, and they won't be buying data from that data supplier in future. I hope I've helped them discover that you can't just buy a list of email addresses and hope that the vendor is telling the truth about the source. And that they shouldn't ever get themselves into a position such that a director is on holiday and as a result, they're unable to take necessary action, promptly.

So the Insured health story is completed. Almost. There's an outstanding complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority, sent to them by the Information Commissioner's Office which still has to work it's way through.

Meanwhile, the Mighty Deals saga continues.

Mighty Deals sent me a spam, and at the bottom, they said that I'd opted in on the Rightmove web site. And, of course, I haven't. So I phoned Sarah at Mighty Deals to complain (she told me they never purchase data, they only get it from other companies in trades, and it turned out that she was mistaken in that belief), I called Tomas at Rightmove to tell them that their name was being used without their permission, and I called Peter at 247emaildelivery, because they were the ones that were actually doing the emailing.

I haven't called Webfusion, who are 247emaildelivery's ISP to complain about spam, because Peter seems to be doing the right things, so far.

So then I got an email from Monetize Group. Apparently, they were doing the marketing for Mighty Deals in this case, and they'd got a bunch of data from Yourdataplanet.com, and my info was in that data.

I've had dealings with Yourdataplanet before, and they said they'd taken me off their list.

So I called Peter at 247emaildelivery to tell him about the email from Monetize, and he's going to be bringing this matter up at his next meeting with Mighty Deals. Apparently, in this business, reputation is critically important, and if one company does something a bit iffy, that can besmirch the reputation of everyone else in the chain. And I think that's what has happened in this case.

And I called Rightmove. They're taking this *very* seriously. They know that they have never passed on any of their information, and they've also checked that I've never given them my email address. They've given Mighty Deals 48 hours to respond, and then they're going to take this to the Information Commissioner's Office.

When the dust from this settles, I'm guessing there's one or two companies mentioned above that will never do business again with one or two of the other companies mentioned above. Well actually, I'm not guessing - I've been told.


Fixing bikes

The bits and bobs that I ordered have arrived yesterday and today; isn't it wonderful to buy things this way, instead of having to visit umpteen bike shops, wait while one of them orders what you need because none of them have it in stock, go back to the bike shop to pick it up, and then find they sent the wrong thing?

So first, I looked at the back tire that had gone. When I took it off the bike, I saw that there was indeed a big hole in the outer, you could put your finger through it. All that had stopped the inner from bursting, was the gel insert. Bless you, Weldtite.

When I looked at the gel insert, it had reinvented itself as a long winding S-shape, so I decided to put in a new insert. And the inner tube was fine, but it was encrusted with bits of the outer tire; I'm guessing that the outer was the worst quality possible. I imagine that when they ship the bike from the factory, they use the cheapest possible tires. So, I put in a new inner tube. Technobike.1 is now ready for action.

Yesterday, I had taken technobike.2 out, and I found that the saddle was much too low, and couldn't be raised because the seat post was very short. I ordered a new seat post, and I installed that, and now the height is fine. I also installed a back carrier - needed to carry water, spare battery, repair tools and whatever else I need for a long circuit. That looks very nice now; possibly better than the one on technobike.1

Yesterday, I popped into Halfords to see if I could have bought any of this stuff there, and I wasn't surprised to find that I couldn't. While I was there, I saw a bike stand, and I had a good look at it, thinking maybe I need one with all the bike maintenance I'm doing. I decided not to, because I wanted to see what the internet had to offer.

Sure enough, I found one on Amazon that's a third the price of Halfords, and looks somewhat better, so I've treated myself to one. When it arrives, I'll use it to put the gel inserts and thorn-resistant inner tubes into technobike.2

Now what I need is for the pain in my hip (which I'm sure isn't the previous tendonitis) to go away . It feels kind of like I've sprained my right thigh, except I didn't. While it's like this, I can't go out - the pain gets so bad that even walking a few steps is too much.

Oh well. Lots more bike maintenance to do!

Round Hemel

With the back tire on the bike being dodgy, I pressed the spare bike into service. Unfortunately, the saddle is too low down, and the seat post is too short to raise it enough. I've ordered a new seat post, but meanwhile, I just had to adopt a low posture.

By about 3pm, my right thigh was hurting so badly I could barely move the leg. I don't think this is the tendonitis returning, the pain is in a different place. We'll see what a good night's rest does.

So I tidied up a bunch of nearby caches, and then went on to Hemel, where I had too many DNFs to want to admit. About 30 caches in total, and then on to the event at Wendover.

There, I saw Jeff's new Garmin Montana, an impressive looking item. Ladysolly's been wanting a new GPS, so I thought, maybe that's a candidate - you can put Memory Map files on, Jeff said.

Then when I got home, I did a bit of Googling. You can put Memory Map files on an iPhone, and also the GPX data (that's the format that cache pages are in). So my current thinking is to get the Memory Map app (£4.99), and use the maps that I already have.

The replacement tire arrived today, so I'll start working on that tomorrow; apart from that, I plan to rest the dodgy thigh.

If it isn't one thing, it's another.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Bless you, NHS

After I got the first spam on this log, posted by a US dentist looking to add me as a patient, I asked them about costs of treatment.

It seems that what in the UK (via the NHS) would cost about £50 would be over $1000 in the US.

Wow. No wonder so many US people have bad teeth!

The RBS fiasco

Well, it's been a week now, and things are still not back to normal. What was the problem, and how should it be fixed?

