Thursday, February 24, 2005

Bloomin' Telecoms

British Telecom, the monopolistic supplier of all ADSL connectivity in the UK decided in their infinite wisdom to change their infrastructure recently. In such a way that broke many people's connections.

It is all a bit technical, and I accept i may not have all of the details correct, but what I understand happened was they changed the MTU of their service.

This is the maximum size that the data packets may be.

They reduced it.

What would happen as a consequence is that when you attempt to upload data to the net (and this may be as simple as sending an email) the transaction never quite completes.

OK, fine, it is their network, they ought to be able to optimise it.

But as far as I understand, not only did they not warn the Internet Service Providers who resell their service, they did not even tell their own reseller!

A friend of mine spent an hour on the phone, being passed up the BT food chain, until he managed to arrive at someone who was able to confirm this.

Goodness knows how many people around the country have been effected.

What compounded the issue for me, was that when I went to reset my new DLink ADSL Router, it broke. I spent a day and a half without connectivity, something that is pretty drastic for me, as I work from home.

After a very long time on the phone to their tech support, they kindly concluded it was the fault of my Mac. Hmmmm, has that got anything to do with the fact that you kept asking me to click on the Start Menu???? Boy oh boy have I heard that rubbish before!!!

Anyhow, they promised that another engineer would contact me to help me solve the problem within "24 to 48 hours".

Yes, that is very useful to someone in my position.

My colleagues from work were meeting at my house the next day, and what a surprise, none of their machines worked either !!! One of them brought their ADSL Router, and of course it worked first time.

We went out that afternoon and bought me a new Router, and no, it was not a DLink!!

Needless to say, I have not heard back from their engineer, it has been longer than 48 hours too.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Smack Dot Mac

Dot Mac is broken AGAIN!!!!

iSync does not work.
Backup does not work.
Updating online calendars with iCal does not work.
iDisk may be working, I can't tell, I am trying to copy a file over now, and it is not doing anything (I eventually got error -36).
The .Mac Support site is down.
.Mac help is down.

I can collect mail, I can log in to .Mac ...... but that is about all.

It has been like this for the last couple of days

WTF am I paying for?

Last time I had to pay the update fee, I was astonished that in the UK I had to pay 23% more than people in the US.
When I wrote in to the Apple Dotmac Support forum to express my displeasure, my message was removed, and I got a snotty email from one of the moderators. You are not allowed to complain.

Considering one of the beneficial features of Tiger, the new MacOSX 10.4 expected this year, will be further integration with Dotmac, I feel Apple needs to get it's house in order !!!!

I imagine Apple want to add more links between Tiger and Dotmac because it increases their revenue, but if the service is going to carry on being so unreliable, they are going to piss a lot of people off.

I think it is about time we reverse engineered Dotmac, so we can run those services on free platforms.

This is a rip off, Apple.


OK, I was wrong ....... it turned out to be caused by British Telecom's ADSL infrastructure ....... see my next post.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


I live in a lovely Victorian apartment block in the centre of Brixton. I like Brixton, I have lived here for 30 years.

There is a bit of a drugs problem here, it has a long and chequered past, but the big issue at the moment is crack cocaine and specifically how the local police have recently shut down a bunch of crack dens. The people who come in to Brixton to buy their crack, need somewhere to take it away from the eyes of the Police, so in the last few weeks we have had a big rise in break in's to the lobby and hall area of our block.

These people get in, don't do any real harm, spend 2 minutes and go. But it freaks the bejesus out of everyone living here. The local Police say that the word has got around that you can get in here, but if you phone them when someone gets in they take 20 minutes, if they bother to come at all.

Monday: Paul reckons they can reach through the letterbox (the new doors we had fitted 6 months ago are all wrong!!) so Paul fits a sort of steel bracket he got from the local lock shop to make it more difficult.

Tuesday: Paul and Patrique reckon they can still reach through the letterbox, so they put a nasty piece of wood in the letter basket, tied in with bits of string and wire. What a mess but maybe it will help. I must replace it with something better.

Wednesday: The freak out day. About 5 or more incidents today. Paul has reached the end of his tether. He reckons someone must have keys, he demands new locks are fitted.

