12 Nov 2014

Cloud Cuckoo Land - "Fibre" broadband, BT and the ASA - now I've seen it all.

ASA somehow regurgitate 0.7% as 100% proof. This would be funny if it wasn't so misleading. 

BT and some other ISPs advertise their "fibre" broadband, yet only a tiny proportion (0.7% according to BT's own evidence in their statement to the ASA) of the "fibre" broadband in the UK is delivered over 100% fibre-optic lines. In fact, ONLY FTTP is 100% fibre broadband. The rest utilises copper, or more rarely, copper and aluminium, as part of the link. Some people complained they were being mislead by this.

But the ASA think differently - they've just regurgitated a BT statement in a response to complainants that makes no sense at all and found the complaints against BT advertising "not upheld"


Most of the broadband sold as "fibre" broadband in this country is NOT 100% fibre-optic.

For every FTTC install, which is what the majority of the connections that BT claim to be "fibre" are, it's delivered over copper or aluminium cables in the last leg to the house. Copper is NOT fibre. Except apparently, now it is. 

Broadband signals have travelled over fibre-optic links for many years between the exchange and the ISP's centralised equipment, being called the "backhaul" in ISP terminology.
This means that ALL (as far as I know) broadband connections in the UK, long before the advent of "Superfast" broadband (and what on earth does THAT mean exactly?) have travelled over fibre links anyways. FTTC has merely brought the fibre CLOSER to the consumer, but not TO the consumer, with the exception of 0.7%, being FTTP (Fibre To The Premises)

So 0.7% get fibre all the way, yet 99.3% don't. Either way, say the ASA, it's ALL fibre, even if it's also copper - eh?

In common with several other friends and family members, I have subscribed to BT's Infinity "fibre" broadband, only to have it delivered over copper lines to my house. Complaining about to BT this I was told that "the lines to your house are not copper, they are actually fibre" - which is completely wrong - I believe they lied to me twice*, once at the advert stage and once when I rang up after the install to complain that it was actually copper.

(*though the ASA now say that copper lines are "fibre", because BT say so, so technically that's only one lie, if you see what I mean)

How on earth the ASA have come up with this decision is completely beyond me.

What next - British Leyland advertising all of their cars as "Superfast cars" then supplying a statement claiming that only 0.7% of these cars are "Superfast", but the claim is perfectly valid to all of their cars?

I can order 100% fibre broadband from a number of ISPs, yet BT has sold me "fibre" broadband that contains significant quantities of copper. Reading the BT statement in no way makes the science change.

As a nation, should we put up with 99.3% of households that can receive "superfast" broadband being sold "fibre" broadband being supplied with their broadband over copper instead? 
Who cares if it's mainly over fibre - it was mainly over fibre even before their "fibre" broadband came along anyways. 

According to the ASA, that's perfectly OK. What next - homeopathic "superfast" broadband? 

The ASA then go on top claim that consumers are happy with what they have been advertised and supplied with. Since when did that amount to evidence of fact? 

For example:
if a company sold me a ring claiming it was "gold" but turned out to be 0.7% gold, the fact that I am happy with it or not does not mean that I have not been mis-sold. I was misled by the advertising for the ring. I would be happy, but without knowing the problem, I would be ignorant of the issue.

Ask the millions of people mis-sold PPI - were they happy with what they were paying for? OF COURSE THEY WERE - THEY DIDN'T REALISE THEY'D BEEN DUPED UNTIL LATER. According to the legal basis behind ASA's ruling on "fibre" broadband, that means everyone mis-sold PPI would have no leg to stand on.  THIS IS INSANE. 

Potentially, 19.08 million premises could have been mis-sold "fibre" broadband, BT blurt out some statistics, and ASA say it's fine, so that's that. 

Copper is Fibre, according to the ASA. 
  Perhaps the ASA would like to read some knitting patterns I'd like to send them? They may be of relevance to airline advert complains, or ads for dogfood.
Meanwhile, forgive me if I use the ASA adjudication to wipe my backside with -  can't see any other use for it.

