A Cup Of Coffee

From that guy on Coolsmartphone

What’s happened to my internet?

At one point the internet was either a brilliant global forum for free speech or a dangerous, uncontrolled network lacking regulation.

Sadly the Governments of this world took the second view and, here in the UK especially, we’ve seen the major ISP’s getting strong-armed into implementing firewalls, warning systems, blocks and policing their users.

It’s not porn or disturbing images they’re trying to block, but instead our great UK Firewall seems to be blocking sites that upset Copyright holders. You know the sort – torrent sites etc.

Previously it was a rather ham-fisted block on certain domains, which – at a DNS level – meant that if you tried to get to a site such as the Pirate Bay, you’d instead see a warning message from your internet provider. Most people have easily worked around this with a proxy server though.

Now, as detailed in this BBC News item, they’re trying a different approach which will kill the revenue stream of the website owner. It works by replacing adverts which appear on sites that advertisers may not be happy with.

Currently anyone can put any ads on their site, but the Police and Government seem to be of the opinion that having “big name advertisers” on a torrent site will give the user the impression that it’s legit, and they’ll assume it’s legal.

To be honest I’ve absolutely no idea where the Government gets its ideas from, but let’s go with this for a moment.

The system works by replacing those ads with Police warning messages telling the user that the site is illegal. It basically rewrites the internet page at the ISP level, adding and replacing content as they see fit.

This is pretty scary when you think about it. If adverts can get rewritten, what else will be changed to fit their needs? Will we see popular websites getting text altered? Will forums have images swapped and changed? It’s the start of another cat and mouse game by the Government, who is seeking to control the people of the land by adjusting what they see. I guess it’s been happening for years in a way, with our media getting certain “leaks” and “comments” fed down so that headlines appear as and when necessary.

Sky TV gets on my babs at times

So, I want to record the latest episodes of Family Guy. I whack on “Series Link” on Sky and, just a few weeks later, I’ve got about 58 episodes. From BBC3 to Fox HD, there’s old episodes, slightly newer episodes and, for some reason, three copies of each episode.

Checking the episode number is no clearer either. I can’t make sense of it and finding when newer episode are being broadcast is a mess.

Sky have made some half-assed attempt at showing new episodes by putting the word “New” in the title, but it’s still not good enough.

Retentions departments

This is why a lot of people don’t move to new providers…

I know everyone has seen this by now, but this is just terrible. What an awful company.

Rolf

Personally I can’t believe it. This guy was a TV personality and someone we all trusted and perhaps grew up with too. Now he’s in jail.

Still, here’s a sketch from “Not the 9 o’clock news” from many, many years ago that was banned…

The truth about broadband

I used to work for an ISP and I’ve had up-close and personal experience of both customers and the BT Wholesale side of things. It’s been a number of years since I worked there and now I’m seeing more and more people switching across to FTTC, commonly known as “Infinity” according the BT.

However, there’s massive problems which I’m dearly hoping that are being addressed.

Firstly is the management of expectations. Customers believe that they’ll get 80Mbps when, on my exchange, 40Mbps on fibre is the fastest anyone is going to get. To get that speed you have to be pretty much on top of the cabinet too.

Why?

FTTC, also known as Fibre To The Cabinet, basically shortens the distance between you and the exchange by reducing the amount of copper cable. Instead of the twisted pair in your house going all the way to the exchange (like regular ADSL broadband), it stops at one of those big green cabinets near you house and then switches to fibre-optic.

The trouble is, on my experience at least, we’ve still got a long way to go. Moving house and taking your phone number with you is costly and takes far, far too long. There’s also a ridiculous situation between the BT companies.

BT Wholesale are the people that most ISP’s contact when they want an ADSL or FTTC installation doing. BT Wholesale then ask BT Openreach to go and do the installation. Meanwhile, if you choose BT Retail, aka BT Broadband, then they will be billing you and putting the internet service on top.

Confused yet?

