Tuesday 31 January 2012

Teeth and cache maintenance.

I popped into the dentist today - the fake tooth that he made for me is very slightly loose, plus a back molar is starting to be a tidge achey. He told me that the tooth isn't loose enough yet, to come back when it has more of a wobble. He reckons that taking it out now wouldn't be a good idea, it would damage the root that the pin is in. And he gave me an appointment for fixing up the achey molar.

Then I went on to do some cache maintenance - one of my caches is too close to another. So I picked up the offending cache, meaning to move it on somewhat. But as I passed another one, number 5, it wasn't there! Last found a few weeks ago, no-one reported a DNF. Oh well, I've replaced it in a more concealed place. And I've replaced the cache that had the proximity issue. Brrr, it's cold out today!

So now the caches are out of order, they go 1, 2, 4, 5, 3, 6, 7 ... I'm sure that cachers won't be thrown by this.

Monday 30 January 2012

St Leonard's tower

It was night time. I started the search, and spent some time looking in various places. Then Mr Muggle turned up, and wanted to know what I was doing. "I'm looking at the tower", I explained. "At night?" he asked, sceptically. "I've got a torch," I explained.

He seemed to think that this was an inadequate explanation, and said so, quite strongly. And he told me that I was acting suspiciously. "We get a lot of suspicious characters along here," he opined. So I pointed out that it was a public footpath, and it's always possible that it could be used by bad people. I decided that there wasn't much point in continuing the search, and started back to the car, parked in the road.

And then Mrs Muggle came out.

She wasn't nearly as understanding as Mr Muggle (who, it has to be said, hadn't fully accepted that I was looking at the tower). She started shouting at me, accusing me of being a criminal (she was of the opinion that I'd trespassed on her land, based on that she'd seen my torch), and informing me that the police had been called. Which I didn't believe, but I kept that opinion to myself. And I continued to walk calmly back to my car.

Then she kicked off, shouting and screaming at me (but she only seeemed to know one emphasis-word), and threatening to get a gun to deal with me. I ignored all this, and just got in the car and drove away.

Some people. Still, it makes it all more exciting.

I went all round London today, I always like doing that. In the morning, I went round the M25 northabout (because traffic is heavier going the other way, and this way is only slightly longer), over the QE2 bridge (always a treat) and on to Tonbridge. Going home, I continued clockwise and went home via Heathrow. So I circumnavigated London, this proving that London isn't flat.

Another thing - earlier in the day, I was about a kilometer from completing the route, when my GPS unit started showing a red light, meaning "my battery is nearly dead". Gulp. Without that it'll be a *lot* harder to find caches. So I switched it off, which makes sense; I counted paces until I was closish to the cache, switched it on, found the cache, checked the distance to the next one, and switched it off. And so on. That got me through the last couple of caches, but it isn't how I like to operate. I've checked this GPS, a fully charged battery lasts 13 hours, which is why I con't carry a spare (I don't have a spare). This died after six hours. So it couldn't have been fully charged. I'll carry a spare for the next few outings, until my confidence in this unit is restored.

Sunday 29 January 2012

Seventh in the quiz

Ladysolly and I (daughter.2 and her fellow was also there) did a WIZO quiz last night; this is done as a team event, with no rules. Meaning, you can use Google, and any other internet crutches.T was a great help. We came seventh, and that's partly my fault - there was one question that I'd agreed with everyone else on, and I shouldn't have, and another question that we got right for completely the wrong reasons, and one that I got right, that I thought everyone argreed on, but was switched at the last moment without me knowing. Oh well, it's not the winning, it's the taking part, and the pumpkin soup was really excellent.

Friday 27 January 2012

Chas and Dave

Today, I discovered Chas and Dave on youtube. All their best songs, and several that I'd not heard before. Recommended.

Chas is a brilliant pianist; also plays banjo and guitar. And whoever it is that writes their songs is a genius.

Also, the Halifax are taking things further; they want to send a letter to my address to acknowledge the complaint while they investigate it. So I gave them my street address.

Thursday 26 January 2012

The first lamb

I was out caching today, round Hambledon, and I saw my first lamb of the year.

A good and exhausting day out, in which I also collected four puzzles I'd done a long time ago for a total of 41 caches.

 By the way. I think it's wonderful the way they've redefined yoghurt to be some sort of medicine.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Thanks to two spammers

I was talking to someone at "The clever zone" about a spam he'd sent me, and I was telling him, as usual, that this contravened the PEC Regulation 2003. He said it didn't. That surprised me, no-one's ever argued before.

Most people's interpretation of the regulation, is that it's OK to spam businesses, the regulation only applies to individuals (I actually don't think that's correct). but how do you tell the difference?

The guy from "The clever zone" cleverly argued that since I'd registered my own domain name, it had to be a business. I disputed that, and he got a bit heated. "If you don't like it, go to the Information Commissioner".



That's interesting. I hadn't known before who one complains to - I'd tried to find out using Google, without any luck. So I located the Information Commissioner, phoned them, and followed it up with an email. They're looking into it now.

So thank you, "The clever zone" for making me more clever about who I can go to to make a formal complaint.

I also got a spam from Tropicleanse (I don't know what they sell, the email was too dazzling to read, maybe they clean tropics?) and I phoned them up. I spoke to John, and the voice sounded a bit familiar, and then he said "That's Alan Solomon, isn't it?" It's John from Clearsmoke! I've called him a few times now. He says he's escalating the issue, and so I gave him one more thing to escalate. He said he's at a call center in the Phillipines. I hope that's going well.

And I accidentally bumped into someone doing similar stuff with spammers - one of the spammers I got an email from, accidentally (I think) copied in their email, which also cited the PEC regulation 2003. So I emailed my fellow anti-spammer, and we're swapping notes on this. So more thanks to The Toner Place, for putting us in touch, albeit (I think) unwittingly. And The Toner Place wno't be sending me any more spam. Probably.

Frontline services will not be affected by the cuts ...