I'm going to write to my MP asking him to investigate this decision and all of the circumstances surrounding it. I suggest you do too.

18 May 2014

ADBLOCK and similar - blocking ads and popups on the internet in 2014

ADBLOCK and similar

blocking ads and popups on the internet in 2014

Some of us are old enough to remember an internet without adverts. I'm always shocked by the crap that people put up with all the time. 

 If you want to shop, go looking for stuff. Otherwise, ads can GTFO of my way. Popups too.

Adverts are bad for you and security. They can be used to track your movements around the internet by setting cookies - by seeing if you have been to a site before, tracking can also be used to increase the prices you pay (for example if you only visit expensive upmarket stores they gradually get to know that too *)

Ads are also bad for security for the following reason. Go to any site to download free software for MS Windows computers and you can be faced with 3 or more fake ads with "DOWNLOAD" buttons on them. Click the wrong one and you get conned, or worse, a virus or trojan. WTF?

 It doesn't have to be like this.

If you're a NON-technical user, install ADBLOCK for Chrome or Firefox. It will remove most ads on the internet without any messing around. It's a simple install, with no maintenance or complicated things to set.
To install ADBLOCK, open Chrome or Firefox and click on the link here

If you're a slightly technical user, install ADBLOCK PLUS for Chrome or Firefox. It's a bit more complicated though.  This will also remove most ads, with some simple setup required.
To install ADBLOCK PLUS, open Chrome or Firefox and click on the link here

see https://easylist.adblockplus.org/en/  for setting advanced lists in Adblock Plus

Any problems, gimme a ring and I'll be happy to discuss it all.

Blocking adds takes memory, old or slow computers with low memory may struggle and slow down with both these adblocking extensions, though they probably struggle anyways with the amount of ads displayed and the trouble that popups cause. I prefer the to be adfree even if it slows me down. yourdownload speed will not be affected, only the load times of heavily ad-infested pages.

If you are a MS Windows user, I recommend you DO NOT use Internet Explorer to access the internet unless you have a high level of security training and know what you are doing. In my opinion, the risks of using IE are just too high. Modern versions are muchbetter than older ones, but the risk is still too high. Lower your risk footprint by diversifying to some other browser and keep it updated!

Chrome is what I personally use at the moment, the heavy integration with Google and Android systems is very convenient, though I find Firefox to be more ethically acceptable. I don't use MS-Windows, so IE is not an option for me anyways. 

ETHICAL WARNING: There have been some worrying development with the above tools, it seems that advertising conglomerates don't like the fact that people aren't getting hundreds of ads rammed down their throat ever few seconds so are looking to buy out the ad-blockers. Blocking ads is now becoming big business itself. Advertising companies are looking to buy out the adblock projects and the adblock project is becoming slowly evil in some people's eyes. It's still the best option for non-tehcnical users though, at least at the time of writing (May 2014) The vultures are definitely circling!

If you're a technical wizard (only if you are) you probably use already use Privoxy or Polipo some other filtering proxy somewhere on your network, regardless of your browser choice 
(watch out for the 2G or 4GB download filesize limit on 32bit OSs of Polipo)

You could also  Squidguard the f.kers with Shalla's list or use hosts file entries  for blocking the main adservers (but read the comments there too) either on your router (a real router, like something running pfSense or OpenWRT) or on your client machines. There are so many adservers nowadays that blocking using the client's host file is likely to end in tears if you aren't careful, so it's best done on the router that is also the DNS resolver for the whole network/subnet.

Blocking a couple of thousand adservers on the router/resolver also makes sense even if you use Adblock or Adblock+ on your browsers, because it can reduce memory usage by removing crap before it gets to you.

These technically complicated approaches are far too complicated for most Windows users, but have some very snazzy features.