Thursday: Locksmith comes to fit a new barrel. £350. I (working from home) spend the whole day answering frantic phone calls, answering the door, taking the old keys from residents and doling out the new ones. Plus side, I meet some of the nice people who moved in recently, who I had not met yet. No work done today. With so much activity in the hall, someone actually sees two people get in. They just barged through the door, popping the lock open. So much for needing the lock barrel replaced!!!

Friday: Locksmith comes to fit a new electrically operated catch. £100. The old one was seriously worn down by repeated battering, that is why it was so easy to pop the door. Our lock catch was made by Ingersoll, don't buy one.
Meet our architect, we are planning to replace the roof and other stuff, he originally specified those doors. He saw what a problem we had, so he arranged to have a guy from a big lock company come around and give us a consultation.

Saturday morning: BASH !!!! Everyone out in the hall ...... We see two guys look guiltily up, "Sorry", "Can't we just stay for 2 minutes?", "NO, FECK OFF !!!!", we all shout. Damn, they can still get in if the hit the door REALLY HARD!!!!

Sunday: all quiet on the western front.

Monday: The lock guy arrived. Jeez, he looked like he spent his whole life in Kensington and Chelsea, not really up for Brixton, he looked freaked, ha ha ha ha !!! He recommended a different lock. He is sending a quote. I looked it up online and yes, it looks good. Don't think anyone got in today.

Tuesday: Someone smashed out the mail basket, which stopped people being able to reach through the letterbox to open the door, spent an hour and a half off work, putting it back properly, with metal fixings, feckwit carpenters had originally fixed it with little plastic clips (as well as fitting the letterbox to the wrong door!!!). Took off all the nasty bits of string and wire, re-fitted the plate decently, cut and fitted neatly a plate to stop anyone reaching a piece of wire through to open the catch. My poor employer, they have been very understanding.

Wednesday: 5.00 am, 2 crack'eads kicked their way through the front door, amazingly the police actually arrived fast enough to arrest them. Lock guy sent a mad quote. We will see if we can source this locally, a bit cheaper.

Locksmiths are coming again tomorrow to fit the new lock ....... who knows ....... all I know right now is that it will cost another £300. Some comedian suggested putting a coin-operated lock on the front door, then the crack'eads can pay us to use the place, yeah, thanks mate ;-)

Thursday, February 10, 2005


If you like Flickr, you'll love this.


It allows you to interact with the relationships between Flickr members.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The weirdness of prescience

I saw Paycheck last night.

The film by John Woo from a short story of the same name by Philip K Dick.

When I read it, very recently, I had the strong feeling that someone would make this into a film, there are many potential films in Dick's extraordinary output.

These were my impressions.

I thought the Hollywoodisation was not so extreme in this production. Compared to how "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" bared so little relationship to "Blade Runner" (even though I like the film in it's own right). Or worse the relationship between "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" and "Total Recall". Most of the key issues in the original story actually come out in the film. Something they were not going to leave out, the story does actually have a happy ending (rare for Dick) where the protagonist gets his girl (even more rare).

What I found a bit patronising was how the story was dumbed down. The scene setting that Dick did not require and the the reason behind what was going on, leaking into the plot far earlier than it did in the original. Were the scriptwriters worried that the audience could not understand? Maybe this is the difference between a feature film and a short story, the need for padding.

It is the differences between the film and the story that I find interesting, and wonder what they tell us about our time, or at least American culture.

The story was set in an America that was a fascist dictatorship with an omnipotent police (a common theme of Dick's), while in the film, the protagonist was merely being chased by the FBI. Have democratic America's FBI become the police of Dick's fears? I am sure there are some that do. This made me think of an interesting article I found on delicious, Hunger for Dictatorship and 14 identifying characteristics of fascism.. Make up your own mind.

Where the story primarily diverged from the film was in what the danger was, the danger to the State.

In the film, the Rethrick Corporation had technology to view the future and in viewing the future you could see what the result of society being able to view the future was going to be, it was terrible. Society knowing something would happen, would ensure that it did happen.

I found this very interesting, from a personal point of view ... my first girlfriend dabbled in the Tarot, we inevitably lived out their predictions -- expecting them to come true -- to the detriment of the relationship.