How often have we heard this? Applied to the NHS, the police, and so on. Has anyone else noticed that it's got to be complete cobblers?

In any business or service, you have the people at the frontline (the guys actually swinging picks at the coal face, as it were), and a whole bunch of other people who are there because they're needed. The people who carry the coal back to the pit head. The people who load it onto trains. The people in the accounts department. The people in training, in purchasing of picks, the geologists ... you see what I mean? These are all people who are actually necessary for the operation.

If you cut those services, then either they weren't needed in the first place (in which case, why on earth were they there?) or else this is going to have an impact on the overall service.

If you cut the non-frontline services, then that's going to make the frontline services worse. If you fire the people who buy the picks, then either the miners will have to dig without picks, or else they're going to have to take the time go to hardware stores to buy picks. If you cut the people who transport the coal away from the coal face, then the miners will have to stop swinging their picks every so often, and carry the coal back themselves.

So please stop this "Frontline services will not be affected by the cuts". I'm not as stupid as you hope I am.

Woo hoo, I passed!

A few days ago, I sent something unusual through the post.


It felt slightly strange when I popped the envelope through the pillarbox, but that's what the instructions said I should do.

It's the NHS Bowel Cancel Screening programme. I won't go into details, but I had to do something mildly unpleasant but not painful, and send the results through the post. It's routine, you do it when you turn 60, then every couple of years thereafter. Today I got the results - "result was normal". So I'm good for another couple of years.

A hard day's caching

Out to Southampton today. I drove down the M3 through pouring rain, which dwindled slightly as I came along the M27. The weather forecast had been for rain in the morning, clearing up in the later afternoon, so I decided to change the order of battle; I'd do a 24-cache circuit on foot in the morning, and get on the bike in the afternoon.

I parked at a local watersports center "gates locked when closed" hoping that they didn't close before lunchtime, kitted up and set off.

It went well, I found all 24, and on the way round, these rather splendid primroses.

You can see the rain still on them, but it stayed dry for me.

Then I relocated the car to Warsash, and made use of the handy public toilet, then had my sandwiches in the car. And I got out my bike for the Rammstein series of multis. I trundled down the lane, making diversions as necessary to pick up the info (but failed to note something that I'd need later) until I got to the end; at that point, I thought I'd delay getting the finals until later, and set off for a circuit of trads, still on the bike.

After a couple of caches, I missed my track, and sailed gaily into a farm, where a nice lady asked "Lost?" "Yes," I said, U-turned and soon found where I ought to be.

The going was wet, of course, but only slightly squidgy, and I managed not to fall off. Along the way, I saw this

and I thought "That's not chilling, that's pretty hot!"

By the time I got back to the car, it was 7pm, and I'd been riding in the dark for two hours. But I have a great headtorch, good enough for biking in the dark. Back in the car, I had coffee which restored me somewhat, and I started to go out for the multis that I'd got the info for earlier, plus a few more trads along the way.

I did the first two on foot, but then I relocated and got the bike out again, and set off in the dark for the last few. And it was late, and I was tired, which explains why, when I was getting the last two caches, I left the bike by a handy tree and found them on foot, and forgot to note the coords of the bike. And so I spent a fraught half hour looking for the bike afterwards, because I'd forgotten that I'd taken it partway into the wood before abandoning it. I was *so* glad to see the LEDs on the handlebars when eventually I spotted it. It's not the first time I've spent longer looking for my bike than for the cache. Note to self - not only note where you left the car, also note where you left the bike!

I got home at midnight, as per plan, aching all over from the exercise. A very good day out.

Monday 23 January 2012

Spammers again

I thought I mmight explain a bit about my email system, including the despamming.

I have a *lot* of email addresses, maybe 50 or so? Obviously, I don't want to log into 50 different systems, so I arrange for everything to be forwarded to one place for reading it. And when it gets there, it's filtered by a despammer.

1) Emails that aren't actually addressed to me. There's a lot of emails that arrive at my server, that aren't addressed to me. About 99% of them are dropped straight into /dev/null which is a black hole. Some of them evade the black hole, and get dropped into my "spam not for me" folder. I glance at that once per day, and delete it. I can't remember ever seeing anything in there that I ought to read.

2) Emails addressed to me, but look spammish. I have a spam filter which I wrote, using regexes, that sees things that look spammish (for example, words like Viagra and replica watch, and the various variations of spelling on those). I look at that twice per day, and occasionally, maybe a couple of times per week, there's something that isn't spam.

3) Emails addresses to a couple of my addresses that are especially prone to getting spam. They get put into a separate folder. Maybe once per month, there's something that isn't spam.

4) Emails that pass all the above tests, and so might not be spam. In practice, about 25% of those are real emails. If I start seeing spam about a particular subject, or from a particular place, I'll add that to the spam filter, so that in future that goes to category 2.

I was disappointed to receive another spam from Steven Katz, after he'd donated £25 to RNIB in apology for the previous spam. This one is for Mint Tins and Pots (the previous one was for Mint Cars). I phoned him again, but he was too busy to talk to me, so I left a message. I did speak to someone else there, and she thought that maybe this new spam was "in the pipeline", so to speak, and therefore not affected by the removal of email address.

More spams from Train4Trade and Clearsmoke - I've not had much success in communicating with those, so I tried again. Probably not much further progress.

Success with Psychometric Advantage - Matt Paines (01785 245134) called me back, and I think they are now sorted out. Time will tell.

I got a big runaround from Ladbrokes, but I did finally get an email from them, which I've replied to, asking that they stop (and stop their affiliates) from offending against the PEC (2003) regulation.

The only phone number I could find for Vanquis Bank costs 7p per minute to use, some of which pours into the pockets of Vanquis. So I'll see if they offend again before I progress them.

At Claims Financial, I spoke to Samantha Young, and send her the email. I also got contacted again by Emma Dobbin (Kelloggs). Their tech people wanted a screenshot of the email, so I sent them that.

