End User internet

We7 Promotional Codes

Seeing as I was so nice to them last week We7 CTO Gareth Reakes has sent me some money off promotional codes to give out to readers.

If you want one – worth £2.50, just drop me a line at my timico email address. I’ve got ten of them – first come first served.

End User internet

Domain name misspellings

Found another domain parasite today, if that is the right word. I was going onto and typed in by mistake. It takes you to a site completely unrelated to facebook that is just trying to make money out of click-throughs.

Actually there is nothing illegal about this and I suppose there is a limit to how many derivatives of your own domain it makes sense to register. I’ve registered a few for this site – 10 or so as I recall, but mostly just the suffix variants, .net, .org, etc. and would have gone when DNS first appeared. Trefor is a village in Wales and a solid Welsh Christian name (Huw Trefor Davies for those who want to know my full moniker). In fact the name Trefor is derived from tref (Welsh word for “town”) and or (Welsh for “from”). There you go. You learn lots of useful bits of information on this site:-) .

I considered myself very lucky to find that was not taken last year. Someone must have not renewed it. The roll of the dice…

End User internet spam

Spam attacks  started being subjected to spam attacks a while ago. Any domain that has been in use for a while gets it as spammers’ systems learn of its existence.  The interesting thing is that these attacks come in waves. I can sit in the Network Operations Centre and watch email traffic surge due to an attack.

The occurrence of these waves often coincides with spam on which appears as comments in posts. Fortunately I have to moderate comments so they aren’t seen by readers. I never get spam email because our systems catch pretty much all of it.

End User internet

We7 – Free & legal music downloads

I have mentioned before when I met CEO Steve Purdham at the Internet Conference and the subject of illegal music downloading via P2P is becoming almost a regular feature. In a rare moment of relaxation (really) I thought I’d revisit the We7 website which I had registered with for research purposes prior to the conference .

I’ve got to say that having sifted through the site it is brilliant. It gives you the choice of listening to a huge store of music free of charge and also the option to buy. You can put together a playlist which can then be shared with friends via email, bookmark or Bebo.

I put a Frank Sinatra playlist together. My favourite Frank tracks are all on vinyl so this is great. I do have to listen to a short ad in between tracks. I’m talking probably only a second long, almost subliminal, which so far I haven’t found to be a problem. I’m listening to it as I write this post.

This type of website is leading the charge of the music industry towards new business models that encourage people not to download illegally. I don’t know how much exposure the site gets. I would think if they created some kind of Facebook interface their usage would rise exponentially. Whether this is feasible I know not. 

I’m adding We7 to my blogroll.

End User internet

We7 – Free & legal music downloads

I have mentioned before when I met CEO Steve Purdham at the Internet Conference and the subject of illegal music downloading via P2P is becoming almost a regular feature. In a rare moment of relaxation (really) I thought I’d revisit the We7 website which I had registered with for research purposes prior to the conference .

I’ve got to say that having sifted through the site it is brilliant. It gives you the choice of listening to a huge store of music free of charge and also the option to buy. You can put together a playlist which can then be shared with friends via email, bookmark or Bebo.

I put a Frank Sinatra playlist together. My favourite Frank tracks are all on vinyl so this is great. I do have to listen to a short ad in between tracks. I’m talking probably only a second long, almost subliminal, which so far I haven’t found to be a problem. I’m listening to it as I write this post.

This type of website is leading the charge of the music industry towards new business models that encourage people not to download illegally. I don’t know how much exposure the site gets. I would think if they created some kind of Facebook interface their usage would rise exponentially. Whether this is feasible I know not. 

I’m adding We7 to my blogroll.

End User spam

Sources of Spam

Spam hotspots
Spam hotspots

I’ve been talking to a number of anti-spam and anti virus technology vendors recently.

It is important to keep up with what is going on in this field. As we move into 2009 it is a subject I will be writing more about.

In the meantime I came across this map of sources of SPAM. There are a number of them floating around online. It is interesting to see that all the usual suspects are there: South East Asia, Russia, Brazil.

I was quite surprised to see so much activity in the USA and Europe. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been.

End User security

Virus Attack

As everyone who has caught a cold (manflu?) in the run up to Christmas knows, viruses are no respecters of holidays. This is what happened at one customer site yesterday.

The symptoms appeared gradually. Someone could not log into their PC when they came in to work. Then others had the problem. If you were already logged in you were ok. There was nothing obvious that was wrong.

The customer’s own IT person was overseas on holiday so they called in the cavalry. The Timico IT support team set to work immediately and started to analyse what was going on in the customer’s network. The company had two sites and one PC at the remote site was seen to be generating an inordinate amount of network traffic.

