End User scams voip

Hi it’s Michael here – do you have an Apple or Microsoft computer in the house?

snom dect and Michael the Microsoft pirate

I was thrilled to answer the home phone this morning to find it was Michael at the other end. I’m sure it was Michael though it did take him a couple of goes to get his own name right. He wasn’t your average Michael. He sounded very sub-continental, if you get my drift.

I had just come in from doing mellow fruitfulness stuff in the back garden and had to race to answer the (SNOM DECT SIP) phone before it rang off so I wasn’t totally on the ball meself. I did answer the phone with my right name though, I think.

Mike got straight to the point. Actually I’m not sure that he calls himself Mike but I didn’t get that far in relationship building in our short time together but that is by the by. Anyway Mike informed me that he was ringing regarding the Microsoft or Apple PC in the house. I asked him how to could tell the differenced and how he knew it was either Microsoft or Apple. He said most people had either Microsoft of Apple PCS.

Now the frustrating thing about our very short lived conversation is that Mickey didn’t hang around long enough for me to tell him I didn’t use either but was a Chromebook aficionado. Before I knew it click, he was gone. V disappointing. I was just in the right mood for a long conversation about the fact that my PC had a virus or simlar.

Never mind. Mick had a dirty target to reach and couldn’t waste time chatting with me about the pros and cons of browser based operating systems versus the old fashioned stuff.

With an element of sadness, nay mellowness in keeping with the season, I put the handset back in its cradle.

Our home phone use btw has been revolutionised by the use of SIP but I’ll keep my powder dry on that one until next week as we are having a Lincolnshire Broadband week on the blog. I currently haver around 10 posts in my sights but can still take more if you want to contribute. Can be about apps running over broadband or about broadband tech itself. Or even how broadband has changed your life for the better. Hey it happens 🙂

The featured image btw is a snom dect handset on a background of black granite. V artistic I thought although the handset itself didn’t come out in perfect focus as I kept taking pics to try and get the red led in shot – at least I got that bit. Adds a bit of colour don’t you think?

End User travel

Sony Centre Berlin

Sony Centre Berlin – part of a E4Bn investment built on wasteland in the last 20 years

The building in the featured image is next door to the Sony Centre and is the only pre ww2 building in the area to have survived the bombing.

Image below is of some sections of the Berlin wall now on display. I was quite surprised that the wall wasn’t any higher – maybe only 10 or 12 feet. However you have to remember that there were two walls with a minefield and barbed wire in between.

By the time the wall came down there were only 16 million people left in the GDR, 1 million of whom were security guards!!!

Berlin wall

And finally a very artistic shot of me in the Sony Centre

sony centre berlin

End User travel

Euref gas holder Berlin

The tour continues – euref gas holder Berlin

Euref gas holder Berlin. Berlin is a wonderfully atmospheric place. As someone who grew up during the Cold War it really does represent a rich seam of somewhat sombre material for the bloggers imagination. Especially on a grey October day.

Our tour took us to the Euref Centre for Alternative Energy and a sight of a gas holder built in 2013. Not much left around here from that era.

End User peering

The Berlin Conference – Euro-IX Berlin

My name is Harry Palmer – Euro-IX Berlin

Sunday was a grey day in Berlin and the stark concrete surroundings of the Olympic Belltower provided an atmospheric background for a short video.

The Belltower, incidentally, was the British Rugby Club clubhouse in Berlin. A suitably indestructible place for rugby players to get drunk (and play rugby obvs).

I am in town for the Euro-IX Berlin forum conference. Other peering posts.

Apps ecommerce End User

Oyster refund yay?

Yay an Oyster card refund

I’m rich! No wait a minute…

Dear Huw Davies

Due to an operational issue, you are due a payment of £2.90. This is now ready for collection at Camden Town.

Payment correction details:
Reason: Payment correction because of an operational issue
Value: £2.90
Reference: 5272976
Collection location: Camden Town
Status: Ready for collection with Oyster card number 12345678910

To collect your payment, touch your Oyster card on a yellow reader at the location shown above when you start a journey.

Please keep your Oyster card number safe. You may need to quote it if you call TfL Customer Services(0343 222 1234).

The only problem with this refund is that I have to go to Camden Town to get it and guess how much that would cost me on the tube? Assuming I am already in Central London. I have probably been to Camden three times in the last five years.

I didn’t even know I had been overcharged. I guess some people do look at their Oyster card credit. I only need to know when it has nearly run out. Why can’t they just credit the card number?

Bit pathetic really innit?

I also have to announce a change in my train ticket collection policy. Having this year lost a couple of tickets and not been able to get replacements I’ve discovered a partial solution. If I opt for “print at home” then if I lose the ticket I can just reprint it.

Now the only problem is that the tickets this year have been lost on the hoof, whilst travelling and therefore nowhere near a printer. The ideal solution is eticketing but in the absence of this very obvious technology at least with print at home I can bring up a pdf (presumably) to show the ticket inspector I have something in the way of a right to be on the train.

That’s all for now folks – at the Euro-IX meeting in Berlin. I may write something up later but it is more likely to be about the social rather than any actual work content.

Auf wiedersehen (pet).

Apps End User phones

12.1-YOG4PAS2QL has just destroyed my battery life

The new reduced 12.1-YOG4PAS2QL battery life

As I was fiddling about on my laptop last night in front of The Apprentice, earphones in listening to music and concentrating intensely on my laptop screen to avoid all contact with aforementioned TV programme which I detest intensely, an offer of a firmware update for my Oneplus One came in. 12.1-YOG4PAS2QL.

I didn’t have masses of battery left so plugged it into the wall in the kitchen and returned to my state of ignoring the TV. You might ask why I even bothered sitting in front of the TV when we have a perfectly good living room to retreat to. However Mrs Davies likes the programme so it’s a way of us being together whilst doing different things. Sweet huh? 🙂

This morning I woke up to a fully charged phone with a few bug fixes and security updates. I scoured tinterweb to see if my issue with answering the phone was fixed (see yesterday’s post on Oneplus one freezing on answer). Most online resources just seemed to repeat PR blurb and what I could find suggested not.

One of the notional fixes was an improvement to the power consumption and thus battery life of the Oneplus One. Now I have to tell you my Oneplus One battery life has been great. Not any more it ain’t.

By 9.20 this morning I had about 3 hours left. Wot! People don’t have time to deal with this kind of crap. I am being driven ever closer to a different phone. Changing the settings to power saver just added an hour and dimmed the screen to the point where I’d need to shine a torch on it.

On top of all this I spent some time this morning uninstalling apps I never use – free paris wifi, KLM, stuff like that. I came across something called Truecaller. I didn’t know I had Truecaller. It has zillions of downloads. I don’t appear to be using it but it seems very suspicious if you ask me. It helps prevent incoming spam calls by screening the call against a global database. The problem is it obtains the global database from the directories of all its users.

Now this isn’t necessarily any different to Google knowing everyone’s email addresses but it feel a little uncomfortable. Maybe I’m worrying over nothing and I don’t appear to be using it anyway. Maybe it’s spyware!! It seems to have permission to access practically everything on the phone!!!

Anyway enough of this rant. 12.1-YOG4PAS2QL battery life turns out to be v disappointing. The clock of patience is ticking away on the Oneplus One.

End User phones

How do I decide which is the best mobile phone?

Best mobile phone? Unless you got religion it ain’t easy.

I’ve been thinking about getting a new phone. My Oneplus One is not really that old, maybe a yearish and it is still in good nick. Problem is that it keeps freezing when I try answering inbound calls. I end up having to call people back, once they’ve finished leaving a voicemail.

I’ve had a few problems during my time with the OnePlus One. For a while over the summer the phone occasionally became completely unresponsive, constantly appearing to enter digits in the phone unlock screen. This went away, presumably during a firmware upgrade. I’m sure there will be a fix for my current problem. Problem is I don’t want the hassle of researching the solution and then implementing any available patch.

This has made me start thinking of maybe getting a different phone. I’ve even been thinking the unthinkable and  considering an iPhone. For those of you who know me you will know that would be a serious change in policy. A step over to the dark side. Funnily enough a number of engineering types I know who have iPhones have always considered themselves to be in the light and that it was who was groping around in the murky underworld.

Yesterday I popped out to our local corner shop (Tesco) where they have a large toy (electrical gadgets) department.I had a go at holding a number of different models – Apple, Samsung and others. Disappointingly the iPhone was by far the most comfortable in my hand. The Galaxy S6 felt it had a strange metal edge to it and the curved job seemed to be a non-starter.

On the basis of that cursory test the iPhone had it. It was interesting to see that you can actually buy a Nokia phone now that costs £15 including £10 worth of PAYG credit on the sim. That’s a fiver for a phone! Fine if you just want a spare to make calls and send texts.