I tried Coral again, but Tom Galanis is out for a week, so I spoke to Leena there, and emailed her another copy of the offending email.

Accident Advice Helpline called me back - I forwarded another spam to another of my addresses to them. They told me that they have a "Do not email" list, which they send to all their affiliates. Now that's a really good idea! I'd hope that everyone else would do that, and I'm going to suggest it in future when talking to spammers. offered me some great holidays (I didn't reaad the details, but I feel sure they must be great), so I called them and left a message on 0115 9551155 for Ken to call me back.

I did a "unsubscribe" froma couple of US lists, and got an acknowledgement back. I also unsubscribed from Dealextreme, who I have actually bought something from, I hope they honour the request.

And much fun with Ollie. He seems to be the man for several companies, such as "Save on CCTV" and "fonesave". But each of the companies he's spamming on behalf of, has a different phone number, so he scored a massive three phone calls from me today - the third time, I said "Let me guess, you're Ollie?" and we both had a good laugh. He's says that he's taken me off his lists. Ollie got his lists from Forward Line Marketing, so I called Alec Jones-Hall there on 0843 289 9512, and asked him to remove me from all his lists

There doesn't seem to be a UK opt-out service, but there is one in the US. It's free, and you can go to to get your addresses on to it. Since at least some of my spam comes from the US, maybe it'll help.

Saturday 21 January 2012

No charge

Found while out caching. I'm very happy that there's no charge, ever, but I'm left wondering:

1) What's the charge between 8am and 6pm
2) Why they felt the need to give us so much detail about the times when there's no charge.

I went out today - I shouldn't have, I was still a bit tired from yesterday. But while planning for Sunday, I found a puzzle cache that hadn't been found, and that I was able to solve. So to get the FTF, I went out today. Unfortunately, I didn't find the cache. Rats.

Friday 20 January 2012

Out caching today

I took a few days off caching, to catch up on things. But I was out today, on a seven mile circuit.  The gorse is in flower, very nice.

I went back to a cache I'd DNFed on Sunday. I parked, walked 400 meters uphill to a trig point, and had a thorough search. No luck. Dejectedly, I walked back the the car. Half way back, I had a thought. There was one possibility I hadn't tried. And I rapidly convinced myself that it must be right. So I trekked back again up the hill, and sure enough, there it was! It's annoying that they put trig points at the top of hills, it would be much more convenient if the put them in easily accessible places, and on the flat. But do the Ordnance Survey show any consideration for us geocachers? They do not.

32 caches done today, including the one above, and a Suduko cache where the Suduko gives you the combination to the lock around the cache, except that you don't know what order the digits should be in. Not a problem, except that the lock was badly in need of oiling. Note to self - in future, when doing unlock puzzles, take a can of oil! And a very clever cache by Messe, a lot of his caches are top-notch.

Thursday 19 January 2012

1000 pageviews, and more despamming

This blog has reached a milestone - 1000 pageviews! I realise that isn't a lot compared to almost any other blog, but I've been going for less than a month.

Today I did a bit more work with spammers, making more progress with Honda UK, and introducing the news about the PEC Regulations 2003 to Groupon, Train4trade, Clearsmoke, Marketing1 and Psychometric Advantage. And I might be imagining it, but I do think that the amount of spam I receive has reduced.

It was a bit tricky finding out the phone number for  Psychometric Advantage, the spam leads you to a form that sends in a "contact me" request, and I didn't want to fill that in, for obvious reasons. But a whois on their domain name got me the name Matt Paines (also known as Maitland Paines), a bit of googling turned him up as director of several companies, they all have web sites, and I got a phone number for him from one of them.

On the down side, Halifax seem to be refusing to take any action over their affiliate's spamming activities (I got an email which demonstrated that they'd completely misunderstood the issue, and thought I was reporting phishing), but I've tried another avenue with them. A big disadvantage with big companies like that, is that no-one ever knows who is responsible for what, and you get passed around a lot. But that's also an advantage, because that gives me lots of opportunities to make it someone's responsibility. For example - the spamming offence against the PEC Regulation (2003) might be a Marketing issue, it might be a Legal issue, it might be a PR issue, it might be a Customer Service issue, it might be ... you see what I mean? And obviously I don't know who in the company is supposed to take responibility, so I can try them all.

I'm getting more spams from Accident Advice Helpline. But I've sent them on to Tony Rose (, so he can look into them.

I've also been getting spams looking for a UK distributor of a product called "Cup lamp", but a few seconds work showed me that this was coming from Hong Kong, so I'll just block their spams.

I found out why some of the spam that I've been forwarding on to various people hasn't been arriving. It's being intercepted by Messagelabs who think it's spam - well, I can't blame them for thinking that. They provide an antispam service to the companies. But it looks like in every case so far, putting the email into a Word file gets past that spam filter.

Jackie Falls at The affiliatepeople got another phone call from me, because I've had another spam from one of their affiliates. She sounded a bit down, so I tried to cheer her up by telling her I'd call her again if there were any more.

Clearsmoke has now sent me three spams to three different addresses (yes, I have a *lot* of email addresses). I phoned them up on 0800 335 7004 for each one, speaking to Al for the first two, and John for the third.

Freedom Marketing has contacted Azam Marketing and told them to remove my email address; if some of the information I've been given is correct, that should wipe out quite a large number of spams.

I also used the ebuyer unsubscribe link to get myself off their list - I had indeed bought something from them several years ago, and that, of course, would give them permission to badger me for ever - but not now, since I've requested that they stop.

And text marketer has told me that they bought their list from UK Data Company, 0207 748 6112, while emailmovers (who send out the spam for UKFast) got their list from Premierlists, 0870 765 1250, but that number doesn't seem to work. Both Text Marketer and UK Fast have taken action.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Details, details

Connie Willis has written some good stuff; I've just finished reading "Blackout" and "All Clear", time travel stories set in the 1940s during the war.