In fact what it was doing was conducting an alphabet attack on the company’s Active Directory server. It was trying to log on as an user on the network. Each time it did so three times unsuccessfully for each user account the server locked that account so a genuine user was then unable to log in.

This is of course good news from a security perspective although highly inconvenient from the customer’s point of view as it was very disruptive. The remote site was disconnected and the rogue PC isolated. The attacks stopped.

The virus protection on each machine was updated and a full scan run on each PC in the customer’s network. It is not always possible to tell how a virus enters your network. This customer had external virus scanning on email. It probably came from a website that someone had visited. Their desktop antivirus was in need of updating.

It does reinforce the message that the fight against virus and malware needs to be conducted on multiple fronts. All’s well that ends well and the cavalry rode off into the sunset for a well deserved New Year’s Eve Party. See you in 2009 pardners…

End User fun stuff


I was at the panto in Lincoln on Boxing Day. As usual they had three kids up on stage at the end for some freebies. In the brief interviews we discovered that there were two nine year olds and a six year old and that Santa brought them a laptop, an iPod Touch and a Nintedo DS for Christmas!

I guess this is good news if you are in the technology business!

End User fun stuff

Duck Suicide Rate Rises In Run Up To Christmas

Apparently suicide amongst ducks is on the rise in the run up to Christmas. This latest victim was clearly unable to cope with the pressures that come at this time of year.

Speculation is rife amongst the Timico Network Operations Team as to what made this particular individual “go over the edge”. On the surface what to the outside world looked like a cheery duck clearly had an inner angst.

The team offered the following possible explanations:

  • The duck’s pension fund was tied up in the stock market, and Woolworths in particular
  • He couldn’t face having the family over to stay during the festive period
  • There are other more sinister reasons involving a knife and fork and an orange…

Whatever the explanation our thoughts are with the family. It is not known whether the trend is also being seen amongst other members of the poultry community.

If anyone can shed any more light on this tragedy please leave a comment. Remember a duck is not just for Christmas. It tastes great at any time of year 🙂

chromebook End User

New laptop

You may or may not have noticed but there was a short gap of 3 days between the last two blog entries. This is partly because my laptop was shot. It’s funny to realise how dependant you become on the computer.

I’m sure that I am not alone in saying that my handwriting skills have deteriorated over the last few years. My handwriting was never particularly good – people used to tell me that I should have been a doctor. Not having to use a pen other than to sign cheques in the office means that when I try writing anything substantial my hand really hurts.

It has been years since I have taken handwritten notes at meetings. I enter them straight into my PC. They then get routinely backed up and the record is always there and easily retrievable. Every time I get a new PC my old data moves onto the new one which means that I probably have stuff on the laptop dating back 10 years.  10 years ago what I have now would not have fitted on to my hard drive.

It is taking me time to adjust to the new keyboard. It is smaller thatn the old one and hte keys arent inthe same place so I keep jitthing the worjnr ones – see what I mean.

End User scams security


As I’m sure most of you know Phishing is a scam whereby unfriendly persons try to coax confidential account details out of individuals so that they can attempt to steal things. We are talking bank account information, network logons etc.

Well this morning Timico was subjected to a phishing attack and many users were sent an email purporting to be from the company asking for username and password logons for their network and email accounts. It was a very poor attempt using the typical poor grammar of the criminal mind. The notional email address of the perpetrator was also left in full view.

I am not aware of anyone from Timico daft enough to respond to this but I thought it worth a blog post to show others the type of attack to be wary of. Internet users beware.

I do seem to get a wealth of material to blog about at Timico.

End User fun stuff


Today is Thanksgiving day in North America. Not many of my American friends are online,  Jeff Keni Pulver being the odds on exception. I expect they are all being thankful for the day off and gearing themselves up for the supersized feast that is to come.

It occurred to me that this was a good time to ask around the Network Operations Centre to see what the engineers had to be thankful about. Of course I had to discount “having you as a boss Tref” comments, partly because none of them came my way. Hmm.

Ben, Head of Net Ops, said we should be thankful for the internet. Ok. Uhuh. The others were more imaginative.

Paul said he was thankful for Nunzilla! It’s definately a good one. Photo below.

Ian said he was thankful for his black characterless keyboard. I must say it is impressive. Thank you for that.

Anyone wishing comment on this post should do so, please. Imaginative things to be thankful for will be acknowledged and if worthy, may result in a prize.

PS note the product placement 🙂  !