You should be. Basically, if you’ve chosen BT Broadband to install your BT Infinity FTTC broadband and want an update on your installation, you call BT Broadband up. BT Broadband will then contact BT Wholesale, and BT Wholesale will show an electronic update on what’s happening. There’s a limited telephone service between the ISP (BT Broadband) and BT Wholesale, and the ISP (BT Broadband in this case) CANNOT speak directly to the BT Openreach engineer. They have to go through BT Wholesale, who play piggy-in-the-middle.

No matter how angry you, as the customer, get, you cannot speak to the engineer doing the work directly. You cannot see what that BT Openreach guy is doing. You have to instead call BT Broadband, who log into a web console with BT Wholesale where they can then request an update or log a fault, and then hopefully BT Wholesale will get an update from BT Openreach to feedback through the change.

Eventually you might get an update, but the infuriating thing is the fact that these are all separate entities. BT Broadband (the ISP) isn’t the same as BT Wholesale (the order-takers and infrastructure) or BT Openreach (the installers and fixers).

Add into this the customer – you. When you call the support desk because your broadband is slow, this is the same stupid path that your ISP has to go through. They (the ISP) will raise a ticket with BT Wholesale, who will investigate and usually declare that everything is alright. Meanwhile, you get more and more angry as your speeds are nowhere near what you expected. If BT Wholesale do task a BT Openreach engineer (or the ISP pushes for one), you could get charged for missed appointments, faults that aren’t BT’s fault and internal wiring problems. Basically, you’re putting your neck on the line just raising a fault because they can just add the charge directly to your phone bill.

The truth?

If your broadband speed is slow and it’s in the master socket without any internal wiring, you’ve done almost everything. ADSL customers should swap the filters, check wiring. FTTC customers should check the wiring and router etc. However, if BT say that their network is fine and you’re basically just on a long line or a congested exchange, you’re stuffed. They really don’t care a great deal. The cabling and network they have is getting old now, and if you have a slow-ish connection then you’re probably going to have it for quite some time yet if BT have stated that their bits are fine.

My goal, the big London to Paris bike ride… Done!

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There’s a few things I’ve learned after doing a London to Paris ride on a mountain bike. The first is that us Brits are pretty short tempered. On our way through London and beyond we got yelled at by drivers merely for just riding together – even though we were single file. Other drivers had no consideration and came too close or drove aggressively. In France, things were hugely different. Drivers and pedestrians were willing us along, letting us out and congratulating us as we rode past.

The ride, I should just mention, was for charity. We have raised well over £2200 as I speak, and it’s still going up. Here’s a look at the journey through London from Big Ben, thanks to Strava. The cycle routes went on main roads in parts but there wasn’t a great deal you could do about it. We followed the Avenue Verte route..

The 95 miles ended at a pub called The Star Inn in Alfriston but unfortunately the service we received from some staff (not the lovely barmaid or the night porter, who were both excellent) was pretty bad. The chef was due to leave at 9PM, so we only just managed to get fed, and a fuss was made about the bill. It all seemed, as it can do in the British service industry, like the customer was an inconvenience.

Over in France, like the drivers, things were markedly different. Staff in B&B’s, bars and cafes were happy and helpful. Nothing was too much of a problem and they went out of their way to help us.

Anyway, back to the ride. We crossed the channel 70 years to the day after D Day. Given the speed of our modern ferry, you couldn’t help but think about the soldiers coming towards those beaches.
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The speed of the boats wasn’t anywhere near the modern craft you have today, so they must’ve literally crept towards the beaches as the Germans sat and waited.

Above, as you can see, from Dieppe it was a constant and annoying gradient which was painful in the heat. This was perhaps my worst day purely because it was a constant “up” without any free-wheeling sections at all. Very tiring.
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Day 3, following a huge amount of beer, wine and shots on the previous evening, was a lot more interesting. It started off quite rainy but quickly turned into another very sunny day.
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France has some utterly stunning countryside which was achingly beautiful in places.