There's a *lot* of detail about which buildings were hit and when, and the Dunkirk Evacuation, and the V1 and V2 blitz, and the VE-day celebrations, and rationing, and bomb shelters, and maybe that detail is correct. But ...

1) She thinks that Nelson's Column is called Nelson's Monument
2) She thinks that UK currency in the 1940s included two penny pieces - that didn't happen until decimalisation in the seventies
3) She thinks that you use tokens to get on the London Underground. No, that's New York. In London, you use a ticket, which you purchase with currency.

These are small details. But it means that she didn't get anyone from England to read her manuscript for howlers like this, and that, unfortunately, casts doubt on the accuracy of all the other details in her books.

Yet more spam

Rapid Racking, Accident advice helpline, My Special K, The Eco Experts, text marketer, First vehicle leasing, Creative Promotional Marketing and Gala Bingo.

Rapid Racking wasn't actually spam - I've bought some racking from them in the past. So I went to their "unsubscribe" link, hopefully that should do the trick.

First vehicle leasing was good - I spoke to Graham McCarthy there, he was very familiar with the PEC regulations. He was sure that they only used email addresses that they'd collected via enquiries to their web site. But I explained to him that in this case, he was mistaken. He's taken me off his list, and he's going to try to find out how the email address got onto his list. A good result.

GalaBingo. First I spoke to Nicola, and I have to say she wasn't really helpful. She said I'd have to write and actual paper letter to them to get any action. I explained that I wasn't willing to do that, and she had no other suggestion, so I told her I was going to escalate this.

So I phoned Coral, the parent company, on 01483 718301 (I got that number from their web site). I spoke to Tom Galanis, who was infinitely more helpful; I gave him the details, sent him a copy of the spam, and he's going to look into it. He was so helpful, I phoned Nicola back and told her his name and phone number, so that she could be more helpful in future.

My Special K, which is, of course, Kelloggs. I spoke to Emma Dobbin there on 0800 626066, explained that Freedom Marketing was spamming on their behalf. She was concerned, and asked me to forward a copy of the spam email, which I did.

A little while later, she called me back, my forward hadn't arrived. We checked that I'd sent it to the correct address, and I sent it again. That didn't arrive either. So I suspected that it was being blocked by their spam filter. There's irony for you. She went away and came back with the idea that I should do a screen capture of the email, put that in a Microsoft Word document, and email that to her - she'd obviously consulted someone technical. But not technical enough - that wouldn't give them the email headers and other important info. But it gave me an idea. I exported the email, including headers and html, into a text file, converted that to a Word document, and email that. It arrived immediately.

Accident advice helpline is another Freedom marketing effort, and I've emailed the spam to

The Eco Exports is Freedom Marketing again, and that is being dealt with by their Joe Scofield.

Creative Promotional Marketing (Mint Cars & Cards) - they bought an email list from Sweet Temptations, according to their Charles Wilkinson. He told me they've had several complaints already. And he said that Sweet Temptations is now out of business, and so I commiserated with him, it would look like they've been scammed. The lesson here is, don't buy a list of email addresses from someone who will shortly afterwards go out of business.

So, naturally, I googled "Sweet Temptations", and they do appear to exist! So I phoned them, and got a more complete story. The previous company called Sweet Temptations no longer exists, but there's a new company, composed at least partly of former employees, who have acquired the trading name "Sweet Temptations", and now trade under that name. but it is a completely different company. And they checked their database for my email address, and I'm not on it. Sorted, I think.

And finally, I phoned Freedom Marketing, which appears on many of these spams. I spoke to Mark Scott (0207 195 1914) there, and explained the situation. When I mentioned "Asktips" he groaned. Oh yes. And he told me about The Slice, and the past history between them and The Affiliate People. And he told me that Freedom Marketing weren't the people sending the spam, it was Azam Marketing, and he'd already told them to stop using the name "Freedom Marketing". I asked him when he'd told them that, and he said, today. Apparently they've had a whole bunch of complaints - Optimax, The Affiliate People, and many others. And it's all happened in the last couple of days. So I told him about Gala Bingo, and Kelloggs, and the others that I knew about, and he was very nice about it all. And he's going to contact Azam Marketing and ask them to take action. We parted good friends.

And after I put the phone down, I wondered if all the complaints he'd been getting had their origin in the same originator? I'll probably never know.

And then I got a phone call from the director of "Creative Promotional Marketing". He apologised for the spam, and offered to donate £25 to the charity of my choice. I've asked him to donate to the Royal National Institute for the Blind.

An excellent result.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

More spam

I got two spams, one for Optimax, one for Optical Express. Both spams were sent by "Freedom Marketing".

I called both these laser surgery companies, to tell them that one of their associates was sending spam. Optimax was annoyed that Freedom Marketing were spamming for a competitor, Optical Express weren't too pleased either.

Both of them are going to look into it and report back to me.

I also reported Freedom Marketing (trading as CompareandSave) to Halifax, but they don't seem to be too interested, even though Freedom Marketing are their affiliate number 650. So I went over their head to the Office of Fair Trading.

Optimax came to me via The Affiliate People, so I called them, and spoke to Jackie Falls. She sounded like she'd had this before, and asked me to forward the email, so I did. She said that she'd ask them to show evidence of their previous relationship with me. That'll be interesting - their previous relationship has entirely consisted of spam sent to me.

UKFast got back to me with the name of the company that had sold them my email address - Email Movers Ltd. The phone number he gave me for them doesn't work, so that'll need further investigation. But UKFast told me that, as a result of a complaint they had 13 months ago, they've purchased "at great expense" the Companies House list of email addresses, and they're planning to use that to ensure that they only send emails to companies.

I have to wonder why that would take 13 months; I'd be able to write a program to do that in less than an hour. Still, it's good news that just one complaint can make so much difference. UKFast are still upset about me calling them a "spammer", it would seem that the word has negative associations. Maybe they'd prefer "Sender of unsolicited commercial email"?