Anyway getting back to my desk I did a search for “best mobile phone 2015”. Techradar came up near the top and their fairly recent review compounded my difficulty. The iPhone 6S, the highest ranking Apple device, only ranked 4th according to Techradar. Now one might consider the Techradar reviewers might be Android biassed but an at a glance look at the specs (courtesy Techradar) shows that the Samsung comes out ahead in a number of the parameters:

1. Samsung Galaxy S6

OS: Android 5 | Screen size: 5.1-inch | Resolution: 1440 x 2560 | RAM: 3GB |Storage:32GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: 2550mAh | Rear camera: 16MP | Front camera: 5MP

4. iPhone 6S

OS: iOS 9 | Screen size: 4.7-inch | Resolution: 1334 x 750 | RAM: 2GB |Storage:16GB/64GB/128GB | Battery: 1,715mAh | Rear camera: 12MP | Front camera: 5MP

The different in battery capability is fairly marked as is the RAM and camera spec. Apple fanbois may counter by claiming better functioning and integration of software. They may be right but this doesn’t help me in my buying decision.

In the meantime I’m going to stick with my Oneplus One and see what comes along. The one lesson here is that (brand zombies/the religious apart) this type of purchasing decision needs to be taken at leisure.

Ciao amigos.

End User travel

Thoughts from a cocoon

Flight BA 462 to Madrid

I’m buried in music on a flight to Madrid. My own earphones insulate me from the tinny emissions of a cheap set of earphones across the aisle. The dress code is high summer. Whilst Autumn in the UK has screeched around the corner and slid to a halt in front of me kicking up the detritus of the season of light it is still hotter in Madrid than the highest temperatures we see back home.

I’ve read some of the paper (FT) and had a brief snooze which was only interrupted by the food trolley. Fair play the iced bun was quite tasty. It was slightly annoying having seen copies of the Financial TImes available free of charge as I got on the plane. I had just forked out £3.50 barely 30 minutes earlier.

At least I was in the privileged position of priority boarding on account of my BA frequent flyer status (bronze – 🙂 It’s a pleasant enough flight. Seat 16F has an empty seat beside it so room to spread out the FT and another tray on which to put my cup of tea. Yes folks, a cup of tea. The 3 days in Sheffield talking about the internet last week were quite boozy and I’d rather arrive at the hotel tonight reasonably fresh. A beer on the terrace, assuming there is such a facility, will then be most refreshing.

Yesterday I bought a campervan. It’s an early VW T2 bay – 1971. No road tax as it’s considered to be a vintage car. We havent decided what to call it yet. The previous owners called it Kay, presumably due to it’s K reg number plate. That’s a bit wishy washy for me. Ideally I wanted a Dave. We will have to give the name some thought. I’m not even sure if it’s a boy or a girl.

When I get back to the UK I need to book tickets to Latitude. If you have a campervan you need to go to festivals. MIght even do it from Madrid. I believe the internet arrived there some time ago. It’s a nice hotel where I’m staying. NH Collection Eurobuilding. I’m there for the European Peering Forum – EPF as those who know call it.

It’s just going to be an extension of Sheffield – long days talking to people and long nights eating and drinking. I might just have a quiet night in at the hotel tonight. Bit of a swim followed by a healthy meal and some refreshing mineral water. Yea. Honest! 😉

The hotel has a very nice looking spa with a load of treatments on offer. I never bother with the treatments. For one my back is too ticklish. A massage has me writhing in ticklish agony. Usually I end up just wallowing in a hot tub for a while. This time I have brought my swimming goggles – I’m gonna try and get some exercise.

10 minutes to landing. That’s all you’re getting. Ciao amigos.

chromebook End User

He’s dead jim

He’s dead Jim & Captain I cannae hold her

This He’s dead Jim is getting to be a bit of a nuisance. I often find tabs have crashed on my Chromebook with the message “He’s dead Jim”. This is usually a memory issue.

Google reveals that lots of people have the same issue. Indeed my lovely daughter Hannah has the same problem and she has the same model of Chromebook as me.

Now the thing is I only paid £150 plus VAT for this Chromebook. It’s a low end job but serves me perfectly apart from this bit about getting my name wrong. My name as you all know is not Jim.

Problem is that references to Jim are becoming more frequent and a pain in the proverbial. Online advice suggests rebooting my Chromebook more often to get rid of unnecessary background processes. I’ve just done this and it remains to be seen whether it has an effect. I will have to tell you later.

In the meantime I’ve been thinking about upgrading my Chromebook. They are very cheap but this is part of the problem. What I’d really like is a Pixel but that costs over a grand and in my mind shies away from the whole concept of disposability of hardware which I am a fan of.

If I lose or break (difficult) my Acer I just buy another, log on and hey presto I am up and running. If my device costs a thousand pounds this principle doesn’t apply.

The Pixel does have some benefits – 12 hours battery life (wtf omg!!!), a better screen resolution and better audio. I’m not sure the touch screen functionality is an attraction.

Whether it will cure the He’s dead Jim problem I am not sure – I wouldn’t be very happy if the problem persisted on a device I paid that much cash for. It could push me toward the dark side (ie the fruit).

I’ll have a think about it and if a conclusion is reached be sure you will be the first to know.

Check out more Chromebook posts.

PS I just chucked in that comment re “Captain I cannae hold her” for a laugh. If you don’t understand you are not on my wavelength 🙂

End User security

Secure data stolen from Lloyds Bank datacentre

lloyds bank data theft

I note Police are investigating the disappearance of a storage device that contains people’s names, addresses, sort codes and account numbers, after it was taken from a data centre in July (Telegraph).

Some thoughts here.

  1. Why would the Telegraph store this kind of info unencrypted on a data device? Indeed why would they store it on a physical device that could be stolen at all? Doesn’t sound like a very secure situation to me at all.
  2. Lloyds might have argued that Datacentres themselves are inherently secure. Well yes they are but there have been a number of examples over the years where people have stolen kit, usually expensive routers, from “secure” racks in “secure datacentres”. Datacentre security usually involves multiple layers of sign-in/verification and also involves cctv. Doesn’t seem to stop this kind of thing happening though.
  3. On this basis we should consider all data to me inherently insecure and open to theft at some point and assume that it will be stolen. The only way around this is to have a regime that involves regular password changes. I assume you all do this right? Even then it doesn’t guarantee the security of your data.
  4. If we assume that data will inevitably at some point be stolen then the question arises as to whether we are storing this data unnecessarily. eg do you need to keep your online banking login information stored somewhere that may be stolen. How about on a bit of paper hidden in a sock instead? (no clues being given here btw:)
  5. We should also question it when others propose to store your personal data for their own purposes. I’m sure there are many examples of this – you can name your own.

At this stage if I let it get to me I’d be a quivering wreck. There’s a lot of stuff out there about me. What can I do about it?

Part of the problem (problem?) is that stick a lot of stuff online myself without being prompted. Yesterday’s video of a goods train passing in front of me got over 4,500 views on Facebook with no effort whatsoever.

People will know I was at that specific railway crossing at the time the video was taken. Given enough time you could build up a profile of my regular movements and habits just from information publicly available on the web.

Although I know some people who shy away from platforms like Facebook for this very reason I don’t. In fact I’ve started to use Facebook more and more as believe it or not it is good for business. I’ve even installed the Facebook app on my droid despite my previous misgivings about the personal data it wanted to access on my phone.

I’ve basically just said “to hell with it” and plunged into the deep-end instead of playing about where I was able to stand up without the water coming over my head.

I don’t know where all this is going. On Tuesday one of my kids became the proud owner of a macbook pro. During the (brief) install phase he told me the machine was asking him whether he wanted to encrypt the disk. I googled this and found that Apple had introduced this feature as standard to make it harder for governments to snoop on their customers’ data.

We probably need to rely on these big companies doing the right thing because they have the resources to be able do it right. It is a worry though especially when half their business model relies on them collecting enough personal information about you to be able to sell it.

I’ve gone on enough here and it’s nearly time to go home. I’m cooking a pork casserole so that we have something ready for when we get back from Galashiels at the weekend. Look out for a post about The Pylons gig we are going to see at the 100 Bands Festival. In fact if you are in the area come and see them. 1pm main stage Saturday.

Lots more posts on the subject of data theft and online security in the security category of this blog.

PS I am a Lloyds Bank customer and user their mobile app. I am happy to do this because they guarantee to cover any losses due to theft arising from my use of the app. It’s the way ahead.

Apps End User mobile apps spam

WhatsApp spam

WhatsApp spam endemic

whatsapp spamAaaargh just received my first WhatsApp spam message. I don’t even use WhatsApp though I do have the App on my droid. It’s getting uninstalled right now.

The spam originated from someone who created a group , added me to it, sent the spam and then removed me from the group. Must be a machine in play there.

An App must truly be labelled useless if all it does is serve you with spam.

I also still get phone call spam. I spent much of this afternoon getting my Snom M700 DECT system working. Wasn’t totally straightforward as it isn’t a Voipfone supported device but they have some great engineers and we got it sorted.