My qualification to make these comments are, 1) I don't know anything at all about the RBS systems and 2) I've spent a long time working with computers.

So.

They did an update to their software. The update had a big problem. This meant they couldn't do processing, and after they fixed the problem (at least, I hope they have) it's taking them a long time to catch up with their processing.

Solutions.

First, what is a bank? Essentially, it's a data processing system with a bunch of managers who think they understand about money and risk. There was a time when all banking was done on paper; that's long past. It's all computing now. And so the only, the *ONLY* key activity of the bank, is data processing. So you'd better get that right.

And now, I'd guess that a lot of RBS and Natwest customers are saying "Never again" and moving their accounts to other banks; it's pretty easy to do that. Meanwhile, all the other banks are saying "could this happen here?" and looking into what weaknesses they have in their IT systems.

 Solutions.

1) Before you do an update to a key system, test that it works, and have a fall back position, so that you can roll back to the previous version that works.

2) When you do the update, test to see that it's working, don't wait until customers tell you.

How do you do this testing? You have another computer system, with all the same data that you can use for testing. This doubles the cost of your hardware, of course, and the sort of size of hardware that banks use, don't come cheap. But it's cheaper than the RBS fiasco will be.

3) Have competent staff. People are making a bit of a fuss about the fact that RBS was outsourcing to India, and paying a fifth of the salaries. In itself, that's not a problem. What would be a problem, is if the staff employed in this manner are less competent than the more expensive staff they replace.

4) Have three times the processing capacity than you actually need. Again, this means a significant hardware cost, but you'll be glad you have that capacity when you get a big bulge in processing requirements, which is what's happening now.

5) Sack the CEO of the bank, and the head of IT. The converse of getting highly paid for doing a highly skilled and important job, is that you don't get paid when they job is done wrong.

The buck stops at the top.


Card sharing

An advertising popup  took me to a site called "card sharing", so with my interest in all things to do with credit cards, I had a look. Then I did a bit of Googling, and wound up on the Wikipedia site.

It isn't about credit cards, but it's still interesting. And (mostly) illegal. It isn't illegal if the service provider allows it, which might be the case for some providers to allow multiple TVs within the same house to access the service. But I'd guess that in more than 99% of the cases, it is illegal.

When you subscribe to a service such as Sky, you get radio waves from above giving you the service. But they don't want just anyone to be able to get their service, only people who have paid. So the video is encrypted, and only paid customers have the decryption key. Obviously, people being how they are, that key would soon get shared. So the people supplying the service change the key every few seconds.

What card sharing services do, is supply that decryption key, over the internet, for a fee.

Meanwhile, in the Spam front, I just got a spam from "Mighty Deals". What's especially interesting about this spam, is a statement at the bottom.

"You opted-in when giving information to the following url
http://www.rightmove.co.uk/register.html;jsessioni.......
This information was supplied at: 07/09/2011 22:45:00"

No, I didn't. I just now went to that web site, it's about properties for sale or rent in the UK, and I can't imagine a site I'd be less likely to visit, let alone to opt in on.

So I called Mighty Deals on 01 483 412978 option 2 and spoke to Sarah there. She said that they don't buy databases, but they do trades with other companies. My email address wasn't on her database, so I forwarded the spam to her. I explained to her that the statement about rightmove was incorrect. She's looking into it.

So then, of course, I called Rightmove on 01908 308500 and spoke to Tomas in Marketing. He said that he wasn't aware of them ever giving out email addresses to third parties. I forwarded the spam to him too, and gave him Sarah's details. Hopefully, they'll get to the bottom of it.

The email was actually sent out by 247emaildelivery.com, who offer email services. Their number is 0800 043 2460. I called them and spoke to Ingrid, who is a shared receptionist for the whole building, she said she'd get someone from the company to call me back, because they're all out at the moment. Peter called me back very soon.

Peter said that 247emaildelivery don't supply data, they only supply software and email delivery services, and one of their contractual conditions is that only opted-in data is used. I asked him what will happen when it's shown that the email address they sent to was not opted in, and he said they'd terminate their contract with Mighty Deals. I gave him the email address in question, and he's going to chase it up.

My guess is as follows. From what I've been told, there's actually no way this email address could have got into Mighty Deals database. So someone is mistaken. And at some point, someone has bought in a database from one of the dodgy vendors who claim that all their data is opt-in, and actually a lot of it (possibly most of it) isn't. And from there, it's gotten swapped and traded.

What do I want?

I want people who send out emails to take a lot more seriously, their obligation under the PEC (2003) regulation; not to send spam to people who haven't asked for it.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Swinging Swineshead

My shoulder felt a lot better today, the sun was shining, so it was out to complete the series I cut short when I fell into the ditch. I parked nicely, got the bike out and biked to where I'd abandoned the route last week; it was only about a mile, and all on the roads. Then off the roads and onto bridleways, and I finished the circuit, including the one that was missing last time I was there. Because it had been disabled, it wasn't on my database, but I remembered where it was, and had a look as I biked by, and there it was!

So, back to the car for a meagre lunch (my diet is going well) and then onto the second circuit; a total of 44 caches today.

As I was going round the second circuit, I got electric failure again. So I took the throttle apart again, and that seemed to fix it, but it soon failed again.

While I was huffing up the hills, I did some thinking. Maybe it isn't the throttle, because the wiring looks sound, and there's pretty much nothing in it to go wrong. Maybe the controller is overheating, and cutting out? I had cleverly wrapped the controller in bubblewrap to keep it dry, but that's also insulating it. I'm going to take off the insulation and see if that helps.