UKFast still feel that I'm picking on them. Well, they are in contravention of the  "Privacy in Electronic Communications Regulation, 2003". But if one complaint 13 months ago got such a good result, it's clearly a good idea to complain.

I also phoned "Refreshed Media Ltd" about their spam for "Energy Contract Renewal", on 0800 205 5517 and spoke to Miles Emmett there. He took it seriously (I think that mentioning the "Privacy in Electronic Communications Regulation, 2003" is always a good thing). He said he couldn't give me the name of the company that provided the email address, and I asked him to get permission to disclose that. He said he'll see what he could do.

... later ...

I called Email Movers man, Jamie Gledhill, on his mobile number, 07971 649 453. He was very nice about it, and they do try to comply with the PEC 2003 Regulation, by using the Companies House list to weed out private individuals. He promised that he'd look into how this happened.

Also Optimax called back, asking for copies of the spam, which I've emailed to them.

I think spammers fall into five categories.

1) Reputable companies who have bought a list of email addresses in good faith, having been assured by the vendor that they comply with the PEC 2003 Regulation. For example, UKFast would probably be in that category.

2) Companies whose business model is to become associates of reputable companies with a product to sell, and then buy email lists to sent out lots of email to get business. For example, that would include Freedom Marketing.

3) People who try to sell you "herbal Viagra", replica watches amd medications; I include in this category people who do actually ship you the valueless product that you've purchased.

4) Crooks and scammers offering you £18,000,000, or "work from home", or other deals that aim to extract your money without giving you anything back

5) Attempts to install malicious software on your computer.

I think that 3, 4 and 5 are a lost cause - blocking their emails, or filtering them out is the only possibility. But I do believe it is possible to tackle categories 1 and 2.

Monday 16 January 2012

The first daffodil

I actually saw this yesterday, but it's the first daffodil I've seen this year. It's very early for a daff!

I was out today; a nine mile circuit with hills and mud, and I'm knackered.

Sunday 15 January 2012

Flashed by a speed camera

You know that "Oh bugger" moment when you see the flash of a speed camera?

Well, I was beetling along Putney High street at a rate of knots, near dusk, when there was a sudden flash of light in my face, and I could see that it had come from a speed camera just in front of me. "Oh bugger," I thought, automatically.

Then I thought - no, it's someone else. Can't be me. No way.

Because I'm on my bike. And if I do even 20 mph, that's on a steep downhill with a tail wind.

Saturday 14 January 2012


After you've had chicken pox (and I think most people have), the virus (varicella zoster) remains dormant in your nerve tissues. I had chicken pox about 50 years ago. So did ladysolly. Your immune system keeps it under control,  but later in life it can break out again as shingles (herpes zoster). The symptoms are a very irriating red rash, on one side of the body.

Ladysolly is now on antivirals for it, plus calamine to help with the irritation. Plus it's affected her social life temporarily, because it is infectious, although if you've already had chicken pox, you're probably immune. And anyway, if you already had chicken pox, you already have the virus still inside you.

Friday 13 January 2012

And another spammer

UKFast. "Your future is our business"

They sent me a spam email from "Mia Anderson"; the spam was in html (and my mail reader doesn't do html, to avoid security problems), but I was able to get the gist of it. They're giving me their free reports on Cloud Hosting and suchlike. The spam was sent to the same email address that the Royal Henley Regatta spam went to. My guess is that someone, at some time in the past, used the WHOIS service to harvest the email addresses that are the contact point for domain names, and is now selling that list. Or sold it to someone who is now selling it. Or there's several generations of resellers of this.

I know it's spam, because I don't give out that email address. The only place it exists, is on WHOIS.

Should I read these reports? Given that they came from a spammer, I think the answer is no. It would involve visiting a web site that I don't know, and there could be malicious software on that server - remember, the invitation came from a spammer, which immediately gives them a poor reputation in most people's eyes. Plus, I'm not really interested in the subject of the report. Plus, I don't want to buy anything from a spammer.

So I phoned them up on 0208 045 4945 (I got that from their web site), and asked to speak the the Marketing Director. Jennifer, the nice lady who answered the telephone gave me a lot of questions about why I wanted to speak to him, which I answered as best I could, but after a while, I got a bit fed up with the unlimited questions that she was asking, gave her my phone number, explained that I'm sure that they already had as many customers as they could possibly want, but if they had a few moments to spare out of their busy day, they could call me. And she said she'd get Sales to call me back, and was that what I wanted? So I explained, no, I want to talk to the Marketing Director, but it's entirely up to him whether he wants to talk to me, and you have my phone number, and I don't want to waste your time and mine, and I indicated that I wanted to end this phone call.

I then emailed Lawrence Jones, CEO of UKFast to tell him that his company is spamming. From looking at his details and his blog, he's clearly a Big Cheese (in the nicest possible sense), or at least regards himself as a big cheese, and I felt sure that he'd want to know that his company is spamming.

We'll see if he calls back. It's 1 pm now.

 ... 4pm. They called me back. It seems that my message to Lawrence Jones reached him, and I was called back by Jennifer. She's been told that they aren't sending out spam, I explained to her that she'd been misinformed. She said that her technical people told her that they weren't spamming, I told her that they were mistaken. She wanted to know the email address that had received the spam, I told her that the issue wasn't one of getting that address off their spamming list, the issue is to get them to recognise that they're spamming, and to stop doing it. She said that from the number she'd called me, she couldn't put me through to Mr Jones. Or to the technical people. Or anyone else. So I suggested that she get someone to call me. Preferably Mr Jones. And I explained to her that spamming is an offence against the Privacy in Electronic Communication 2003 Regulation, but that I'd much rather deal with this matter between UKFast and myself, rather than get the authorities involved. We parted on good terms, she'd try to get someone to phone me.

Here's the regulation:

22.—(1) This regulation applies to the transmission of unsolicited communications by means of electronic mail to individual subscribers.