So now our home phone number points at two Snom DECT handsets (kitchen and TV room), a Yealink (conservatory/office) and on the CSIPSimple App on my mobile. I was just running through the ringtone options with the family when a son told me my mobile was ringing. This was somewhat confusing as so was the phone I had in my hand. Trouble is I was trying out a ringtone when it happened so little old me got confused initially.

I eventually did answer the Snom only to find it wasn’t a sales call from the subcontinent but a survey (from the subcontinent). The caller told me he was from a company called UK Surveys, or simlar. I asked him where in the UK he was and told him I didn’t trust him so he put the phone down on me. Oh ok.

I told the family that these calls would start getting less frequent as I would be implementing call barring where the inbound number was withheld. This raised a chorus of complaints on the basis that the call might be important. My view is if a person doesn’t have the courtesy to tell me their number they don’t deserve to be answered.

Anyway we are now a landline-less household. The home number is virtual. It is the way of the future present. I am now also WhatsApp-less. A truly uninspiring experience. At least WhatsApp spam is no longer going to be receivable on my phone.

See previous tome on WhatsApp. If you get WhatsApp spam they have a page on the subject that isn’t massively helpful.

PS I realise some of might not consider one spam message to be “endemic”. I do.

PPS I’m back. Hols are over. They were great. Now I need to get some work done and lose some weight.

broadband End User fun stuff

GoPro Pigs GoPro

GoPro Pigs GoPro on

Needs no introduction really but if you were one of the global audience that saw the original broadbandrating pig racing video you will know that a GoPro camera was strapped to the back of one of the pigs as part of the filming. GoPro pigs!

Well this is that pure GoPro footage – you occasionally get a glimpse of  one of our cameramen tracking the pigs as they raced around the course.

That original vid had around 11,000 views in its first week online – mostly on Facebook. The YouTube version had far fewer.

See the original video over on broadbandrating here.

broadband End User social networking

New Facebook group – B4RL

B4RL – Broadband for Rural Lincolnshire

Hi all. I’ve learned from the example of B4RDS (fast broadband for Rural Devon and Somerset – ) and decided it would be a good thing to have B4RL as a focal point for people to discuss issues they may have with getting superfast broadband to their homes and businesses.

I have initially invited people to the group who I know to be involved with rural broadband issues elsewhere. They have their own issues to sort so I’m not expecting them to become active members. We need to find our own voice in Lincolnshire.

However they are there on the off chance that people living in Lincolnshire may well be able to benefit from the experience of others elsewhere in the the country.

The BT/BDUK rollout of superfast broadband is progressing but it isn’t going to cover everyone.

There is also a cohort of individuals who think that superfast or fibre broadband (as it has been dubbed by marketeers) isn’t the right solution. Fibre broadband is not fibre all the way to your home but to the green cabinet down the street. Should we be going straight for Fibre to the Premises as in the case of B4RN in Lancashire (see .

FTTP doesn’t necessarily cost out for big businesses like BT so what’s the alternative?

This group is going to be the place for people interested in high speed broadband in Lincolnshire to air their views and is open to anyone to join.

The group url is here. Feel free to sign up. The more the merrier.

PS this is not a knock the incumbent group – we want constructive useful dialogue.

End User security

Global village – a world where everyone knows everyone else

Online privacy is a thing of the past

My son Tom is currently editing the next video. You will have to wait and see what it is all about but if follows on from last week’s pig racing (if you haven’t seen that vid click on the link – it’s very good). The next vid is taking a while because there was lots of footage that included kids faces. Tom, having been on the BBC’s political correctness course, is blurring out the faces one frame at a time!

Anne and I were in London over the weekend. There was a big cycling event going on – thousands of cyclists pedalling around St James’ Park, down The Mall, around Trafalgar Square etc etc. It was a bit of a stop start affair – lots of tourists trying to do the usual touristy stuff – being fleeced by ice cream vendors, buying cheapo tat at top dollar, you know the kind of thing. Oh and crossing the roads which necessarily involved frequent stops to the cycling.

I took a few photos. That’s what made me think about the global village thing. That and the extreme busyness of central London. The time is not very far off where I’ll be able to scan the internet for images of the people in my photos and find out who they are. In fact I can do it now to some extent – searching for similar images. The natural extension of this is real time video streaming from my Google Glass or other wearable device and in real time telling me who it is I am looking at. LinkedIn profile, Facebook profile, the lot. Our security forces probably already do this.

The consequences are a bit obvious. If I were to stand videoing the cycle ride for an hour or so I’d capture images of each rider’s face and subsequently be able to identify everybody who took part, including children.

There are many obvious uses to this application, good and bad all bad as far as I can see. One simple one is that advertisers could identify people who liked cycling and push them as for bikes, hemlets etc etc.

As the owner of, a site that makes its money by attracting visitors specifically interested in broadband I am keen on the idea of having new ways of targeting prospective customers to the site.

As a prospective punter I am less keen. I’ve decided I don’t like seeing ads eerily pushed to me on subjects that I am interested in. As often as not they are too late anyway – I’ve normally already gone and booked the hotel room etc. It makes me think that “they” know too much about me.

I’ve decided I am ok with finding things online using search but not ok with businesses finding out about me on the basis of those searches. In other words if I stick a page up saying I like baked beans and someone searches for people who like baked beans and finds me then that is ok. It’s not ok for me to know who those searchers are.

I realise this has big implications to the business model of the internet but I’m sorry, that’s what I’ve decided:).

There is another angle to this whole subject. In the good old days (where the average life expectancy was 40 and people lived as serfs in villages working from dawn until dusk for their master and died of cholera, typhoid, rickets, polio etc etc – you know, the good old days) we all lived in villages and every one knew everyone else.

Nowadays there are 7 billion or more of us on the planet and a big chunk of us live out our sad anonymous lives in large urban conurbations where don’t talk to our neighbours. There are in any case far too many people to be able to remember their names.

This will not be a problem in the future. With our new technology we will know who everyone is. People will start talking to others. “Hello Mr Williams/Gladys/Sanjay” you will be able to cheerily say to the neighbour down the corridor as you pass them coming back from Tesco. “How’s the alcohol/problem?”photo bomb

Maybe, maybe not. I’ll leave it to you to decide.

I’ll finish with a scene from our weekend in London. I’m taking a picture of my lovely wife Anne with the Houses of Parliament in the background.

Coincidentally someone else is doing the same thing. It looks almost as if the guy is photo-bombing our bomb

Actually from the second photo you can see that he was having his own photo taken.

I have no idea who he is but if someone can tell me his name I’ll buy them a beer. The technology is out there…

More on privacy on this blog here.

End User fun stuff gadgets


iBeani pirate product

Sick and tired of having a cushion on your lap to prop up the iPad or laptop but don’t want to risk radiating your gonads? Look no further. Introducing the iBeani™ – a stylish bean bag, specifically designed to hold tablets or e-readers on any surface at the perfect angle.

Tired of holding your iPad or tablet whilst lying in bed or sitting on the sofa? The iBeani is the perfect solution. Whilst other tablet stands will only work on flat surfaces, the iBeani is able to shift its shape to support and keep your device in the position you want, wherever you are. On the train, on the sofa or on a kitchen worktop, the iBeani works everywhere!

What more can I say. Oh ok then.

The iBeani is manufactured entirely hand made in the UK from carefully selected quality fabrics to ensure customers get the highest quality and durable product possible. There are 16 different variations of the iBeani with different materials and designs such as Harris Tweed tartan, faded blue cord, butterfly, techno black, denim, and many more coming soon to appeal to men, women and children of all ages.

iBeani pirateThis blurb is lifted from the press release. I’ve started getting millions of them occasionally. The gonads bit is mine. Not the gonads themselves you understand. Just the sentence, though I am a bloke obvs.

I only noticed the release because a) it’s manufactured in Nottinghamshire, just over the county border from my parish, and actually it isn’t a bad idea. I do have a cushion on my lap when using the laptop whilst sat on the settee. There ya go. A market need being fulfilled by a British company. A simple idea that just works.

pirate flagI liked the iBeani pirate version that you see in the featured image. Goes with the pirate flag we have when we go camping (also see it inset in this post). I’m going to have a week of writing posts in pirate speak in September in the run up to International Talk Like A Pirate day on the 19th of the month. Maybe we will see if we can do a promo and sell the iBeani pirate version that week. Sounds like a plan to me.

PS lets hope they don’t get pirated – we don’t want the market flooded with cheap imitations from China do we? The modern day pirates!

PPS there are over 20 designs to choose from if Piracy isn’t your game, or it’s a bit frightening.

broadband End User

Oops something went wrong

On a wet Friday afternoon in July – oops something went wrong with the broadband order

I’ve procrastinated long enough. I’m ordering Virgin Media’s 152Mbps broadband only service. At least I’m trying to. As you can see from the featured image without too much success so far.

My logic in choosing Virgin is simple. I want the fastest broadband I can get. With Virgin I will get near to 152Mbps download and 12Mbps up. With FTTC I can only get 30Mbps down and 7Mbps up. Simples.