As I was getting towards the end of the second circuit, I happened to look at my back wheel, and noticed an ominous bulge in the tire. Closer inspection revealed that a part of the tire is actually worn away, and all that was stopping the inner tube from blowing out, was the anti-puncture tape I use. Thank you Dr Sludge (Weldtite). So I was *very* gentle with the bike for the last couple of caches, and I've ordered a new tire. While I was in a buying mood, I also bought a new rear carrier, new anti-puncture tape and two new thorn-resistant inner tubes. Why? Well, when I bought this bike, the Ebay seller was actually selling a pair of bikes, and I found myself with both - my idea was, hey, I'll have a spare bike. That worked very well last time I tried it; the second bike was eventually almost entirely cannibalised for spares. So, I'll put puncture-proofing on the spare bike, and a rear carrier, and it'll be a real alternative to the one I'm using.

Today has left me quite tired, but my hip still seems to be OK, and my shoulder is nearly better.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Dancing with servers

After my investigation of fibre connections yesterday, I got to thinking about how many IP addresses I really could whittle down to, and whether I could use my firewall more creatively.

First, I combined the functions of two servers that had been doing pretty similar things. That wasn't too difficult, and meant I could eliminate one server completely. That also saves a little bit of electricity.

Then I tried to do the same with two more servers, and ran into trouble. With Apache (the web server), you can have "Virtual Nameservers". That means you can use the same server to pretend to be several different ones. So, for example, I have dovecot.drsolly.com on the same physical server as www.drsolly.com, and Apache knows which file to serve, based on the server that your browser was trying to access.

I've used that a lot, and I've used it somewhat on drsolly.com. But when I tried to add another server with a different name, it just wouldn't work. That server is running RedHat version 6.2, and it's been running now for eleven years. I think that updating it would probably be a good fix, but I'm reluctant to mess with something that's been so solid. So I found a cheap-and-nasty way to do the same thing, and that's a second server I can power off, and another external IP address I don't need..

But the third one is more interesting. For that, I wanted to keep the two servers running, but have them on one IP address, and as you can imagine, that's a bit tricky. Of course, they're actually on two IP addresses, 10.149.17.2 and 10.149.17.3, which are purely internal addresses, because (as I explained yesterday) I have 16 million of them I can use. It's the external addresses that I'm trying to economise on. Anything that starts with a 10 is free for anyone to use, but it only works inside your own network, anything outside wouldn't be able to talk to it.

Normally, my firewall connects an internal address with and external address on a one-to-one basis, so 10.149.17.2 would connect to 195.149.17.2 and 10.149.17.3 would connect to 195.149.17.3. But I want to use only one external address.

Here's how I did it.

To access web services on 10.149.17.2, you would access 195.149.17.2, port 80 and to access web services on 10.149.17.3, you would access 195.149.17.3, port 80, and the firewall translates the network addresses. But I'm running a Cicso Pix, with version 6.5 of the software, and I was guessing that I could do a lot better. Guessing, I say, because the only manual I have is for version 4.4.  Why the old manual? because a new Pix is about £500 and a second hand one is about £50, and they pretty much go on working for ever, so guess what I buy when I need another Pix? And second hand Pixes don't tend to come with a manual. Pixi? Pixen? But, I'm glad to say, I was able to find more recent documentation online.

The way that you connect an inside server to the outside world is like this:






static (inside,outside)  195.149.17.2  10.149.17.2 




That's a version 4.4 config. But with version 6.5, you can do this:


static (inside,outside) tcp 195.149.17.2 80 10.149.17.2 80

And that connects the web service of 10.149.17.2 to the outside world at ip address 195.149.17.2


And now the clever part.




static (inside,outside) tcp 195.149.17.2 81 10.149.17.3 80

That connects the web service of 10.149.17.3 (a different physical server to 10.149.17.2) to the outside world using the same IP address 195.149.17.2 but a different port number, 81.

Here's the result of doing this.

If you access with your browser http://195.149.17.2 then you get to browse the files on 10.149.17.2. But if you access with your browser http://195.149.17.2:81 then you get to browse the files on 10.149.17.3

The same external IP address,  195.149.17.2, is being used to access two different internal servers. And thatr means that I need one fewer IP address!

And why am I trying to be stingy with IP addresses? Well, it isn't a problem now, but if I do change over to using two BT fibre connections a couple of years from now, I'll only have 10 IP addresses. And with the actions that I've done above, it just so happens that 10 IP addresses is *just* enough.

There's a lot more servers here, of course, but they're all on internal IP addresses, because they're used for backup, or for mass storage, or whatever.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Hips and shoulders

My right hip, I'm glad to say, is still fine. However, I got a letter from Stoke Mandeville inviting me to come for the dreaded injection, and requesting that I turn up three days ago. What had happened, is that they sent it to my old address (as of a couple of years ago) because that, apparently, is what is on their NHS system (I guess this is the all-singing umpteen-billion-pound universal NHS computer system) and the person sending out the letter used that, instead of using my current address, which was on the letter that they got from the doctor referring me.

So I phoned them to explain why I'd missed the appointment, and to get them to correct the address info (and somehow I feel that this correction isn't going to work universally). They've done that, and then said they'd make a new appointment, but I explained that my hip problem seems to have fixed itself anyway, so no need.