* The truth is that cookies, while needed for most sites to function and innocent enough in many cases, are use by large advertising conglomerates for "market intelligence". By running many different tracking systems across thousands of websites and selling the intel of you movements to retail companies, companies can put 2 and 2 together and make 4, or 32, or 256. 
Cross-tracking is big business, once they have confirmed who you are (this is very easy, you only need to order something form a firm that uses a market intelligence company) they can then track you with confidence across all other websites and stores that subscribe to the same intel feed.

I like cinnamon cookies me, and Craster kippers.

LibreOffice - WTF is it? How do I get it? How do I use it?


WTF is it? How do I get it? How do I use it? and does it smell of Craster Kippers?

I've put this together so a mate of mine can keep working after her Microsoft Office trial period had expired. I get asked this a lot, especially because Microsoft are moving to a continuous subscription basis, so it makes sense to document it as they lose more customers all the time. Linux users tend to have LibreOffice installed or available anyways.

Here's Nixie explaining LibreOffice better than I can in a quick video:
she tends to play it down, it's better than the impresson she gives :) 

plus after only 2 seconds into the video she utters the word "span.king" fnarr-fnarr 
   /me rubs thighs and dribbles from several places

LibreOffice is a modern, continuously updated office suite, it's Free Open Source Software (FOSS) do doesn't cost you a penny, though the cost is not the main option people use it. It runs on many operating systems, from Microsoft Windows to Linux to Mac to BSDs . 

Most people will use LibreOffice it as a replacement for MS-Word, the LibreOffice equivalent of Word is caller Writer. The whole suite also includes a spreadsheet and other bits and bobs, but for reading and writing CVs, letters, general day-day correspondence, LibreOffice does everything I need. 

I don't use Microsoft Windows at all, so MS Office is not an option for me at any price, but I use LibreOffice almost every time I need to read or write any document other than a quick note. By default LibreOffice uses it's own file format. It's easily changed if you prefer to keep it in Microsoft formats.  It also writes to PDF formats

THE BIGGEST QUESTION most people have is

"can I view / receive / load Microsoft Office documents?"


of course you fug.in can 

I'm using BIG LETTERS because I'M SHOUTING - so listen up

To change it to a nice,  compatible - with - everyone - Microsoft-y - in - the - last - 10 - years  file format,  you need to tell LibreOffice to either save files in the -

2007 / 2010 XML format 
if you only have more modern versions of MS Office 


Office 98 / Office 2000 / Office 2003 format
if you are an old cheapskate with very old computers or you need to send documents in the "lowest common denominator" for maximum compatibility

 *  it's easy - watch this short vid

here it is again by somebody else, in case you don't like Mackems

Occasionally, if you have a need to be compatible with more recent Microsoft versions (each new version of Office by Microsoft seems to have "extra added features" that aren't compatible with the previous versions, so you have to buy it again to upgrade), you can select and more recent version, like 2007-2010 XML for example, but for best compatibility with old computers, cheapskates and tight-arse computer geeks 97/2000/XP/2003 format is best as the lowest common denominator.
 This is only the SAVE format you are changing , LibreOffice will read most (if not all) of the versions off documents without too many problems.

Occasional formatting errors and differences are common with the more recent or latest file format versions, but over time all of the bugs tend to get worked out as the program is worked on each day, every day of the year, by the LibreOffice maintainers, a.k.a. "the programmers"

Personally, I just use the normal ODF format, it's well documented and is a fully open standard. But I'm strange.
Proprietary is bad m'kay? You're gonna have a hard time that way



GETTING LIBREOFFICE FOR WINDOWS - it's always free, forever


in most cases, if you need this help, you'll looking for Microsoft Windows version 
It's also available from Sourceforge, but the LibreOffice site may be easier to understand and has instructions there to help you. It's free, be careful what you click on - anyone selling it is conning you. Be careful to get it only from www.libreoffice.org or Sourceforge to make sure you don't get a virus. You're running Windows remember, you have to be careful.