Also I don’t need a phone line – line rentals are all around £17 and are a rip off. That’s with expensive call charges on top. All I need is a VoIP line that I can use from a dect phone, IP phone or indeed my mobile phone. With the latter I can use it anywhere in the world. Also I don’t trust the mainstream telephony providers’ call charges. They are around 10p for a geographic number cf near to 1p for VoIP and their non geo pricing is not at all transparent. This has been made worse by Ofcom’s recent dictat on non geo number charges.

There are some tempting offers for bundles that include other services such as TV. To be honest there is rarely anything on worth watching on the telly. I don’t feel deprived by not taking up any of these offers.

All I need is a connection. The rest is all an Over The Top service somewhere on the internet.

I do have misgivings with signing up with Virgin. Non UK call centre is a big one. That really is crap. Bufferbloat is another, equally crap. I don’t think I’m likely to be caught by their upload limits and trigger traffic management/throttling. We shall see.

The Virgin contract is 12 months. I’ll be keeping you updated re progress which at the moment is pretty non existent because as I’ve already mentioned, oops something went wrong!!!

See previous post on how to choose a broadband provider here.

… bit later – Virgin clearly have some problem with the broadband bits on their website – see screenshot below. Can’t even get onto the product pages now.


Bad Stuff End User security

Fancy a bit of stuff on the side?

Ashley Madison helps you find other people who want to cheat on their partners

The older I get the more I realise how sheltered I am. I spotted a comment by @ruskin147 on Twitter whilst whiling the time away waiting for a late train to arrive:

Intrigued I looked up Ashley Madison to find a site that arranged extra marital affairs for people and claimed it had millions of customers. Not my kind of thing. What all the attention was about however was the fact that Ashley Madison had been hacked and details of its users nicked.

Notionally the hackers wanted AM to stop charging people to remove their details. I’m not really bothered. He who lives by the sword dies by the sword. Harsh but hey…

I am more concerned with the concept that these databases can be hacked. Of course they can. Even the Pentagon apparently gets hacked every now and again. Shit happens.

I have lots of personal details held at many locations online – Facebook, Twitter, Google and maybe another hundred other places online where I have an username and password. It’s my choice to give this info to the specific websites.

What I don’t want is someone keeping all sorts of information on me without my consent that could will inevitably be hacked and published online for all to see. The government, in compiling its latest version of the Snoopers Charter would do well to note that no database is safe. They will take no notice.

It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that the Prime Minster’s voicemail account was actually hacked by the News of the World and that the information was being suppressed. Merely conjecture, rumour spreading, but entirely plausible.  I heard it on good authority from a man in a pub.

The only safe way to stop information from being stolen is not to store it in the first place.

PS note the trusted security award on the Ashley Madison site.

Bad Stuff End User scams spam

HMRC scam spam

HMRC scam spam forwarded to my accountant

Thought you’d appreciate this public service service announcement re HMRC scam spam. Got the following email text notionally off HMRC and with lots of links:


You can’t afford to miss your payment deadline

If you submitted a self-assessment form in January, your second payment instalment is due on or before 31st July.

Filing your return means you’ll know how much you’ll need to pay, making it easier for you to plan ahead and put money aside.

Here’s a short video clip explaining ‘Paying HMRC – Self Assessment’

Take a look at the following YouTube videos to find out about key dates regarding Self Assessment and details of how charges are calculated. Each is only a couple of minutes long.

Self Assessment: Tax return deadline dates (HMRC YouTube)

Self Assessment: Payment deadline dates (HMRC YouTube)

Self Assessment: Tax return late submission penalties (HMRC YouTube)

Self Assessment: Missed payment charges (HMRC YouTube)

You know it makes sense.

I thought it was a bit odd as I don’t pay my personal tax by instalments so I just forwarded it to my accountant without clicking on anything.

Lo and behold the accountant came back and said trash it it’s a HMRC scam spam (I like that phrase – not sure it accurately describes the email but it rolls poetically off the tongue so it’s in.)

It’s second nature for most people these days to distrust dodgy looking emails but you can get caught out. That unwary moment. The dropped shield etc etc etc.

Anyway gotta go and pick up a hire car as the Jeep is in being mended (again). Tomorrow we are off to York to film some pigs for If you didn’t see the last video you can catch it here. This one’s going to be similar but totally different.

You heard it first on…

PS loads of scam stuff on this site – check it out here.

End User media

Telegraph reads reach limit

This is your final free article this month

That’s it. I’ve reached my limit on Telegraph reads this month. Henceforth I will have to read in an incognito window. The telegraph doesn’t stop access via incognito window because they depend on cookies to count page reads.  Cookies are blocked in incognito mode.

I tend to hop between the BBC, Guardian and Telegraph to home in on what is actually happening with a specific news item. I also read the cartoons on the Telegraph.

Part of me feels bad about this. It isn’t unreasonable to pay the Telegraph for the service they provide. On the other hand this kind of stuff is available free from lots of of places online. It’s the classic online media business model dilemma.

The pop up is somewhat bemusing. It comes up every time you surf the site in incognito mode. I only decided it was a good idea to write this post after I’d dismissed the box the first time so I closed the window and started again. Same box came up innit.

I never read the Times online btw because of the paywall. Dunno how they are getting on.

So there you go. If this is your final free article this month then there is another way…

Screenshot 2015-07-15 at 23.00.56PS as I write Australia are 104 for 1 in the second Ashes test. You can see from the screenshot that I am interested in this. Not watching it on the Telegraph though, or the BBC for that matter. Cricinfo is the place. Cricinfo is free though I pay for the Beeb through the license fee.

PPS I am happy to make the commitment that will probably never implement a paywall. Fill yer boots.

PPPS I’m going to see day 2 of the third ashes test on the Friday at Trent Bridge. See you there?

broadband End User

The future of data storage bandwidth usage

Bandwidth usage – the only way is up

I periodically discuss the bandwidth usage on our home broadband and the growth trend in data storage on our NAS box, driven by the number of photos we store. This usually prompts a discussion on home broadband data usage and for your entertainment and delight I’ve put this chart together as an update to the previous post from 2013 on this subject. Clearly we were due an update.

broadband bandwidth usageWhat prompted me to think about this subject, apart from the ongoing decision making process re which broadband provider to use, was the fact that yesterday I copied some video footage off our CCTV. It was of our son’s 18th birthday party and there are memories in that video that will at some stage be overwritten by the CCTV box.

The CCTV records in High Definition and uses 1.7GB per stream per hour. I copied 6 hours from 2 cameras which I make to be 20.4GB of data storage. Add to that the footage from the GoPro used by one of the kids on the night and you have a hefty amount of storage just to record the proceedings of the evening. I don’t yet know how much is on the GoPro – it has a 64GB SD card and can record in 4k format.

The footage from the CCTV is very clear and in great colour (take note burglars). I doubt we will look at it very often or maybe not at all. Maybe it’ll get rolled out every now and again in the same way that we watch our wedding video about once every blue moon. It doesn’t really matter. The NAS box, currently with less than a TB used out of its 2TB capacity is upgradeable to 4TB. The storage is cheap.

Won’t be long before our rate of usage starts to grow significantly. Just as our broadband data usage continues to grow. It looks as if our broadband data usage approximately doubles every two years. This suggests that by 2017 we will be using 600GB a month and 1,200GB, or 1.2TB a month by 2019!! I believe it.

I’m sure I wrote a post sometime about when I expected to have to upgrade my NAS box but I can’t find that. When I get home I’ll take a look at the picture storage data over the last few years and extrapolate – just for you. I’ll add it to this post tonight. I’m betting the trend is going to look just like the broadband usage and with mainstream 4k use not far off (I don’t think it is yet even though it’s readily available) who would bet otherwise.

broadband End User

how to choose a broadband provider

Just writing out aloud the process I’m going through of choosing a broadband provider. I currently have an 80/20 line from which I get 35/7 performance, most of the time. It’s an unlimited service. Bandwidth usage is approaching 300GB a month.

My current supplier is Timico a business ISP. As such I get great service from them but the monthly line rentals for broadband and phone are now approaching £80 inc VAT. If I were a business user then I’d probably pay that just to get peace of mind that when i had a problem I could easily contact someone to get it sorted.

Although I have no interest in TV I am interested in seeing what sports packages I can get so I took a look around at the consumer deals available.

I do have a couple or three concerns in looking around:

  1. I am worried about ending up with an offshore call centre – my only real options in this case are to choose Plusnet or Sky
  2. What wil lthe service levels be like – at least I have the phone answer statistics to work with here
  3. Currently I am with an ISP that isn’t governed by government decree to monitor my behaviour or filter the websites available to me. This will not be the case if I go to a consumer service

The other consideration in looking is the speed of the connection. FTTC never delivers its headline speeds but the Virgin Cable service does, near enough. However Virgin are notorious for having technical issues such as bufferbloat and they do have a very public traffic management policy whereby they throttle heavy users at busy times. I am a heavy user. Will I be choked in this net?