With the same transfer from my old address, was an item of junk mail from a recruitment company. So I phoned them to explain that I'm not there any more. The lady answering the phone said that the relevant director wasn't there, but took my number so she could call me back. Very soon after, I was called back from a mobile phone; it sounded like she'd pulled in to a lay-by so that she could call me. I'm guessing that she was quite disappointed to learn that I was only calling her to tell her that my address had changed.

So, falling on my right side into that ditch a few days ago, left me with a bad right shoulder. By the evening, I wasn't able to raise my arm as high as my shoulder without considerable pain, and any higher was out of the question. Oh no, I was thinking, no sooner does my hip get better ...

But it's been getting better a lot faster than I'd feared it might, and now I can raise my hand high over my head with only a bit of discomfort. I'm thinking that I'll be able to go out biking on Monday.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Insured health - ongoing spam

On receiving my fifth spam from Insured Health (I asked them to stop after the first), and on being told that no action can be taken because a key employee (a director) is on holiday (which appears to have been the situation for quite some time now), I decided that it's time I escalated this a bit, so I sent a complaint to the Direct Marketing Association.

They explained that, as Insured Health isn't a member, they can't take any action, but offered to forward the complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority; I hadn't intended it to go that for, but sine they offered, I agreed that they could do that. And the ASA have contacted Insured Health about this, which hopefully will incentivise them to take action.

While on the DMA web site, I found their Code of Practice, you can get that for free, I'd recommend it to all spammers (or, as they call themselves, "Direct Marketers"). I also found this at a similar web site:

https://www.ims-dm.com/cgi/optoutemps.php

This lets you opt out of email lists; I did that a long time ago, and when I checked yesterday, the opt-out was still current. It would be nice if spammers used this list to clean their email spamming lists. But I think many of them don't. Maybe it's only the reputable companies who use this. It costs a mere $2 per 1,000 records, or you can get their entire database as an Annual Subscription for Monthly updates: $1,800.

I understand that the relevant director of Insured Health will be back from holiday next week, so perhaps some progress will be made then. I haven't complained about them to the Information Commissioner yet; hopefully that won't be necessary.



BT Infinity

I went to BT's web site to find out if I could get fibre or SDSL. I can't. But I spoke to a very helpful lady called Zoe at BT, and she told me some excellent information.

1. "Unlimited" now means unlimited. Not all their services give you unlimited usage, but the ones that say that they are unlimited, are indeed unlimited, there's no small-print "gotchas" like an Acceptable Use Policy.

2. For BT to roll out fibre, they have to enable the exchange, and then run fibre to the green BT boxes that you see at the side of roads all over the place. They don't need to run fibre to your house, the last few yards are done on the existing copper. And that means *much* less installation work that needs to be done.

3. You can balance the upload/download speeds. So instead of 40 mbit down and 20 mbit up, you could have 35 and 25. But since my existing leased-line is 2mb, I'll be perfectly happy with that!

4. It's in BT's interest to make this happen as fast as they can - they don't have a monopoly on this, but it looks to me like they have a clear advantage, especially over the smaller broadband companies.

I currently have three 3-or-4 mbit ADSL lines at £15/month, a 2 mbit megastream at £400 and my 100 mbit colocation at £800 (rough figures pluck from my memory). It looks like I could replace the first two with a £26/month line for 76 mbit. And maybe, at some point in the future, I could even replace the colocation!

But not yet.

We can't get fibre here, and probably won't for a year or two (the BT chatbot said by the end of 2013), but my Daisy contract expires in two years, so that fits nicely; Daisy will have to come up with an attractive offer if they want to keep my business then. There's also the question of IP addresses; I currently have a Class C here (256 addresses) and a couple of dozen more at my colocation. I'd probably lose all of those, which would be a bit of a hassle, and getting them replaced would be another job I'd have to do. On the other hand, IP6 is getting more pervasive, and by two years from now, it might be widespread. And IP6 addresses will be a lot easier to get, because there's a *lot* more of them available. Also, I might be able to do something a bit clever that would mean I'd only need one IP address, or at least only a few. I might need more than one fibre link, maybe two or three, but by then, they'll probably be even cheaper than they are now. I've survived changing colocations (when Energis managed to persuade me that I'd be better off ditching their service and going with someone who charged 1/3 as much) and moving house (and a hundred or two computers). So I can probaly survive changing the way I do data transfer.

Right now, I have a lot more computers running than I have IP addresses for. How do I manage that? Because there's 16 million IP addresses that anyone can use, any address that starts with 10, such as 10.2.3.4
Those addresses are called "non-routable", which means that anyone outside my network can't talk to any of those computers. That's a big security plus. But, of course, I do want people to be able to have some kinds of limited access to some of my computers. That's accomplished by a process called "Network Address Translation" (NAT), and I do that at my firewall. So when you try to access one of my computers at, for example, 195.149.17.6, that is translated by the firewall to, for example, 10.2.3.6, but only if you're trying to access the web site there.  Looking at the BT web site, I can get 5 IP addresses for £5/month. So if I had two lines, I'd have 10 IPs, and I think that would be enough, by making much greater use of NAT than I currently do.

So a couple of years from now, I could be making some very big and cost-saving changes.

Here's the details I got today, taken from the respective web sites. Talktalk is my current ADSL provider, that's why I considered them. Virgin has the fastest, or so they claim. Daisy is my current leased line provider, and BT do my telephony. There's probably several other possibilities.