When we arrived at our digs we quickly found out that there’d been a miss-communication, so we had to pedal to the correct address some 5 miles away. We were already pretty exhausted, but then had to tackle even more hills…

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The final day saw us finally hit Paris. We ended up at Notre Dame but we were only there for about 5 minutes as we had to quickly get the Eurostar back home.

The total? 270 miles on a mountain bike, a large amount of beer drunk and a huge amount of fun. I’ve spent about 6 months training for it and, although it was still hard in places, it paid off.

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If anyone else is planning to do the Avenue Verte from London to Paris, I’d definitely recommend packing as light as possible, eating religiously every hour or so (regardless of whether you’re hungry), drinking constantly and taking breaks at sensible times. If you miss a power bar or a snack, you’ll hit the wall big time.
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Oh, and as for the Eurostar from Paris to London, you absolutely have to take this train at least once in your life. Bombing along at 186 mph and arriving in a new country, after passing under the water, is just an amazing experience.

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Hey! Supermarkets! I’ve got the answer

You’re all driving me round the bend. I go to Tesco, I’ve got a Clubcard. I go to Morrisons, I keep getting vouchers spitting out from the self-serve till. In Asda I get more vouchers if there’s a difference in price elsewhere.

I don’t want ruddy vouchers. I don’t want points. I don’t want little leaflets with some demented “weekly save” scheme where you need to spend over £35 every week and keep some poxy little vouchers so you can get £10 back on the fourth week.

It’s driving me all mad. Just do what Aldi does. Make it as cheap as you can. No vouchers, no silly cards, points and other crap, just cheap prices on everything. Not cranking down the price on apples and then notching up the price on something else. Just make it all as cheap as you can, end of.

Sorry America, but it has to be said

The shootings, the killings, they’ll happen again. It’s a sad and regular event that the rest of the world doesn’t fully understand unfortunately. Sure, many other countries have stuff happening that others don’t understand (stonings in Pakistan that seem to be explained away as a way to settle family disagreements for example, but The Onionnails what we all kinda don’t want to outwardly say about the sad murders that occured this week in the USA.

UKIP and Europe

A number of points that I think we should remember following the big UKIP gains in the European elections. Firstly, the turnout at the polls was pretty rubbish – some 33%. If we had some sort of secure internet or text voting then I’m sure a lot more people would have turned up.

Let’s not forget..

1 – If people actually WANT something, they’ll go and get it. Those who WANTED to vote UKIP went and did it.
2 – Those who assumed UKIP wouldn’t get anywhere didn’t bother voting, and their choice wasn’t heard.

That second point is important, because for the past few weeks Nigel Farage has been regularly ridiculed in the media. He’s been caught off-guard, saying things before actually engaging the traditional “political brain to mouth filter”. It feels at times that there’s a lack of polish and style in his campaign. He gets pushed easily into making mistakes by presenters, interviewers and reporters. At times it was uncomfortable, and I can bet that most of the press wrote him off. If you supported Labour, Conservative or anyone else, it’s reasonable to think that you’d written off UKIP too.

However, this is perhaps a brilliant example of no publicity being bad publicity. UKIP and Farage have been all over the TV in recent weeks while every other party has pretty much didn’t exist in the media.

The Sound of the Police

Two officers have been given “words of advice” after playing this rap song on their PA system.

A spokesman said that they’d used the system “inappropriately”. Personally I’ve got massive respect for them doing this.  Fair play :)

Yellow ribbons around Burntwood

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Before Stephen Sutton even died we started seeing yellow ribbons around our town. Nobody really knows how it started, and many weren’t sure why they had started appearing, let alone why the ribbons were yellow.

They were in fact a sign of support, a way of showing you’d donated perhaps. Now, since the sad passing of Stephen, pretty much everyone has a yellow ribbon on their house. It’s not just the odd house either. There’s yellow ribbons everywhere, with Swan Island particularly yellow.

Stunning. This video probably sums it up best.

Oh, and as of now there’s pretty much £4 million donated to the Teenage Cancer Trust.

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