The Virgin threshold for throttling a service is based on upload usage. If I assume I’m interested in the fastest service then Virgin allow 2.25GB upload in an hour (3GB in 2 hours). My biggest daily upload usages to date have been 10GB in April and 8GB in July (which was when I changed my google photos backup policy). I’m probably just about ok on the upload usage threshold.

The other consideration is availability of IPv6 and AAISP would have been a natural choice for this. AAISP are also fanatical with their support which is one of the reasons they are used by many in the UK internet engineering community. However they don’t do TV and don’t have an unlimited data usage product. They aren’t big enough to be able to cope with a few users maxing out on an unlimited bundle.

I’ve ploughed through the various ISP websites trying to compare their different offerings. It isn’t straightforward as there are lots of variables. All the products in the table below except Virgin are based on BT’s VDSL service. I’ve quoted 80/20 but most of the ISPs probably use 76/18 or some similar marketing variant. We also have to remember that for my house we really mean 35/7 where 80/20 is the stated speed. I would get a better download with any of the three Virgin speed variants but only with the top end one would I get a better upload (although there isn’t much between the 6Megs upload of Virgin’s middle offering and my existing one).

I’ve only quote the regular pricing (some may have been rounded). It is possible to get a great deal in the first contracted year but I’m not planning on hopping ISPs just to get a good deal every time a contract expires. The ongoing cost is more important to me. Where I’ve been able to (remembered) I’ve stated the pricing with weekend calls thrown in.

Product speed (Mbps) regular price (with phone line rental) contract term (months)
Timico 80/20 £77.40 24
BT 80/20 with “free” BT sports £47.00 12
Sky 80/20 £46.40 12
Virgin 50/3  + weekend calls £34.50 18
Virgin 100/6 £39.49 18
Virgin 152/12 £46.99 18
Virgin 50/3 broadband only £28.50 12
Virgin 100/6 £33.50 12
Virgin 152/12 £41.00 12
TalkTalk 80/20 £36.70 12
Plusnet 80/20 £36.00 18
aaisp 80/20 (not unlimited – have assumed pricing for 300GB usage with £10 line rental no voice) £70.00 6

It may be seen that the FTTC camps are divided into three. There’s the very low cost providers, Plusnet and TalkTalk who come in at around £26 a month. Then there’s the big guys Virgin, BT and Sky who are very similarly priced at £46/£47 (albeit BT bung in sport). Finally there are the business ISPs who are perhaps around £20ish a month more expensive edging towards the £100 for a product that comes with better customer support.

Plusnet’s call waiting times are often up around 15 minutes although in their defence their call centre is in Yorkshire (thanows).

What else do I need to take into consideration. How about the cost of making phone calls?

peak time call charges (pence per minute) voipfone virgin sky BT
uk landline 1.2 10.6 9.5 9.58
uk mobile 12 19.35 12.7 12

I’ve added another variable with this table. Compare the Voipfone call charges with those of BT, Virgin and Sky. Makes the three of them look a real rip off doesn’t it? Voipfone are one of  the UK’s longest standing and most successful Internet Telephony Service Providers. You run their service over your broadband line aka Skype but cheaper. There is a scenario where I can go with Virgin’s broadband only  package. If I want to transfer and use my existing landline number Voipfone will charge me £2.40 a month including VAT. In the business I’ve spent £40 with them on call charges since October 2014.

I realise that each of these providers will probably sell me a bundle of minutes but the members of our house rarely use the landline. They all have mobile phones with their own bundles. We only really need our local Lincoln number for legacy purposes (mostly for calls from aged parents).

So there is a scenario where I could take the Virgin 152Mbps broadband only service at £41, add £2.40 for a Voipfone landline number and it still would only cost £43.40 a month plus calls a very low rate.

What might be the problems with using Voiphone? In theory their service would work just like our existing home phone line. We use DECT phones around the house and I have a SNOM DECT phone system with a couple of handsets going spare in the office. Obviously the service relies on our always having a broadband and there have from time to time been issues with different variants of Superhub blocking VoIP. They don’t do this deliberately – it’s just incompetence and I don’t think the problems are there right now.

I also use Voipfone using a CSIPSimple client on my android so the whole family could have an alternative means of calling over wifi when abroad (for example).

How about adding TV or more specifically sport?

sports packages
BT Sports on virgin big kahuna £66.00
BT & Sky sports (full package) big kahuna £93.99
BT free BT sport £47.00
with BT sport & Sky 1&2 £68.99
sky original bundle & sky sports – no bt sport £71.90

The numbers change quite dramatically. BT stays the same but adding Sky sports into the picture sport is very expensive. Remember the punter is the one paying for all the big money contracts that Sky have with the Premier League.

The BT offer with just BT sport is dramatically better than the others as long as you remember it isn’t as comprehensive a bundle as having Sky in the deal.

If I went with Virgin I’d effectively be paying and extra £22.60 a month just to get BT sport – remember I’m not really interested in the other TV stuff.  The full monty on Virgin is very expensive at £94.

Going with BT and taking both Sky and BT sports would cost me an extra £25.60 over my base Virgin broadband only deal and I’d not have all the Sky Sports.

You can’t get BT Sports on Sky.

This is the interesting set of facts I have to set before the family. I suspect I am not interested in paying  a lot of money for the sport and am likely to end up with the Virgin broadband only package plus Voipfone. This really pains me as Virgin have a one of the longest telephone answer times and their call centres are in India. Sigh…


Bad Stuff End User fun stuff scams

Stop Press – wonderful LinkedIn invite

LinkedIn spam

Just seen this wonderful invitation to connect on LinkedIn. See the featured image. As you can see it’s from


I was so excited by it I had to drop writing a post on how I’m going about choosing a new broadband provider and share it with you straight away.

We are back to the old Nigerian General with money to get out of the country scam. I assume so anyway. It’s such a pleasure to have them try it on through this new platform. Taken a while mind you but hey…

I didn’t click on anything or accept the invitation although I am just about to report it. It’s the first scam I’ve seen via LinkedIn. Facebook went through a phase of it whereby gorgeous women with large breasts (apparently) wanted to be my friends. Pained me but I declined them all (yes I did).

When I first saw this invite I thought it was from Wales – Bala is a place in North Wales. Anyway I leave you with a tune in my head – Abdul the BullBull Khadir. Olden but golden 🙂
Back to the other post. Mundane bread and butter stuff but just as important 🙂
Still time to enter the Wimbledon Competition btw.
competitions End User mega Wimbledon Tennis competition – win a fantastic prize

Win a mega prize Wimbledon Ladies Draw Competition

Hey evrybody it’s Wimbledon Fortnight and by gosh it’s hot in the office, dang it. Someone forgot to switch on the air-conditioning unit I bought from Argos last year and I haven’t got the energy to lean over and switch it on.

Instead of working we’re kicking back and watching the Tennis on the good ole internet. Now it’s a long long time since we had a competition on so I figured now was as good a time as any. We should have had one before the most recent Royal sprog was born but we missed the chance – probably busy that day. No worries the tennis is here and it’s the Wimbledon Ladies Draw Competition.

It should be noted that the reason we have chosen a Wimbledon Ladies Draw Competition is that on Friday afternoon we are having a party on the balcony here at towers. It starts at 4.30pm (you are invited but bring your own tinnies) and we thought we would announce the winner of the competition at the bash.

It is easy therefore to have a competition that involves naming the two ladies finalists – because we will know who they are by then. In theory.

So the competition is to name the two lady finalists at this year’s Wimbledon. To make it a little easier on the grey matter we have replicated the Quarter Final line up below. All you have to do is pick the correct two ladies. Some will already have been knocked out by the time you read this so if you can be bothered to find who they are you can narrow your odds of winning.

In case of the highly probable event of more than one right answer we have a tiebreaker: What’s my favourite flavour of crips What is the total number of games played in both semi-finals – winner is nearest answer.

dent_smallThe prize is a magnificent tin of Heinz Vegetable Soup. It’s been on the office windowsill for a couple of months and we are not likely to want to consume it now until next Autumn, so it goes. There is a very small health warning in that in moving the tin from the windowsill to my desk I noticed a teensy dent in the tin – barely visible but photographed in case you are worried (see inset photo right).

If this is unacceptable then a packet of Walkers Cheese and Onion crisps is available as an alternative. Appropriate packaging will be applied when shipping either prize options.


Seed Player Player Seed
1 S Williams (US) v Azarenka (BLR) 23
4 Sharapova (RUS) bt Vandeweghe (US)
20 Muguruza (SPA) bt Bacsinszky (SWI) 15
21 Keys (US) v A Radwanska (POL) 13

Note this competition is not governed by any gambling commission type rules and the judges decision is final. Anyone can enter. Even my dad.

Please leave a comment with your answers. The winner will be notified by blog post and email sometime after the party on Friday.

Good luck and happy Wimbledon watching.

Prizes will only be shipped to mainland United Kingdom unless you send a stamped addressed envelope to I can bring it to present to you at a conference at some time in the future.