                  Cost/month        Bandwidth        Limit/month
BT                  £26              76 mbit         No limit ***
Daisy               £30              40              100 gb
TalkTalk            £15              76              Unlimited download allowance *
Virgin              £25.50          100              No limit **


Some of them have a cheaper start-up rate, some have an install cost, some give a discount for web signups. I'm looking at the long term rates. I think all these rates include VAT, but I didn't check carefully.

* Unlimited doesn't seem to mean unlimited. It means "900 music albums or 55 videos", and these numbers are so specific, I think that for TalkTalk "unlimited" doesn't actually mean unlimited. I have no idea what that is in gigabytes, but I'd guess maybe 50 or 60gb?

** The Virgin web site says that "traffic management operates from 4pm to 9pm and 10am to 3pm to ensure a consistent user experience". That sounds to me like a limit. And there's a "fair use amount". See their Traffic management table. Warning - it looks really complicated! But it does look like the have a cap on data transfer.

*** I checked out the BT web site, and it does seem that for BT, unlimited really does mean "unlimited". I read the "Acceptable Use Policy" (which is a *lot* easier to read than Virgin's) and it's all about not doing illegal things, which is fine by me. There's nothing there I could see about traffic limits. There's one minor exception, and that's on P2P traffic (which I think mostly means file sharing such as Torrents). That can get slowed down (deliberately) during peak hours. I use torrents maybe once every couple of months to download the latest copy of Fedora Linux, about 3gb, and I'm not bothered how long it takes.

From this info, and for my purposes, it looks like BT is clearly the best, with Virgin, Daisy and TalkTalk ruled out by their download limits, although the Virgin limit might not be a problem (but it's so complicated, I'm reluctant to work out what it means, especially as it'll probably change over time and be different by the time I'm in the market). Other people's needs are probably different from mine. But since fibre won't be available here for a year or two, I'll need to revisit the costs and Ts and Cs when the time comes.

Why have I blogged all this? Well, it might be useful to someone, but mostly, it will definitely be useful to me about 18 months from now, when I start to think about data transfer after my Daisy contract runs out (which happens in May 2014).


Daisy yet again

First, I got a phone call from V, someone purporting to be from Daisy, asking to talk to me about selling me additional services.  Well, with a phone call like that, you never know who is calling, so I told V I'd call  back, and V gave me a number to call on. I'd say that I get a call like that at least once a month, pretending (usually) to be from BT and trying to get me to buy telephony services. Usually trying to get me to switch from BT, which is how I know they aren't from BT. And likewise for gas and electricity.

So I called X my regular contact at Daisy (I'll explain below why I'm using the anonymising name X), and X checked out the name I gave, and said that V was indeed at Daisy.

So I called V back.

But the number that V had given me just rang and rang, no answer. So I called X again. It turns out that V doesn't have the ability to take inbound calls, so it was silly of V to have given me the number.

So X got V to call me, and this time, knowing that V was indeed from Daisy, I was willing to talk. What V wanted, was to arrange a meeting with U; the idea was that U is in my area, and U could pop round and we could talk about other services that Daisy had to offer. So I explained to V that I'd much prefer if U phoned me - it's a lot more efficient to do this sort of thing over the phone unless a site visit is actually needed. V was very keen that a visit should be arranged, and explained that this was what they did, so I explained that it wasn't what I did, and could V get U to phone me. We left it at that - I was left with the impression, probably erroneous, that U would phone me the next day.

Because I do indeed have a requirement for further telephony services. I'm interested in SDSL, and in fibre optic service.

The next day, U didn't phone me, so I called my usual contact X, to ask why not. And X explained that U doesn't make phone calls, only site visits. So I guess Daisy isn't so interested in supplying me with SDSL, and in fibre optic that they're willing to phone me about it, and I can't really blame them because it took them five weeks, and much pushing from me to renew the leased line contract. Could they have too many customers? Surely not.

And, at my request, X has put me on a list that should mean that I don't get telemarketing calls from Daisy in future.

By coincidence, I got an letter today from BT, so later on, I'll ask them if they'd be interested.

So, while I was talking to X, X mentioned an email I'd received a couple of weeks ago asking me to "remove the names and details of Daisy employees" from my blog, posted a month or so ago, and included a threat to "raise this with their legal team".

I didn't receive that email. X was surprised at this, because X had received a copy of the email, but I explained that I had not, and furthermore I didn't know what failing in the Daisy email system had caused that problem, but could X kindly forward me a copy? And so now I have a copy of the email that they tried to send me.

I tried to phone the person who sent it, T, but T is no longer with Daisy. And S, who signed the email, is on holiday right now, and S's assistant or deputy or whatever, R, is supposed to be calling me back but hasn't as of now. I'm not too surprised.

Well, I don't really care whether I give the actual names, email addresses and phone numbers of Daisy employees or not, so I've removed them from the blog, including the name of the Daisy CEO, so if you want to know who runs Daisy, you'll have to visit their web site. And that's why I've using letters of the alphabet instead of names.

And I'm quite flattered that Daisy are reading my blog.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Upper Dean Disasters

I went north today, to do a Poshrule circuit; I'd actually planned to do two, but the best laid plans...

Adter several caches, I met some farmers. They were haymaking in the adjoining field, and they could see me rummaging. After a while, one of the haymakers strolled up and asked me what I was doing. "I'm counting the slugs" I explained. "You're looking for insects?" he asked. "No, I'm counting the slugs." He looked at me. "Do you have permission?" he asked.

Well, I've never been asked that before. It's a public footpath, and that means that I'm entitled to walk along it, but I guess I don't actually have permission to count the slugs. "Nice weather for haymaking," I replied. "Yes," he agreed, and went back to his tractor.