Mac, Unix, BSD and other OS users should use their normal built-in method of installing software, but Microsoft users still need to do it the hard way by themselves. I'm bggered if I know why, ask MS?   



The built-in help also has a search feature - use it to search for a word related to what you are trying to do



Because Microsoft Windows does not use a centralised software package management and update system, Windows Update or Microsoft Update cannot update LibreOffice automatically, so you are responsible (as with most non-Microsoft programs) for keeping it up to date. Up to date software has less security problems, so this is very important, just like Windows Updates.

 In practice, this means checking for a new version every few months - at the most. It's free, and usually quite painless. You can also avoid drastic changes between one version and another by keeping up to date regularly, that way there's no 3-year culture-shock like there is on the Microsoft products where you have to learn everything again because they have to justify massive changes due to the price. Nobody would buy new versions of MS Office it if it was exactly the same as the older one would they? 
Step out of the gravy train, free yourself.  ;-)   

Anyways, enough of the bullsheet, I've found some YouTube tutorials to explain the basics of LibreOffice Writer. They are for a slightly older version of LibreOffice (it's updated constantly remember, free of charge) but most of the basics are the same from version to version



I can't be rrrsed to embed the video here so the link will take you to YouTube to play the series.

Any problems, gimme a ring and I'll find some help on the Interthingy so you can help yourself.

 Teach a man to fish and he'll still want Craster Kippers for the rest of his life. 
Unfortunately, LibreOffice does not smell of Craster Kippers. 


this post has been slightly sanit.ise*d so that people in the UK with restricted and censored internet connections (that's most of them) can hopefully read it.

Historically, LibreOffice is a fork (fork means a divergent variant of) OpenOffice, which was previously a well-respected office suite. OpenOffice became very popular when the Ubuntu operating system was popular, 2006-2011 or so (that is to say, before the introduction of Unity interface). OpenOffice is still developed, but most people I know perceived the purchase of Sun Microsystems (a very cool company who developed the original OpenOffice system for many years) by Oracle (who are quite proprietary compared to Sun) to be a VeryBadThing. Because of that, LibreOffice developers forked off (yes, that's a real, valid term) and formed LibreOffice.
OpenOffice eventually was released by Oracle to the Apache Foundation, a altogether more respected outfit by many people interested in FOSS ethical standards, but the damage was already done, as most distributions of Linux and many other users had already jumped ship to avoid the Oracle taint.

All opinions here are my own perception, but Oracle will probably sue me - I have no money, so they are gonna have a hard time, m'kay?  

31 Mar 2014

Communicado - this UK-based spam company cause me loads of grief, wasting my time and annoying me every day, hundreds of times over. They laugh at you if you try to get them to stop it, hiding behind a multitude of domains to peddle their spam emails.

There is, however, a solution:


works well - give it a try

26 Nov 2013

I saw a man upon the stair, but when I looked, he wasn't there 
he wasn't there again today, he does bugger all just like OFCOM 

I have the distinct impression that OFCOM aren't actually meant to enforce anything, at all. The faceless regulator of faceless companies. From telecoms to internet issues, they seem to be completely spineless.

...just sayin'

24 Apr 2012

Google Drive pricing fail

Yay! Massive price increases for Google storage and then a slick Google Drive press release. Hang on, errrrrrr, no. In my mind, they're now very VERY evil. I firmly believe that any company that thinks it can more than double prices overnight is not one to deal with or trust in any way.

19 Oct 2011

WTF Ubuntu:

dpkg: error processing linux-generic
dependency problems - leaving unconfigured

Somewhere in the spew of a failed routine upgrade of a new kernel I got the above lines.
What did my head in was I missed the real reason for this further up in the speil.

A few lines above, it had a error relating to grub (actually grub2). If I'd noticed that grub had thrown an error as it checked stuff, I would have realised the problem wasn't with the kernel, but that grub had found an inconsistency and called a brake on things progressing.