Wimbledon Ladies Draw Competition
alternative prize
Apps End User

Technology: a generation gap or fear of the unknown?

Fear of tech – can’t understand it meself 🙂

Zoe Easey is a web dev and co-founder of Epix Media. She discusses the fear of tech and whether it is a generational thing.

I have friends and work contacts that constantly profess “I don’t do tech” which scares me a little – how can you not ‘do tech’, you surely can’t avoid it these days? Are people really that fearful of it or is it just an excuse to avoid particular jobs or tasks?

It’s not necessarily an age thing either. In my career I’ve worked with people of all ages and it has  made me interested in whether there is really a generation gap with technology, or whether some people just ‘get it’ and some don’t.

A few years ago I was of the perspective that as the generation that grew up with PC’s and other tech in their homes got older, the gap between those that adopt and embrace tech and those that don’t would shrink. Now I’m not so sure.

I have customers reaching retirement that embrace technology: WordPress, social media and more, and whilst they admit to it taking them longer to learn they crack on and get to grips with it, fear-free. I know of people in their 50’s that can find new things on their iPad much more quickly than I can on mine! On the flip side, I know of people their early 20’s that don’t understand social media, or why people share so much on there, or why it’s important for their business to be part of the social conversation (especially if they are being talked about already). The latter particularly surprises me as things like Facebook are highly likely to have been a much bigger part of their social life as they grew up.

Recently I was introduced to the concept of “micro generations” in technology, whereby tech is moving so fast that the gap in knowledge and what’s ‘cool’ can be massive between people of similar ages. Where tech is concerned the term ‘generation’ doesn’t mean 30 years, it can be as little as the iPhone5 and the iPhone6 being released. There are probably also micro knowledge gaps between tech adopters as we all use it in different ways. Whilst one person may be an expert in one area, or in the use of a particular phone or app, another person may not have ever interacted with them. The important thing here is that the adopters will have the right mind-set to learn if they need to, where as the “I don’t doers’ might not.

I guess there are other factors that impact the tech adoption gap too, such as location and environment. People in areas with poor internet connectivity or from more remote areas may not be pushed as far into the world as technology as those in environments that have the first access to 4G, superfast broadband and other tech related schemes. Just because someone was born in an era where tech is prevalent, it doesn’t mean it will be a key factor in their life. In some cases they will be aware of technology, but not understand its purpose or significance.

I understand that some people don’t feel technology is important to them and part of that may be because it’s still fairly new in the grand scheme of things. But it has moved faster than anything we’ve seen before and I wonder what will happen if people continue to shy away from the basic tools that are ingrained in many people’s lives. Where businesses are concerned their competitors will become more efficient and leaner than they are and they will miss out on tech that can help put systems and processes in place to improve in so many areas. From a non-business perspective technology if nothing else is heaps of fun and makes things much easier. We’ve been a convenience culture for some time now, and tech just helps us be lazier in the tasks we don’t enjoy and get things done quicker – who wouldn’t want that!

Embracing technology isn’t difficult when approached with the right mind-set. It doesn’t mean you have to go and shove all data you own in the cloud, or that it has to cost your business thousands of pounds – but just having a common sense approach can make your business and life more efficient.

I don’t think you need to be a programmer to understand tech, my interactions with people and those that have surprised me over the years is testimony to that. The “I don’t do-ers” just need to push the fear aside and grab themselves a handful of confidence. As long as they don’t give their bank account details to a Siberian prince and are smart about what they post online, they’re unlikely to hit any major snags.

So, encourage your friends and family to not be afraid, tech doesn’t have to be complicated or scary. And when they say “I don’t do tech” tell them “tough, it ain’t going anywhere!”.

Zoe started Epix Media in 2010 and has over 8 years’ experience as programmer and graphic designer. During the last 5 years she has focused on growing the business with her co-director, ensuring they stay on top of the latest tech. This along with great customer service means Zoe is well on the way to proving you can be successful AND nice in business!

Bad Stuff End User spam

Our records show you work in shipbuilding

Multiple spam phone calls in one day and how I hate being called Mike

It all started as I left the tube, just after 8am on Tuesday. The phone rang. No one calls me at that time of day.


The kids have hurt themselves or the office is on fire (metaphorically). Usually something bad.

So I answer..


Ominous pause..

“ ‘ello.. is that Mr Daly??”


“Im calling from ‘Some random posh sounding solicitor’s name’, our records show that you have been involved in an accident and are entitled to compensaaaation” (Yes… at least 5 a’s..)

Now, I agree, its a failing on my part that I just can’t hang up on these calls. I figure if I’m rude then I’m just being unpleasant to someone who, probably, doesn’t like the job but needs it to keep house and home together and doesn’t need me having a pop at them.

“No, I haven’t had any accidents so, no I’m not…”

“Oh, but we have an insurance application that..”

“No, really I’m not interested, please don’t call me again.”

“Thank you….. Bye..”


Click.. burrrrrrrrrrrr.

michael dalyAbout an hour later, the phone rings again..

I’m expecting a call from someone, no idea where they are based, so this could be it..


Ominous pause..

“Goooood morning Mr Daly, my name is Phil1, Im calling from the pension clinic2, are you aware that there have been changes to pension regulations, and we’d like to offer you a free pension health check”

“Yes thanks, I have my own financial advisor who I’m happy with so I don’t need your help.”

“Yes, but as I said its free and will only take a few minutes to take some details and we promise not to steal all your money”3

“No.. Really, no… please don’t call me again..”

The next one Lunch time-ish..

Now this one was a blocked number, and I know that you probably shouldn’t pick up a blocked number call, but my Mother-in-law blocks her outbound number and the last time she called during the working day, well.. let just say it was a good job I took the call.

“Hi, Is that Michael?”

“yep, who’s calling?”

“Hi there, my name is Kelly4, and our records indicate that you are entitled to a PPI claim for a mortgage you had in….”

“No, I have never had PPI…”

“Yes, many people think that but mortgages were mis-sold before (Some previous date), so if I could just take some details….”

“No thank you.. Good bye..”

By this point I’m just a little narked.. Then the next one takes the biscuit.

“Hi, is that Mike?”

Now, I hate being called Mike. You may as well call me George. Mike is not my name. It has NEVER been my name. The only person who gets (got) away with calling me Mike was Grandma and that was because it came with sweets or cake, and by the time cake and sweets stopped she was too old and fragile for me to get worried about it.

Even my teachers got ignored when they called me Mike.

Apologies to all the Mikes out there, there is nothing wrong with the name but its just not mine..


“Oh er.. can I speak to Mr Daly..”

“Speaking.. “

“Oh… er… OK.. Im calling from (wherever), Our records show…” (here we go again) “ that you

have worked in industry and may be entitled to compensation”

“NO, I have never worked in industry..”

“You have never worked in industry?”

What I want to say is;

“Well yes.. clearly I have, but not in the kind of industry you mean”

What I actually say is;

“Define Industry?”


“What do you mean by ‘industry’?”

“OH… our records show that you worked in shipbuilding”

I see the link – I used to work for a company that owned (among 30 other businesses) a shipyard..

“NO, I have never worked in shipbuilding.. Thanks for the…”

She hung up on me..

Thats a new one.. 🙂

Cue the tweet that triggered the invitation to write the blog…spam phone calls

I’m now a bit fed up.. the next call..


“erm.. hello, is that Mr Daly?”

“yep” (Blimey, that was terse.)

“Hi, this is Sarah from…”

“Sorry, Im busy, I have had enough today, I don’t care what you are selling I’m really not interested”

“Oh, ok.. Im sorry.. Just to let you know, that I have the quotes we discussed last week,”

(you remember the call I was waiting for..)

“…shall I just email them to you?”

A very large helping of humble pie, an apology and a quite pleasant discussion about cold calling.

But it’s not really cold calling. They must have my number somewhere, I must have forgotten to tick (or un-tick) the box that said please don’t bother me. So not reading the small print properly somewhere has caused this. Unfortunately I have no answer. There is no great reveal coming about how we all solve this problem.

None of us has the time (or, frankly the inclination) to read the 70 page list of T’s & C’s before we click the “I agree…” button because they are written in some arcane legal language that we just can’t read, without taking a course on British consumer law so we can understand it… (breath… ) so what we actually need is better protection from the regulators.

Most of this crap is some kind of scam. The goal is to get you to pay for a service that you can probably get for free if you do a little bit of work yourself. So its not actually illegal.

If only there was some kind of list.. Oh wait.. there is..

The telephone preference service is supposed to help you get out of this stuff.

Am I registered? – yep.

Does it work? – Nope.

Because somewhere, some time ago, I accidentally ticked (or didn’t tick) a box that enabled one organisation with iffy morals to sell my phone number.

So how about a bit of crowd sourcing?

Lets share all the random calls we get on a site, so we can add the calls to our block lists. I think there is even an idea for an app in there somewhere.

I think I know someone who can help with that.

1Could have been Phil, I didn’t hear properly..

2Could have been… cant remember that one either..