Then on cache number seven, I had trouble. Getting to here from number 6 was terrible. It's a field of rape, and the plants are full size now, and falling across the track. Walking through would be bad enough, but I was also pushing a bike. I was very glad when I reached the road.

This is what the field looked like. You can just see the slightly lower density of plants that's the "footpath". That left me exhausted.



At number nine, I had to cross a stream. No bridge. Pushing a bike. It was no surprise that I got a bootful of water.

Number thirteen is where I got really unlucky. As I was crossing the bridge, I was wheeling my bike on my left. I moved slightly to the right to give the bike more room, trod on the vegetation next to the bridge, and discovered the hard way that there wasn't actually anything to stand on. So I toppled over to my right into the ditch. And, of course, the bike fell on to me. And the saddle bags.

I lay there for a minute, working out what had happened. Then I took off my helmet, which had gotten tangled up in something, took off my shoulder bag, and found the two pieces of my plastic PDA holder, which had fallen apart, I was very pleased that I'd managed not to fall on my PDA, and it wasn't in the water, and I hadn't destroyed it in my struggle to get myself together.

Oh, I forgot to mention - the whole of my right side was in the water.

So I struggled to sit up, extracted myself from under the bike and the saddle bags, and got myself out of the ditch. I was able to rig up something to hold my PDA out of elastic bands, and was delighted to see that it was still working. Which meant I could continue.




And it was at this point that my throttle packed in completely. I've been having intermittent problems with it, but now it was kaput. Which meant that I now had a bike, but not an electric bike. Or rather, I did have an electric bike, with all the extra weight that it includes, but I had no battery assist.

I looked at the map; it looked like it would be easier to press on, so I did.

When I got to the end of that path, I was at a road. Now my shoulder was painful from the fall I'd taken a couple of caches previously. Also, the throttle on the Technobike had failed; I could pedal, but I wasn't getting any electric assist. I decided to cut the day short; I'll come back and do the rest of the series some other day.




But probably not tomorrow. My right shoulder really hurts.

When I got home, I took the throttle apart, which works on a principle I've not met before. I couldn't see what was wrong with it, so I gave it a bit of a clean, reassembled it and now it seems to be working fine.


It's entropy. Just when I've stopped getting a pain in my right hip, my warts have cleared up and my loose false tooth has been reinstalled tightly, I thought I was in fine fettle.

Pride goeth before a fall.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Recycled tooth

I showed the dentist the false tooth that had fallen out. I sat in the chair while he did the necessary; he exlpained that he'd be using a different cement this time. Hopefully it'll stay in place. My grin is now complete.

On the way out, I asked if I could have the old false tooth; I thought I might put up a picture of it. "Oh," he said, "you already have it." I looked confused. "It's in your mouth," he said.

Waste not, want not.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Dentistry

Last night, the fake tooth that my dentist had made for me (out of something resembling Araldite), and which had been getting increasingly loose, finally fell out. Plonk, into the sink as I was cleaning my teeth.

This is good - the looseness of that tooth was annoying, and the dentist said that he couldn't remove it because that would damage the place it was embedded in, we had to wait for it to come out. So I'm pleased that it's made the leap.

So, on the way to Essex this morning, as soon as I could find a lay-by to pull in, I phoned for an appointment, and I was flabbergasted to get one for 8:30 tomorrow, although I gather it's the kind where you turn up and wait for a hole. That's fine by me, and I'm hoping that by this time tomorrow, the gap in my dentition will be filled by a very realistic-looking tooth.

Although I can't help thinking that if it were a gold tooth, that would look rather flash.

Excursion to Essex

The weather looked good, so I trundled out to Essex today, my first long distance outing for ages. I did 62 caches altogether, mostly in one long bike ride around the sea wall. Stiles were almost completely absent, and the country was completely flat, great for biking. The ground wasd a bit wet, but not so much as to impede progress.

I took my three best batteries; one on the bike and two in the panniers, and I used about 2 1/2 of them in a marathon ride. I saw the Bradwell nuclear station; it looked like a block of flats.

Here's a glorious sight along the way - peas from here to the horizon. Wow.



Sunday, 17 June 2012

Chuntering round Chartridge

Ladysolly and I went out caching today, near where we used to live. Nine caches in a route. I parked on the grass verge, and picked up a micro left over from a cache I archived a couple of years ago, the first cache we put out. Then down dale and up hill, till we got back to the car. A short day because ladysolly has what looks like a boil in a most inauspicious place, and it makes walking slightly painful.

Then over to Rickmansworth to finish off a series I did a few weeks ago, but didn't have time for the final. No walking required, and a shout of glee when I spotted the rather good container.

Tomorrow, I'm planning to go for a long day out in Essex, the first time for ages that I've gone a long way to go caching. That's because I've been nervous about going a long way in case I need to cut the day short and get back home with my hip tendonitis. But now I'm sure that I can do the whole day on the bike without a problem, and going round the sea wall in Essex is going to be free from hills, and hopefully not too many difficult stiles.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

A celebration

Out today with ladysolly and daughters.1&2 plus spouses to celebrate the birthday of daughter.1. A very fine steak, some excellent chips, lots of wine and champagne and a very jolly evening. It cost approximately two ipad 3s, quite a bill!