(2) Except in the circumstances referred to in paragraph (3), a person shall neither transmit, nor instigate the transmission of, unsolicited communications for the purposes of direct marketing by means of electronic mail unless the recipient of the electronic mail has previously notified the sender that he consents for the time being to such communications being sent by, or at the instigation of, the sender.

(3) A person may send or instigate the sending of electronic mail for the purposes of direct marketing where—

(a)that person has obtained the contact details of the recipient of that electronic mail in the course of the sale or negotiations for the sale of a product or service to that recipient;

(b)the direct marketing is in respect of that person’s similar products and services only; and

(c)the recipient has been given a simple means of refusing (free of charge except for the costs of the transmission of the refusal) the use of his contact details for the purposes of such direct marketing, at the time that the details were initially collected, and, where he did not initially refuse the use of the details, at the time of each subsequent communication.

So, who would be "the authorities" in this instance?

32.  Where it is alleged that there has been a contravention of any of the requirements of these Regulations either OFCOM or a person aggrieved by the alleged contravention may request the Commissioner to exercise his enforcement functions in respect of that contravention, but those functions shall be exercisable by the Commissioner whether or not he has been so requested.

4:40 pm While I was on their web site, a chat-box popped up, so I had a web-chat conversation with one of their techies (Alex Law), and I explained the situation to him. Shortly after that (and I think on account of that chat) I was called by their Director of Communications, Jonathan Bowers. We had a nice discussion, in which I relieved him of the idea that I was just trying to get taken off their spamming list, and explained to him about the danger to their organisation of becoming known as a spammer, which would probably happen if they continued spamming. And I told him about the PEC 2003 regulation, and that my objective was to awaken them to the fact that they are probably in contravention of it. He said that they might have bought in a list of email addresses (he wasn't sure), and asked if that was against the law? My opinion in that is that buying the list isn't against the law, but using it would be, if in doing so he contravenes PEC 2003. He was concerned that I might be about to "spash this all over the internet", but I explained to him that the act of spamming is what will tell people being spammed that UKFast are spamming.

He also queried whether the email address ( that I'd given when emailing Lawrence Jones was real. It's not the first time that people have questioned whether anyone can really have the email address I don't actually understand why that looks like it can't exist. But it does. People who know that my name is "Dr Solomon" can probably work out where it came from. And, of course, UKFast know that, because I told them when I sent the email to their CEO Mr Jones.

5:10 I got another phone call from Jonathan Bowers. He'd spoken to their legal team, and they were aware of PEC 2003, and they buy their email address lists from three companies, all of who claim to be compliant with PEC 2003.

I don't actually see how that's possible.  How can a person reselling a list, know whether or not it meets 3a above?

So the next step is, he's going to find out who sold them the list with that email address on. And, of course, I can expect to get no more spam from UKFast. At least, no more on that particular email address. I do, of course, have umpteen other addresses. And they'll be taking up the issue with the people who sold them that list.

Another good result, I think.

Thursday 12 January 2012

Bayes theorem

I just read a book "The theory that would not die" by Sharon Bertsch McGrayne. It's about Bayes theorem, and its history.

I'm interested in this, because my PhD thesis was about a technique I'd invented that I called "Recursive Bayesian Estimation", which uses Bayes repeatedly to estimate things.

My PhD was started in 1980, published in 1983. When I fit that into the timeline in the book, it seems that I'd gotten interested in this idea at pretty much the start. Certainly when I did my literature search, there had been little or nothing published that used my idea for estimation of economic factors, and I was breaking fresh ground the whole way, including the need to write software to do my number crunching.

By the time I'd finished the PhD, I was up to my eyebrows in Bayes; I'd had enough for a lifetime. As soon as I could, I forgot the whole thing. But, inspired by the book, I've had a look around, and it seems that I published my thesis at the start of a whole Bayesian wave.

I'd advise you not to read it. I don't think anyone else has.

But looking at what has happened since, I do feel good that those three years weren't wasted, I really was on the front line of economic/statistical thinking.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

The first snowdrops

I was out caching yesterday in Wiltshire, and saw the first snowdrops of the year.


I spent a while rooting around here, and eventually found the cache, not as per hint. I'd just replaced it as per hint, when a muggle called to me from the pavement. "Hi! Are you OK?" "Yes thank you," I answered. You don't have to answer the question she'd meant to ask, only the one that she actually did ask. "Are you looking for something?" she continued. "I'm fine, thanks," I replied. You don't actually have to answer the question asked, you can answer some completely different qwuestion. But then she got specific. "What were you doing there?" So I got specific. "I'm counting the slugs," I replied. That's usually the end of it, but she struggled on gamely. "Why?" "I'm counting the slugs," I repeated. You don't actually have to answer the question asked. And I dug into my shoulder bag and showed her my "British Slug Survey" badge. That reassured her, of course, and she started to make excuses. "It's just that you're wearing camouflage, and you're down by the side of that fince." "Perfectly understandable," I forgave her magnanimously, got into the car and Paul drove away.

Monday 9 January 2012

The adventures of drsolly

 I've written a book. Well, a Kindle, actually. Well, not written ...

It's the logs of my first 24,000 caches found; I've removed all the ones that only got a short "A quick find, TFTC" and converted it to Kindle format. You can download it and read it on your Kindle, or other book reader. It's free.

The adventures of drsolly

Sunday 8 January 2012

Bongard Christmas Puzzles....

GCH61T Bongard Christmas Puzzles....

I started looking at this about five years ago. A year ago, I had what I thought might be a solution (I was sure about some of the numbers, and guessed others), but when I visited the location, it was no good. So I did some more staring at the puzzle, and some thinking about the hint, and some geography, and I came up with another likely-looking solution. But I haven't been in the area for a long time.

Today I was nearby, so I went to check out my new answer. When I got to GZ, I struggled around for a while, and then spotted a rather good-looking place. I shone my torch into it, and there was a big ammo can! But. I couldn't reach it.