3I added the “The We promise bit…”



Michael is the Engineering Manager at Cloudflare, having previously designed, built and managed infrastructure and networks for Nominet, Mercedes Benz and Virgin (amongst others). When not at work, he can usually be found with his family or with a guitar in his hand.

Anything written here is his own work, and has nothing whatsoever to do with his employer. Follow him on twitter at @michaelscloud.

End User gadgets

Pebbles, Pebbles, Pebbles everywhere.

Pebble smartwatch review – @Baskers compares 1st & 2nd gen


When Tref first approached me to write a guest blog post for Women in Tech week, to be honest I was kind of scratching my head a bit about what to write about.

Where to begin? What should I say? What to choose?

I’ve been reading all the other guest blog posts this week on here and just been in awe of what these women have achieved so far and what they are doing. I sort of feel like a bit of an interloper/false imposter syndrome being here. As I’m not in a tech company, I’m not a coder, developer, hacker and I don’t work in Telecoms. I’m a Civil Servant in Westminster, responsible for the Department for Transport’s Business Intelligence Systems.

So, not exactly the “sexy” part Women in Tech. But hey, we can’t all have the sexy jobs. However, as a great believer in the Public Sector, I want to make sure that whenever decisions are made that ultimately impact the people of the UK, that these are made with the best damn Management Information (MI) that I can deliver to my colleagues. Whether that be internal to Business Partners, Boards etc or externally for DfT Publications, HM Treasury, Cabinet Office and Parliament.

There are a lot of challenges around that I’m currently facing:

  • around Data Migrations from legacy ERP systems to the new Shared Services ERP offerings
  • Connectivity between various systems via SFTP, VPN, Citrix Clients, CSV Interface Flatfiles (No API’s yet)
  • how that interacts with my Business Intelligence System (SAP BPC for those of you that want to know),
  • how best to build upon the rich MI Data that I have and turn that into valuable information through Data Visualisations and Predictive Analytics.

Ultimately I want to make MI more open, transparent and accessible to my Department. That’s my Finance/MI “tech” thing. That’s what I’d like to make awesome over the next few years. But that’s not why I’m here today.


The Pebble Time

pebble smartwatchSo, why am I here writing on Tref’s blog today? Because I also have a weakness for all things shiny and tech, when I’m not dealing with Finance and BI Systems. Only the other week a new shiny arrived on my doorstep. The Pebble Time. Which is quite timely given Tref asking me to contribute to his blog this week. I was an original backer of the first Pebble smart watch back in 2012, when it finally arrived in 2013 (after a year of delays) I was ecstatic. It was the first proper smart watch that totally changed how I used my phone, and for the first time in years I’d started wearing a watch on my wrist again.

I’ve been wearing a smart watch for a good 2 and half years and in that time there’s been a whole lot of new smart watches come onto the market as competitors to the Pebble and ultimately the Apple Watch. But I was still excited by the arrival of the new version of the Pebble.

Why? Because even though there are other smart watches out there I liked the simplicity of the Pebble. There are a whole slew of reviews out there telling you the pros and cons comparing against other watches and all the tech specs, but I’m here to tell you about my experience.


What I like about the Pebble Time (and it’s earlier version the Pebble) was that no instructions were really needed:

Simplicity – it is simple to use with a good UI and a mature and stable OS. If I wanted complex, that’s what my Phone/Tablet/Laptop is for (disclaimer here, am a total Apple fan with iPhone 6, iPad, MacBookPro, Timecapsule).

Price – But the Apple watch simply doesn’t appeal to me (and certainly not at the price tag from near £300 upwards). As a Kickstarter backer, I got the Pebble Time for $159. Comparing that to the entry price for an Apple watch is simply a no brainer. It will retail at $200 (£180?), with pre-orders now open at and due to ship July/August.

pebble smartwatchBattery Life – Apple Watch 1 day. Pebble 5-7 days. Again, no brainer. I find I tend to get around 3-5 days on my watch, but I am a fairly heavy user of the Pebble.

Volume Control – One of the things that bothered me with the 1st generation Pebble is that I couldn’t control the volume of my music directly from my watch. Which is a bit of pain in the arse if you’ve not got a volume control on your headphones and then have to fish out your phone from your pocket to sort the volume out. They’ve sorted that out with the PebbleTime OS. It works a charm.

Apps – The platform has been around for 3 years + now, and the Apps for the Pebble OS are diverse and I think it’s great that the watch will work with iOS, Android and Windows. Often when I was out cycling I’d have the Bike + App connected to my phone and was able to check out my speed and mileage at the flick of wrist instead of grappling with my phone whilst trying to not fall off of my bike.

Notifications – Oh these are fabulous and one of the main reasons why I love the Pebble. Being an App junkie (+300 on my iPhone at last count), I was being overloaded with notifications and always taking my phone out of my pocket to see what was popping up on my screen. The Pebble Time deals with this effortlessly, showing me what the Notification is and content. A quick glance to my wrist to see whether or not I need to deal with it right away or leave it to later. The phone stays in my pocket.


Watchstrap – I really don’t like plastic watch straps. Really, really, don’t like them. The Pebble Time comes as standard with the plastic strap, but on the upside, there’s a quick release button on each strap at the back and you can exchange the strap for a normal standard 22mm band of your choosing. I had swapped the old Pebble watch strap with a standard leather one, so will probably do the same here when I get around to it. And there’s also possibility of “smart straps” that can be used in conjunction with the Pebble Time App on the phone. I’m looking forward to seeing how that develops.

Screen lamination – I know this isn’t an Apple Watch or other higher end smartwatch. It is an ePaper screen and I accept the limitations of that, but wish that I could choose how long to keep the backlight on. For me, it dims too quickly.

Charging Cable – it’s a propriety charging cable. Pain in the arse if you lose/break it and have to wait for a replacement. I would like to see in the future more universal type of chargers for smart watches. Like most phones gadgets with micro USB ports.

Notifications – I don’t like how when they pop up that they stay there. I would like them to disappear after a set period of time that I could set and for the watch to return back to the previous screen (either music or watchface for me). Perhaps this will could be new functionality the developers can bring to the App in the next update?

Comparing 1st Gen vs 2nd Gen

As I was an original backer, and have using my Pebble since 2013 I was looking forward to seeing how the 2nd gen version of the Pebble compared the original.

Sizepebble smartwatch review – Overall the PebbleTime is smaller than the original Pebble which is a much welcome feature to me. I have small wrists and did find the Pebble just that little bit too big for m. It’s okay for blokes who tend to have larger wrists but for me it was an annoyance.

The smaller size of the Pebble Time just suits me perfectly, and is far more comfortable to wear.

Graphics & Animation – Obviously having a colour display is a BIG win. And opens up the possibilities of far more innovative watchface designs. Looking at the same watch face on both the 1st and 2nd Gen Pebble right away you can see the difference. I’ve totally fallen for the Pebble Time BIGTIME in that respect.

pebble smartwatch animationHaving an ePaper colour screen just rocks. It’s early days yet, and new watchscreens are just starting to get developed using colour and I can’t wait to see what the developers come up with here. From what I’ve seen in the Pebble App store already it’s looking very promising.

The animations on certain watchface Apps could be better, but it’s still early days. One of my favourites has to by Nyan Cat. Check out the 1st Gen vs 2nd Gen here.


The App –The Pebble Time App has had a bit of an overhaul compared to the original Pebble App. The new watch can hold a lot more (1st gen was limited to 8 watchfaces only). I’ve been download loads of new Apps and watchfaces and have yet to fill the watch up.pebble smartwatch review app

You can see that the screen is split between watch faces and Apps. Which makes it easier to filter through your selection and load up the correct one. Slightly more intuitive than before. And searching for new watchfaces and Apps is slightly better with the clearer category breakdown between each selection.

One thing I don’t like, and it was the same for the original Pebble App is the performance. When you do make a selection from the Pebble App store it does seem to hang on the iPhone. Now I don’t know if that is just iPhone specific or if it does the same on the Android and Windows App version.

I would like to see the performance of the App addressed when switching between the watchfaces/apps in the Pebble App store.

Weight – For me the by far the biggest feature that has made ALL the difference is weight. I’m not a fan of clunky heavy watches, and that was a bit of downside of other smartwatches.

  • Old Pebble & band = 38g
  • New Pebble & band = 45.5g
  • Apple Watch (lowest spec, and band weight) = 62g

Far lighter and less clunky that an lot of other offerings out there. Another killer feature for me.

Round up

I’m currently on a train from London up to Dundee (escaping the heatwave) and soon to run out of juice on the old laptop and disappear into relatively little connectivity so I’d better wrap up this post and get ready to disembark my train.

Owning a smart watch is a very personal thing. I’ve told you why I like my Pebble Time and why I’m sticking with it, but it’s entirely down to your likes and preferences to which would be the best smart watch for you. I like the fact that the Pebble was completely crowd funded and was way ahead of the game before the big companies finally caught up. I want to stick around for now and see how the Pebble Time develops. But ultimately, if it doesn’t offer what the consumer wants we’ll will jump ship onto other brands so I’m keeping a close eye on this and as always the Apple Watch 2nd Gen.