I wasn't sure if they'd allow me in wearing trainers, which I prefer when stumbling around London because I now find that dress shoes have uncomforably high (1 inch) heels, so I took a pair of dress shoes with me in my bag, just in case. I've been refused admission to the Dorchester before because of inappropriate footwear, and a pub in Bucks, and I got thrown out of a bar in Australia for the same reason. My plan was, if the doorman didn't like my (rather disreputable-looking) trainers, I'd stand there while he watched and switch to shoes. And, once inside, I'd take them off again. But I didn't need to.

I did a bit of research - you can buy folding dress shoes for £25 on Ebay, but I do this so rarely, it isn't worth the cost.

The food was so salty, I've been gulping down water in great volumes. Why do they do that? Don't they teach these chefs how to cook?

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Weight report 7

17 stone, 6 pounds. Yay!

Caching again, and more software

40 caches today, mostly on the Technobike, but with some on foot. The ground is still very squishy.

Soon after I started, I discovered that the cache info that I thought I had on the Loox, was only partly there. I got round this by using the info on the Mio, which seemed to work fine, but as a general thing, I don't want to carry two PDAs.

I thought of using the Mio for navigating, but I'd given it all 37,000 caches, and Memory Map crashed. I think it will work fine if I just feed it the same half-database that I give the Loox, because I know it's handled that many before.

Back home, I looked into why the Loox wasn't showing me the cache page info. It seems that when I copy data from a linux box to the CF card in the card reader, only the first 16kb works, and after that the file doesn't read. I don't know why.

My solution was to switch to a Windows box to do the copying. I'd tried that before without success (I couldn't address the card in the Loox as a drive letter), but this time, I decided not to copy via the Loox, but to copy straight to the card, in a card reader, which calls it drive G. That seems to work fine - I tested it, and the Loox now seems to be able to read the file.

Another thing I don't know why, is why it takes so long to do the copying via the Loox, compared to via the card reader. Plus there's the advantage that I can copy only the files that have changed. This means that a process that used to take two hours, now takes a couple of minutes.

When I got back to the car after the first circuit, I got my lunch sandwich open and looked for my book. Uh. After checking the usual places, I realised that I must have left it in Tesco when I bought my sandwich. What an idiot, and it's so annoying to be in the middle of a book and then lose it.

So after the day was over, I popped into Tesco on my way home. "Have you had a book handed in?" They have a Lost Propery Database, and the Tescoman checked it. No book. So I left my phone number, and a description of the book "It's a paperback, Luna Marine". "Oh," said Tescoman. And he checked his database again. There was still no book, but there was a paperback. "Could that be it?" he asked.

I was so pleased to get my book back that I didn't make any remarks about book == paperback.


Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Local monster

Ladysolly has now accrued enough Master Points to become a Local Master, and her name was listed in the EBU monthly magazine. I'm married to a bridge fiend.

More hardware and software

On the server called Heavy (because it is), drive e wasn't working, so I decided to replace it. That was easy enough, but then ... when I put it back on the shelf, drive c stopped working. So I put it back on the workbench, and discovered that when the server was on its side, drive c worked, but when the server was upright, it didn't work. Huh.

I still don't know the cause. I "fixed" it by taking out drive c and putting it in a different position in the server.

And the software I did today is a continuation of the geocaching development. I'm copying 3000 html files onto the PDA each time I update, and that takes a very long time, because each one takes a few seconds, I don't know why. Windows. So I thought, I'll only copy the ones that have changed. So, I thought, get perl for Windows (called Strawberry perl), and write it in that.

The plan failed. Windows recognises the PDA as a "mobile device", but I can't see any way to assign it a drive letter. So, on to plan B - attach the CF card to a linux computer, and then it was easy.


Monday, 11 June 2012

Hardware and software

My first task today was to put a decal of Humphrey on my bike helmet. Humphrey is a camel, and is the badge that I wore with pride on my school blazer. He was carrying spices across the desert, to be sold in the grocers of England; I was at the Grocers' Company School, which, at that time, was the finest grammar school in the area. Soon after I left, it went comprehensive, and about 15 years ago was closed down because it was the worst school in the area.

Where did it all go wrong?

I don't know, I'm not an expert in such things, but I read today that the maths curriculum is to be changed (yet again), by people who prove they don't know what they're doing by increasing the "times tables" kids learn from learning up to 10x10, to learning up 12x12.

Why?

When I was in primary school, we learned up to 12x12, and it was useful because there were 12 pennies in a shilling, so you needed to multiply by twelve quite often. But today? All you need now is up to 10x10. I can only guess that this is a misguided "back to basics" effort (or "back to baseics", as a cache I did recently said).

Speaking of metrication, how come we're still in the limbo of half-imperial, half metric? Road signs are never in kilometers, speed limits never in kilometers per hour. This is daft. We went metric a long time ago, and it was great not having to need three sets of spanners.


Then I did some computer work; Foggy has been having drive problems, so I replaced drive H, and while I had it on the bench, I replaced drive B which failed ages ago.

And then I tackled a problem I've been having for a while.

If you put more than about 24,000 caches onto the Loox, then there's some sort of memory interference between that and the mapping; the effect is that large swatches of the mapping are just grey, and are no longer maps.

But to get all the caches within 150 km, that's 37,000 and likely to grow. I can do all the caches within 100km with about 19,000, but that leaves out some I'm likely to want to do.