This danger, itself a very Dickian theme, therefore had a strong resonant impact on me, one which I thought at least ameliorated what was lost, the danger to the State as portrayed in the original story.

In the original, Rethrick represented a corporation that was surviving secretly, in opposition to the State, so that one day it could assist the people to rise up and overthrow an oppressive government.

This for me was a telling omission. Even though I found the theme's replacement satisfying for my own reasons, the original was a sad loss. Especially as the story is turned around to make the FBI the good guys.

Overall, I would say I enjoyed the film, (at least Uma Thurman did not get her swords out).

On the whole it does represent the more interesting side of Dick's novels in an accessible way, such themes that still make him an acquired taste, even today. (Read "Foster, You're Dead" in the light of modern America's paranoia and tell me honestly that the hair did not rise on the back of your neck).

There are several of Dick's stories in production at the moment, I wonder what they hold in store?

And if you are asking, no, I won't sign an NDA that allows you to erase my memory on delivery !!!


WOW !!!!!

Panoramas of the moon

Saturday, February 05, 2005

H's Blog

I am over at my friend H's house today

Ostensibly to get his new ADSL connection working.

But more interestingly, to get him set up with a new Blog.

I am expecting interesting writing to come out of this.

Hands Off !!

Originally uploaded by sharkbait.
I love lobsters ...... to watch, not to eat :-)

They are funny characters ..... the way they behave, they can be very inquisitive. The way they strut around is hilarious, and their colouring gorgeous.

I was diving with a bunch of people in St Kilda last year and spotted this beauty.

I pointed him out to the other divers, and Steve Millard took this photo.

I swam on.

After the dive, we were all reviewing Steve's photos, when a series of shots came up, taken after I had left the scene, of another one of the divers trying to catch this lobster !!!!! I was not pleased I can tell you. (Hey!! You wanna catch lobster, then find your own !!!).

The lobster was too small to be worth eating and there was definitely not enough there to feed the other people on the boat.

Catching any sea creature, with Scuba equipment on it just too easy ..... the real sport is to do it freediving IMHO.

Leave them for the people who need to catch them for a living, to put shoes on their kids feet.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Suspect Government

When is a terror suspect not a terror suspect?
When the Home secretary decides that someone who has been held for 3 years is suddenly not a risk anymore.

Why? Because "weight of evidence at the current time did not justify his continued detention".

What? So it did yesterday? The day before? When was it justified?

OK, so one can feel sorry for the current holder of the post of Home Secretary, having taken over the mess left by "Mad Dog" David Blunkett. Maybe it did take this long to get around to reviewing the case of poor "Internee C". But what has this to say about the other people being held without charge?

How come, in a democracy, we have allowed ourselves to be scared into allowing this to happen in the first place?

Locking up dissenters in mental institutions is something reminiscent of the Stalinist era in the old Soviet Union. (If you are crazy enough to go against us, you must be insane, so we will treat you for mental illness).

As a defence, the UK government says that the evidence against these people is too sensitive to be brought out in court, so they have to bypass legal procedures. Would that be evidence from the intelligence community? Does the UK government think that any of us have any confidence in that kind of evidence any more (i.e WMD)?

Who is the next group of people the government would like to detain without charge or trial?
Your son? Your cousin? Immigrants? Peace activists? Homosexuals? Hunt supporters?

Remember, this practise did not work in Northern Ireland !!!!!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Free Jam

I am a .Mac member, I get the occasional email from them telling me what the latest thing is they are offering me to keep paying for the service (I pay for it because you get synchronisation of address books, bookmarks etc. between machines and an online backup service, plus I keep some photos there).

Their latest email was offering a free screen saver (a demo from a package) called Freefall which has satellite images of the planet ..... anyone of you who have been to my flat knows I am a sucker for maps etc. So I went along to download it.

To my astonishment, they are also appearing to give away (I am still downloading) free copies of GarageBand JamPacks, 1, 2 & 3.

Bejesus!! They charge good money for those ($99 each) in Apple Store !!!!

BTW. Have you ever played with GarageBand? It’s a larf :-)
I spent many enjoyable hours producing bizarre Indo/Irish fusions (and no, I am not going to publish them, don’t worry).

This morning I checked the downloads to find that I was duped, they are promotional version containing 100 out of 2000 loops each, oh well.