Madame La Baton came to my rescue, though, and with her help, I was able to get the box into my hands. 

A very satisfying cache to complete.

Saturday 7 January 2012

To the Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria

Following authority conferred on the Paying Bank for the transfer of your over due Contract
Payment,the paying bank has notified us that One Mr.Jeffrey P Grant from United States, has
submitted 'A Power Of Attorney' stating that you have entered into an agreement with
him,before you died to help you receive your funds.

Kindly confirm if you have signed any Deeds of Agreement making him the beneficiary with the
account details:

Yours faithfully,
Tunde Lemo,
Deputy Governor,
Central Bank of Nigeria.

Dear Tunde,

Yes, I did indeed enter into an agreement before I died. But now that I'm dead, I've changed my mind.

More dogs

I had finished signing the cache, and ladysolly was walking along the public footpath a couple of hundred yards away, and I was walking to catch up with her. Suddenly, she stopped, and I could see a dog barking at her and making those rushes and jumps at her that they make. Then along came another dog, and did the same thing. By the time I caught up with her (she was still standing stock still, and she looked really scared) the dogs were in full flood.

Then the owner came along, and tried to call the dogs off. The dogs totally ignored her. And they continued to terrorise ladysolly by making those barking/jumping/rushes at her. The owner continued to call, with no effect, and made no attempt to get hold of the dogs.

So now I've caught up, and I'm near to ladysolly, and the dogs are still ignoring their owner (who now says "They won't bite", a statement which I don't fully trust, in view of her inability to control her dogs) and the dogs are still kicking off.

And here's my question.

What do you think I should have done at that point? Answers that occurs to me are:

1) Nothing

2) Defend ladysolly, if necessary with my boots and/or walking pole

3) Grab hold of the dogs, as per Dorsetgal's anecdote

4) Some other action, please suggest what

This isn't a dog-bashing thread, it's a thread about what we non-dog-owners should do when confronted by aggressive, out-of-control dogs. I'm hoping that people who understand dogs will be able to make constructive suggestions, and not just (as often happens) blame the innocent victim of the dogs' aggression.

Friday 6 January 2012

Another spammer bites the dust

I just got a spam about "Henley Royal Regatta", offering me tickets for a princely sum to the River Lounge. Now I'm used to Viagra, fake watches, lonely Ulrike from Russia and dead Nigerian princes, but the Henley Regatta? That's not an organisation that I'd usually put in that category.

So I phoned the number given, (C0MMUNICAD0 LTD (est. 1999) O37O9OO8 Suite 6, 43 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9HA, phone 01227 252222) although whois gives their address as 5th Floor Amphenol Business Complex, Thanet Way, Whitstable, Kent CT5 3JF, and told them that they were sending me spam. They didn't deny it, except that they'd rather call it "Unsolicited Commercial Email", and offered to take me off their spamming list, an offer that I accepted. I got the name of the Managing Director of the company, and asked them for their contact details at the Regatta. He wouldn't give them. "I don't want you hurling abuse at them," he said. "I'm not hurling abuse," I pointed out, and "No problem, I'll get it from Google."

So then I Googled the phone number of the Henley Royal Regatta and talked to a nice man there, who was quite concerned that his event was being brought into disrepute by a spammer. I copied the spam to him, then used whois to find out the spamming company name and address, and gave him that. He hadn't heard of them. But he did say that "Henley Royal Regatta" is trademarked (although not "Henley Regatta", he said), and said that he'd get his lawyers involved.

Odd, I thought, and read the spam a bit more carefully. It was specifically inviting me to The River Lounge. So I Googled that, and soon had the phone number of the people who ran that establishment.

They very soon understood the situation. They used the spamming company (possibly as one of many?) to sell tickets to the event, and the man I spoke to recognised them immediately, and knew the name of the Managing Director that I'd got. Apparently, they'd had problems like this in the past with this company sending out spam, and they'd promised not to do it again. And it looks like that hadn't had the desired effect.

The man at The River Lounge told me that he was going to speak to the spamming company, and tell them that they could no longer sell their tickets.

Is spamming legal? Well, under the P.E.C. Regulations 2003, you have to

a) obtain my contact details in the course of your efforts to provide me with a personal service
b) Your services compliment my requirements or services or similar products

Neither of these were complied with. I don't know how they got my email address (I'm guessing they bought a list), and I'm not someone who goes to regattas. Never have, probably never will. The nearest I've come was when I was caching around Henley once, and from a great distance, I could see some sort of regatta happening on the river.


So then I got an email from C0MMUNICAD0 LTD to tell me that they'd taken me off their list, and showed me a record from their database to demonstrate that. And, interestingly, that record revealed their source of information. Marketing Webs Group. So I googled that, and found a couple of likely references, and went to their web site, but their web site only gave me "Page not found error" for each page. But Google, bless them, have a cache, and from the google cache, I got the phone number of Marketing Webs Group, and spoke to Steven there (he claimed that he was having technical problems with his web site). He agreed to take my email address off his list, but revealed that he'd already sold that list to 5000 companies. Huh. So I asked him for a list of those 5000 companies, so that I could email them all, but he wouldn't give it. And before you ask, yes, if I did have a 5000-strong list of companies that had my email address for spamming, I would be willing to email them all.  Would that be me spamming them? I'd argue not, since there's a pre-existing relationship (they have my email address on their spamming list).

So I explained to him that he was in violation of the 2003 P.E.C. Regulations, and he said that he was only a list broker, that someone else owned the list, and he wouldn't tell me who. So I explained to him that violation of the 2003 P.E.C. Regulations was an offence, and his status as list broker didn't actually absolve him of that. So he said he'd refer this to the list owner, although I don't have high hopes of that action.

Spamming works because there's zero cost to the spammer, and there's the possibility of profits. In this case, the cost to the spammer is definitely non-zero.

Another spammer bites the dust.