I had a flash of inspiration. I can still use GSAK to make a single GPX file of the caches within 150km (and that's the time-consuming part), and then I can change my program that makes memory map files, so that as well as making the file for all the caches (which I can put on the big screen and use for planning), I can make it spit out two memory map files, one for the Northern half and one for the South, with a little bit of overlap. I've done that, and the bigger of the two is 20,000 caches, so I'll be golden. So, once I've done the planning for the day, I'll just load in one of those two into the Loox, which takes less than a minute, and I'm ready to go.

Speaking of big screens - I've always had a hankering for screens that are bigger and better. My current screen is 1920 by 1200. I read recently about the Yamakasi Catleap which is 2560 by 1440. And I can get it on Ebay for £209, including post. From Korea. Or the Achieva, £199.60. The only downside is that my computer would need a DVI-dual port, which it currently doesn't have. I can get a video card with DVI-dual such as the GT440 for £36 or so, but that needs a PCI-e slot, and my current motherboard doesn't have one.

The Club3D Radeon HD 3450 AGP for £42, says it goes up to 2560 by 1600, has Dual Link DVI and fits in an AGP slot, which I have, so that might work.

If I buy from Bluepoint (in the UK), I can get the Samsung  S27A850D for £561. No thanks.

On the other hand, it feels like it might be quite a lot of hassle for a 25% increase in screen size.

But.

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/IBM-T221-Highest-Resolution-IPS-Retina-Display-3840x2400-55-Hz-22-2-Monitor-/290726891053?pt=Computer_Monitors&hash=item43b0ac4e2d


For £1100, the IBM T221, 3840 by 2400 (which is four times the screen area that I currently have); it "works out of the box with almost any modern graphics cards with two DL-DVI ports" (another £80), but that needs a PCI-e .... hmm, I could just buy a computer with the necessary card (ATI HD 6770) and a 4.4ghz processor, 8gb ram for £430. Add the T221, and I have a really great desktop for £1530.

Wow. Tempting.




Saturday, 9 June 2012

Caching today

Out caching today, on the bike, around Ashley Green. The idea is that being on the bike doesn't aggravate my hip tendonitis. I'll find out tomorrow if the theory works. My back is certainly feeling the burn.

49 caches done.

As I was snuffling around for one of them, a couple of kids came by, and wanted to know what I was doing, so I gave them the usual "I'm counting the slugs", and showed them my "British Slug Survey" card. That wasn't enough, and they hung around for a bit of a discussion, like "Why are you counting the slugs","Well, someone has to do it." Eventually, they wandered off and I was able to grab the cache.

Then one of them came back.

He'd brought three slugs for me.


I am offended by the word "inappropriate". It's too vague. In this case, there's no way I can guess what it is they're upset about.




 When, oh when will this terrible drought end?



Brave Sir Robin, hopped up within a few feet of me, scrounging breadcrumbs.



Friday, 8 June 2012

A trojaned proxy server?

This arrived today.


From: Automatic Email Delivery Software <noreply@drsolly.com>
To: drsollyp@drsolly.com
Subject: DELIVERY REPORTS ABOUT YOUR E-MAIL
Parts/Attachments:
   1 Shown    10 lines  Text
   2          30 KB     Application
----------------------------------------

Dear user of drsolly.com,

Your account has been used to send a large amount of spam during the recent week.
Obviously, your computer was infected by a recent virus and now contains a trojaned proxy server.

Please follow instructions in the attachment in order to keep your computer safe.

Best regards,
The drsolly.com support team.



Actually, I run drsolly.com, and I am the drsolly.com support team. Also I'm the only user.

I get quite a lot of spam like this; they're trying to get me to run the enclosed trojan, which (I'd guess) would make me part of a botnet, although I'd also guess that this would only work if I were running Windows, which I'm not.

 I also get "Wouldn't it be great if you had a PhD" spam. Well, I find it funny.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Spanish prisoner

Several of the spams that I get each day, are from a Nigerian prince, or a US Army Sergeant, or a dying lady in Gambia. Or a lawyer in London, an accountant in Accra or a banker in Belize. Or someone. What they all have in common, is that there's a large amount of money, usually more than ten million dollars, and they're looking for someone to help them realize it by getting it out of the country, and I seem to be a good honest upright person, and will I help?

I'm sure you get loads of these also.

What you undoubtedly know, is that it's some sort of scam, and you ignore them. I say "undoubtedly", but there's always a tiny number of people who do fall for it. We call such people "gullible". Yes, I know it's hard to believe that there are such people, but remember that once upon a time, you believed in Santa Claus, and there's still quite a lot of people who believe in one god or another. In many cultures, the act of believing something on no evidence (and indeed with some evidence to the contrary) is considered good, and is called "faith".

But maybe you don't know what the scam is?

It works like this. When you respond positively, you discover that there's a tiny hurdle that needs to be cleared, a trifling sum needs to be sent for clearance documents, or some such. Maybe $25.

If you send this, then you discover that, oh dear, there's another problem, and another trifling sum needs to be sent to deal with that. Maybe another $39.

And if you send this ... and so on. There is, of course, no $15,500,000, and you'll be asked to pay for as long as you're willing to continue.

This is called the "Advance fee" fraud, sometimes called the 419 scam (after the law in Nigeria that makes it illegal).

But what you maybe didn't know, is that this is a very old scam. I got my first approach via a letter, about 30 years ago. Same scam, different script.

But it's even older than that. It goes back to the 16th century; there's an aristocrat, wrongly imprisoned, and I can't tell you who it is, for obvious reasons, but if we can help him to freedom, then we'll be rewarded greatly ... and so on.

Same scam. And 500 years later, people are still falling for it.