About the Author:

Baskers picSarah Baskerville aka Baskers is a Dundonian Civil Servant, lives and works around London. She is one of the organisers of UKGovcamp and Teacamp. Sarah is also a supporter of 300Seconds, Rewired State, Open Data and the Open Rights Group.

She also likes Doctor Who, blues music, wine and can often be found down the pub. Sarah intensely hates the colour pink.

Other posts in our women in tech week include:

Geeks do drink prosecco by Liz Fletcher
Network filter bypass solutions by Rhosyn Celyn
Network Automation by Leslie Parr
IX model defended by Valeria Rossi
Board level veteran sees progress by Lesley Hansen
Rural broadband solutions by Chris Conder
Experiences as a Siemens IT graduate by Zoe Redfern

End User internet security surveillance & privacy

Anderson Report on Terrorism Legislation

Anderson Report on Terrorism Legislation

The Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC, yesterday published his report into investigatory powers. The Anderson report on terrorism legislation is almost 400 pages long and includes 124 recommendations so you need some stamina to plough through it.

Following the report’s publication Home Secretary, Theresa May MP, gave a statement (watch it here) to the House of Commons. She set out a timetable and provided some general comments:

A draft bill (Snooper’s Charter revisited) will be published in the Autumn and subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee. A Bill will then be published early in the New Year with a view to passing a final act before the DRIPA sunset clause come into effects at the end of 2016.

While generally accepting Anderson’s recommendations, May seemed to question the viability of his proposals to require judicial authorisations for warrants, highlighting the need for balancing the responsibilities of the Judiciary and Executive.

In addition to the draft bill, Government will look at a reform of the mutual legal assistance framework (in response to the Sheinwald Report which has not yet been published).

The Anderson Report

Overall approach by David Anderson is as follows:
‘A clear, coherent and accessible scheme, adapted to the world of internet-based communications and encryption, in which:

a. public authorities have limited powers, but are not shut out from places where they need access to keep the public safe;

b. procedures are streamlined, notably in relation to warrants and the authorisation of local authority requests for communications data;

c. safeguards are enhanced, notably by:

i. the authorisation of warrants by senior judges;

ii. additional protections relating to the collection and use of communications by the security and intelligence agencies in bulk;

iii. greater supervision of the collection of communications data, including judicial authorisation where privileged and confidential material is in issue or novel and contentious requests are made;

iv. improved supervision of the use of communications data, including in conjunction with other datasets and open-source intelligence; and

v. a new, powerful, visible and accountable intelligence and surveillance auditor and regulator.’

This forthcoming bill is going to require very careful scrutiny and it will be interesting to see how many of Anderson’s recommendations are implemented. Governments have a habit of listening to these things only when it suits them. Theresa May is already suggesting that she wants the power herself that Anderson is saying should be given to Judges. It’s exactly this situation that we want to avoid.

In principle I don’t think any sane person can object to a government wanting to make it easier for themselves to catch more crooks. However we don’t necessarily need to give them authority to monitor every one of us. Why can’t they stick to just monitoring suspected criminals?

Thanks to the ITSPA secretariat for some of the inputs to this post.

Other Snooper’s Charter posts (lots of them) here.

End User Legal security

Snoopers Charter Revisited – here we go again

Gets tedious doesn’t it, this constant battle to introduce defend against the Snooper’s Charter. You will all have seen from the Queen’s Speech (gawd bless ya Ma’am) that the Comms Data Bill (Snooper’s Charter) has been reincarnated into the Investigatory Powers Bill (Snooper’s Charter).

Page 64 is what you are looking for. Details yur if you can’t be bothered to look.

The purpose of this legislation is to:

Provide the police and intelligence agencies with the tools to keep you and your family safe.

Address ongoing capability gaps that are severely degrading the ability of law enforcement and intelligence agencies ability to combat terrorism and other serious crime.

Maintain the ability of our intelligence agencies and law enforcement to target the online communications of terrorists, paedophiles and other serious criminals.

Modernise our law in these areas and ensure it is fit for purpose.

Provide for appropriate oversight and safeguard arrangements.

The main benefits of these clauses would be:

Better equipping law enforcement and intelligence agencies to meet their key operational requirements, and addressing the gap in these agencies’ ability to build intelligence and evidence where subjects of interest, suspects and vulnerable people have communicated online.

Maintain the ability of our intelligence agencies to target the online communications of terrorists, and other relevant capabilities.

Provide for appropriate oversight arrangements and safeguards.

This will respond to issues raised in the independent review by the Independent Reviewer of Counter-Terrorism legislation, which is due to be published shortly.

The main elements of the clauses are:

The legislation covers all investigatory powers including communications data, where the Government has long maintained that the gap in capabilities are putting lives at risk.

The legislation will enable the continuation of the targeting of terrorist communications and other capabilities.

On the face of it none of this text is controversial. The problem lies in the detail. My guess is it is unlikely to have changed materially from its previous incarnation although the bit that says “This will respond to issues raised in the independent review by the Independent Reviewer of Counter-Terrorism legislation” is an attempt to smooth things over.

It’s the snoopers charter revisited. Our problem this time around is that the Lib Dems aren’t around to stop it happening. We may be in for a fight.

For a general read around this subject see the multifarious blogs on this site here. For a more specific list of issues see here.

Apps End User mobile apps social networking

I used Skype Out yesterday

My six monthly Skype call

I used Skype Out yesterday. I’d previously had an email from Skype telling me my Skype Out account had been frozen because I hadn’t used it recently. That’s because Skype is quite expensive compared to other VoIP services so I dropped it. Still had about £6.60 in there though and i was dischuffed to say the least to think that Skype might happily pocket this.

Unlocking the account was simple enough though and Skype told me that as long as I used it in a 6 month window the account would remain active. I find it convenient to keep that account just in case of emergencies so I rang my dear old dad in the Isle of Man. As it happens all the DECT handsets in the house needed charging so Skype was it. Not an emergency mind you but hey…

I’m now ok until sometime in December at which time I’ll do another keep alive call, maybe to me dad again.

You might ask why didn’t I just use my mobile to call dad. That’s because the rip off mobile networks categorise the Isle of Man as overseas and charge international rates. It is actually overseas but the fixed line networks treat it as an UK number.

Although I said Skype was more expensive than other voip services I still have approximately the same amount of money in the account. It’s all relative.

If anyone wants to call me my Skype address is I do have an account that is something like Trefor.Davies but I lost the password for that yonks ago and moreover can’t remember which (probably long defunct) email address I used so had to set up a new one. is good anyway.

When turned into a business I decided not to have phone numbers so my contact details are [email protected] (G+) and (Skype). In reality I also use my mobile phone number although when I recently changed mobile networks I did consider just getting a data only sim. I figure that at this stage of the game that was a step too far.

Feel free to give me a call on either of those addresses. I’m a pretty approachable guy:)

PS lots of Skype stuff on this blog – check it out here.

broadband End User

Tunisia broadband to reach 100% of households by 2020 says minister

Tunisia broadband

Following on from last week’s China broadband post this tweet mentioning Tunisia broadband caught my eye

Just goes to show how vital broadband is seen to be everywhere. You can imagine every government looking at league tables for broadband speed and % coverage and thinking “we have to get our country up the table if we want to be competitive”.

I’ve lost track of where the UK is in it’s progress towards ubiquity in broadband services. As I recall the target was 95% of the population by (the end of) 2017.  I did follow it for some years but my enthusiasm became bogged down in the mire of government obfuscation (quite like that phrase 🙂 ) and the general lack of transparency associated with the whole project. You get my drift.

I guess if you live in an idyllic rural hamlet surrounded by meadows, tinkling streams and birdsong but don’t yet have decent internet access you will have been following progress of the fibre broadband roll-out very closely. All I can say is that one of the reasons I might eventually move to said paradise is to get away from it all, but I know I’m not helping here.

The last census (2011) showed the UK having a population of 63.2 million people living in 26.4 million households. The OECD report of 2014 suggested the UK had 36.2 broadband lines per 100 people (23.2 million lines). That gives 87.88 penetration of broadband to households in the UK in 2014. The data, which was supplied by HM Govt will have been old at the time and will also now be out of date in any case.

I imagine we are still on for the 95% in 2017. Don’t know how this compares with Tunisia’s 100% by 2020 but I doubt the UK will be at that level. I’m not suggesting that Tunisia is a major competitor of the UK in global markets but they will almost certainly have worse problems in connecting to rural communities than us in the UK. From the tweet it’s also not possible to tell what the Tunisian government minister means when it says “high speed”. In fact it’s difficult to find out much about broadband in Tunisia using Google.

The point is that Tunisia is demonstrating the right kind of ambition.

Should anyone have any more info then feel free to share. In the meantime I’ll just be looking at brochures for country cottages surfing Tunisian holiday websites cracking on in the office here with my high speed connection.

See ya!