Thursday 5 January 2012

Blown to bits

Today I went to Hambledon, and got blown to bits. I mean, I spent several hours walking in very strong winds, and I was slightly nervous about the possibility of being clouted by a falling branch or even tree. But I guess the two previous days of strong winds had brought down most of the dodgy timber.

I did the Novel Caches (many of them), and I managed to get the bonus despite lacking a couple of the letters, and (especially) despite getting one of the letters wrong. But fortunately, my Cachers Nose sniffed an interesting looking tree a few hundred feet away, which on investigation turned up trumps.

It rained all the way during my drive down to the start, but miraculously (i.e., as per weather forecast) it stopped when I parked and got my feet moving. 41 caches found today, including the bonus, wihch was tricky because I was missing a few of the numbers, and one of them was wrong, which put me a few hundred feet from where it actually was. It's nice when you find a cache despite such handicaps.

I phoned my usual supplier to buy a colour laser printer, the cost would have been £100. I say "would have been", because I also asked the cost of new cartridges. £90. Blimey! I'll think again.

 Later ... OK, I thought again. I'll get another inkjet like the one I got for ladysolly, which means that we can share a small stock of replacement cartridges. Printer £39, cartridges £15. But I'm getting it from Amazon, rather than my usual supplier, because Amazon are a tidge cheaper.

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Lose one, win one.

Uncanny. It's as if it knew. Just after I got ladysolly's new Airprint-enabled colour inkjet printer running, my faithful old Lexmark colour inkjet gave up the ghost. I mostly use it for printing out maps for caching, so colour is quite important. The problem it's giving, is that the paper feed isn't feeding paper into the printer.

Given the cost of these things (about £25), there's no way it's worth repairing. So, I think I'll get a colour laser; I can get one for £100 (with wifi). Meanwhile, I've pressed a mono laser I had lying around into service, so caching tomorrow (if I go, the wind right now is howling vigorously, I'll see how I feel in the morning) will be in monochrome, around Hambledon - the weather forecast is that it'll be fine around there.

I notice that I found more caches than anyone else in the UK in 2011. But it's not about the numbers, it's about the adventure. Tomorrow, I expect I'll be blown over a few times.

Working on the railway, and Airprint

One of my geocaches starts off with you controlling a railway over the internet, with a webcam so that you can see what you're doing. That information gets you to the start of a night cache firetack trail ...

Well, when the power cut happened, the ancient computer (it's a 600 mhz Pentium, which gives you some idea of how old it is) went off, and when power came back, the old computer wouldn't restart. Or rather, it would restart, but went into a kernel panic on the way, so no dice. After trying it a few times, optimistically, I decided that I'd need to use another computer. I have one that wasn't doing very much, so I hauled it up from the Data Center (my garage) to the top room (where the railway runs).

Happiness was finding a backup of the software that controls all this. But I needed to install vidcat (to do the video captures), and the version of Linux on this computer is different, and ... well, you know how it goes. The serial port controls the power on and power off, and the train stop and start, and that worked straight off, because it uses minicom, and I already had minicom installed. Eventually, I crowbarred vidcat in, and got everything working. And just for lols, I added a Chrstmas present that Ann gave me; a railway station. So you can see it all now.

Also, ladysolly's new printer arrived. She wanted to be able to use Airprint, so I got an HP 3050A, which is very cheap (I suspect they make it up on the ink sales). The delivery man rang the bell, and by the time I got my slippers on, he'd chucked the box over the entrance gate and scarpered. So I brought the somewhat wet box in (it was raining) and started to set it up. Things went well until I tried to introduce it to my network.

To install the printer, you connect it to a computer and run a CD. The problem here was, that computer is on my main home network (address 10.x.x.x) and my wifi is using 192.168.x.x. Why? Well, it just is, OK? And the installation program didn't like that. I spent ages going round in circles on this, the troubleshooter is as useful as a broken elastic band, until eventually I came up with the brilliant idea of unwiring the computer from the wired network and letting it get itself on to the wifi addresses. Then the printer was happy to install, and there's a neat thing that means that by emailing to a certain email address (which I'm not going to tell you), it prints on the printer.

But that isn't what Susan wanted, she wanted Airprint. OK, I said, let's try it. So she did. And her iPhone couldn't find a printer. Hmmm. Nothing in the documentation about Airprint, no help in Google, hmmm. What else do I need to set up?

And then she tried it again, and this time it found the printer, and printed a document that she wanted, in colour, all crisp and lovely.

Some people define insanity as trying the same thing again and expecting a different outcome. Those people obviously aren't familiar with computers.

Tuesday 3 January 2012

Power cut

Gack - a power cut. I woke up this morning to find - no power. For most people, that's annoying. For me, it turns into a major problem if it lasts more than about 30 minutes.

That's because my UPSes start to give up after that time, and a few dozen computers stop running. Of course, when power comes back (as it did a few hours later), everything starts up again. Almost.

One computer wouldn't start up. I changed the power supply, and that seemed to fix it (on the third replacement I tried), but then I found out, the hard way, that it won't start up if I have a particular keyboard attached, but will start up if I don't. I wasted over an hour on that one.

Another computer claimed that a couple of its drives weren't working, but a bit of a shake and wiggle, and it was fine. And a few other computers just wouldn't start up until they got a bit of personal attention. I think they just felt lonely.

And then I had to start up the various things that are supposed to run on each of them. Some of that can't be automated, because I have to type in a password (and there would be no point in having a password if I automated that).

Eventually, I got everything working again, and I decidewd to order a few more spare power supplies from Bluepoint, a vendor I often use. But. Power supplies, £40. Delivery, £300. That should have been more like £8 (a power supply weighs less than a pound, and is the size of a few paperbacks), so I sent them an email explaining the problem they've got on their web site. I'll phone them tomorrow and see what they say.

Should I get a generator? I don't get power cuts very often - this one was caused by very strong winds around this area, and a tree fell down. Installing and looking after a generator is quite a lot of work on its own, I've been that route. So I think I'll continue to rely on the UPSes.