I'd been pis^H^Hmessing about^H^H working hard with BSDs in the previous few days and had installed quite a few OSs and generally screwed a lot up^H^H^H accomplished what I set out to do.

So, the specific error grub was barking at was:

/usr/sbin/grub-probe: error: cannot find a GRUB drive for /dev/sdb1. Check your device.map.

(where /dev/sdb1 may vary, it's specific to your problem)

Easily cured by telling grub to re-sort it's shit out:

# sudo grub-install --recheck /dev/sdb && sudo update-grub

(where /dev/sdb was the device that grub had lost track of)

= sorted .... I now hold you Xray Alpha Papa

26 Sept 2011


If you know :

a/ what this means,
b/ where it is usually seen
c/ have access to one of these signs, or if it's AVICOS, PM me :)

I need one for shits and giggles to stop nosey buggers.

(I can knock up a nice loud rattler - I just need a real sign)

21 Sept 2010

PCI / PCI-X / PCI-E /AGP risers - leftward or rightward? wtf?

 PCI / PCI-X / PCI-E /AGP(!) risers - which orientation do I need?

"Rightward" faces OVER the CPU  -  " RRO = RIGHT - RISER - OVER "

"Leftward" faces AWAY from CPU

The way to remember the orientation of these thing is think from the CPU's perspective, looking out the back I/O panel.

I make a lot of 1U/2U custom NAS/SAN boxes, using anything from MicroITX through microATX up to SSI server boards. Cramming as much LAN and disk connectivity as possible into these things is vital (as is good cooling, especially over the densely-packed cards*!)

Every time I visit ebay or a online supplier I'm confused by the fact that half of them use the wrong damn pictures to match the model description. Another gripe is that they often list them as 1U or 2U when in fact they're well over-height.  mpffmfmmfpmpfppmfffmpfmm

(*) If you've every suffered from a full 6TB corrupted RAID-5 setup you live to be wiser, especially with millions of transactions per day since the last backup dump...

Fault: Pedestal server with a couple of RAID5 arrays. Silent corruption trashed ALL the data disks in one of the arrays. The card's bios-based RAID meant the data was unrecoverable from the corruption.

Diagnosis: hot cache memory, on a major manufacturer's card too. Replacement memory had same problem 2 days later, a 40mm fan ducted over the card cured it for each memory, ruling out the memory itself.

A few weeks later I converted it all to non-proprietary Linux-based md raid. Performance was the same except under high disk load, where the I/O was about 10% slower. Saturation was showing about 15% lower. But much more easy to recover after extreme screwups.

I could have also gone for ZFS (over FreeBSD), but the machine was short on memory (ZFS sucks memory like a black hole, but the benefits are often worth it)
I settled for Linux md and scattered a few pictures around the root to help future data recovery. Irongeek has a nice video of Scott Moulton showing the reason why I do this:


I'm not sure about anyone else, but I seem to be doing more data recovery from  so-called "quality"  bios-RAID arrays than even standard single-disk setups. It's probably the complexity factor, the sum-of-all-parts problem.
Short-term data safety possibility  vs. longterm complete fuggup probability :)

19 Sept 2010

rm -rf in EndUserLand + POLFU - a definition of a new acronym

This is an "old problem" that some sysadmins are plagued with more than others, but we all do it sooner or later. With so many ex-MS eager-cut-and-paste admins rising up through the ranks faster nowadays, it will affect us all, directly or indirectly, sooner or later.

I'm not really a fan of aliasing rm to strange stuff in the /etc/bashrc (conflicts and frustrations can occur at strange times and scenarios with various users), though I do have a healthy set of aliases that I rsync across and merge into my own .kshrc or .bashrc files. Some of them irritate other people, just as theirs irritate me if I watch them work piped via an adhoc fifo + script -f session.

POLP in  EndUserLand1  (as distinct from  bellEndUserLand2)  best practice means sudo with a carefully configured /etc/sudoers on most machines that have multiple admins. Normal users users, of course, should never need superuser privs at any time. 

So, enter my newly invented acronym : Principle Of Least Fugg Up - POLFU

So why can't we take POLFU approach to rm?

I chanced upon this golden gem a while back: http://www.safe-rm.org.nz/

This allows you to configure a blacklist for rm, for both users and site-wide. It has matured nicely and I urge you to take a look, but to actually USE rm-safe, you need to set the symlink appropriately, so RTFMP3 and adjust for your system layout. Don't forget to test properly to get the expected results.

Everyone has bad days. Sometimes you just need to cover your ass so you don't look stupid. Much kudos can be gained from preventing other people screwing up too.

1 I think I've just introduced  EndUserLand to the WWW too, although that's been in my head for (too many) years. EndUserLand is always written as PascalCase, whereas...

2 the troublesome neighbour state, bellEndUserLand, is always camelCase, to differentiate it from the Country Formerly Known As MaBelLand (CFKAMBL). In late 2001 CFKAMBLE changed designator to HQWOT, HeadQuartersWarOnTerror.Ironically, in a breach of it's own Counter-Terrorism embargoes, HQWOT it has exported millions of copies of XP and Vista since. Windows7 is excluded from the restrictions because of it's use of /Users, yet somehow is shipped to both EndUserLand and bellEndUserLand without the safety pins in.

3 Read The Fugging Man Pages

18 Sept 2010

Hot on the heels of the last post, a topical tip

<dammit> When debugging hideously long RegEx patterns for shellscripting server tasks, ensure that you haven't crafted a clever-arsed RegEx multi-piped one-liner with grep instead of egrep. This will avoid you wasting 45 minutes slaving away at an online RegEx builder convinced there must be a bug in the website code. </dammit>

Lack of coffee? RegEx help is at hand

I normally just use redet  but today I had a spurt of Web1.99b-ish-ness and tried:
It needs Flash but saves major headaches on long regular expressions - paste your sample of text-to-be-acted-on in the main white box ("Welcome to RegExr 3.0...") and it will visually show the effect of the expression.

Improve your sex life immensely by saving your best RegExes to the "My Saved" tab in case you score and need to impress someone with your /(?:^|,)(\"(?:[^\"]+|\"\")*\"|[^,]*)/g  -fu.

In fact, if you manage to get Flash running on BSD then you automatically qualify for a lifetime of sexual favours worldwide, but that's another story ;) 

Impress the boss/wife/cat and "look busy" with this...

also nice to have Cisco router interface error counters cycling etc.

17 Sept 2010

GBSD-stuff --- This page is (often) intentionally blank

This is GBSD-stuff, aka gbsd-stuff. This is the reincarnation of a formerly-closed unix-y/linux-y sysadmin journal (of quite modest scope and circulation) with a bias towards hardware and external interfacing. It has now been re-born to cope with the advent of this interweb-thing that everyone uses.

It's always been more of a rant-space, plus a place to share stuff that would otherwise be a pain in the butt if I had to repeat it to a second person that was interested. 

It's been going since 1995-ish, with a long hiatus from about 1998 until nearly 2004, while I tried (unsuccessfully) to make Microsoft products do what I/we needed. (mainly, RAID storage pools that were NOT dependent on specific hardware) Despite this total waste of about 10% of my life, I'm determined not to dwell on the episode, my very own "dark ages".  Never again will I use something just because I was told "everyone else is using it nowadays" :)

Yes, the text IS meant to be small when viewed in non-textmode browsers. Get a life.  
Posts are often removed/edited/cleanup-ed. If you need something, then  >> it to a file.
Like my whole life, sometimes it gets so full of crud I just have to use  dd   to blow all the cruft away. Stale blogs, like stale farts, become rapidly irrelevant.
Promulgation: ALL