End User internet

Time spent online

I’m not a sad person, I like to believe, but I do seem to spend an awful lot of my time on the PC. I don’t play computer games. Typically I work, though the type of work that I do in the evening is different to what I do durng the day in the office. I like my job.

Tonight I have spent reading market research briefs and checking out some fixed mobile solutions on the internet. I also note that Facebook is trying to buy Twitter. I use Twitter to update my facebook status via sms. In checking out my facebook homepage I note that 12 out of 108 of my friends are online too.

I’m not a maniacal collecter of friends. Ten percent, if extrapolated across the whole population, is a huge number of people online. My son Tom has 381 friends and he claims to know them all in person. Without prying this would suggest that around 40 of them were online at any time. I’d like to bet that the number in his generation Y case is a lot higher.

I’m also watching Manchester United play against Villareal on the TV. Of the 6 people in our house five have a PC. The youngest is 8 and he is the lone unfortunate without one. On the arm of the chair next to me is my Nokia E Series mobile phone which also has email. The phone also has wifi and I use it to browse the internet when my laptop is switched off.

My electricity bill is huge. I am glad to say that they don’t allow mobile phones at Lincoln Golf Club.

End User security

Virus Problems?

One of our big PWAN customers had a virus problem over the weekend. For those of you who don’t know a Private Wide Area Network is basically a secure corporate network run over public networks such as ADSL and leased lines.

It took the customer most of the weekend to identify the source of the problem which came from a rogue PC at one site. What Timico was able to do was to shut off access to that site from all the others. This allowed the other sites to contiunue functioning and prevented the virus from spreading.

The virus was eventually identified as one that had not been covered in the customer’s security software virus definition package.

It did take some time to fix but all’s well that ends well. There is a lesson to be learnt here though. This was quite a big customer with almost 100 sites in their network but they would almost certainly have benefitted from a network security audit. It could have saved them several man days worth of effort over the weekend and probably kept the IT manager’s hair from going grey.

End User fun stuff

Bangor University Industrial Panel

Attended the Bangor University Engineering Department Industrial Panel meeting yesterday. I always enjoy a trip back to my alma mater. It is an honour to be asked.

The Electronics and computer science departments have enjoyed a resurgence with entries up by over 50%. This is no small achievement in an environment where kids are moving away from the harder maths and science based subjects. The computer science department was ranked 4th in the country by the Guardian newspaper.

Universities are having to be innovative in attracting students and at Bangor they are given a free laptop in the first year. Clearly a marketing initiative that seems to be working.

It was interesting to note that entrants in engineering departments around the country  require additional coaching in maths. This is apparently the case regardless of the university, Imperial College and Cambridge included!

Life for students has changed in other ways as well. When I were a lad nobody had a job in term time. There wasn’t time. Lager was 40 pence a pint and you had to be in the pub by 7pm to get a seat!

These days they all need to work to pay the bills.  This is in turn must have a knock-on effect on academic performance. On a recent visit to Lincoln University I was told that a typical student graduates with £7,000 of debt. That’s over $11,000 for the benefit of American readers (subject to a continually shifting exchange rate).

I look forward to the next opportunity to help the Univeristy. The picture below is of the members of the Industrial Panel. A fine body of men and women 🙂 . It’s not often I wear a tie!

End User voip

Standardisation Brings Choice

Most of the Timico staff who have been subjected to my technology staff intro presentation, which is practially all 130 of them over the last 4 years, will have had my spiel regarding the competitive benefits of standardisation (eg IBM PC, GSM phones, SIP). Basically standards increase choice and reduce costs.

Our position regarding the support of VoIP handsets has however been very conservative on the basis that it is impossible for a service provider to provide a quality level of support for a huge range of handsets. Actually this applies in the mobile world just as much as in VoIP although to a lesser extent because GSM is a maturer technology.

I have to say though that as SIP becomes seriously mainstream as the signaling protocol of choice for VoIP my attitude towards handset support is changing. This is bolstered by the availability of a wider range of quality products from market leaders such as Nortel, Cisco and Polycom.

The picture below shows the handsets that we have either already been providing or are in test for production in the near future.

Its horses for courses.

End User internet

Loreal IT Manager Sings At The Millenium Stadium

On Friday night the IT Manager of Loreal’s cosmetics factory in Wales played to the biggest audience of her life. She belongs to a choir that sang before the game at the Wales versus Canada rugby match at the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff.

It isn’t often someone gets to do something that is so magical that it is one of those life changing experiences. Her choir sang two songs at each of the four corners of the ground and then lined up behind the teams in the centre to sing the National Anthems.

If you have ever been to the Millenium Stadium for an International rugby match you will know what a fantastic experience the singing of the anthem is. They say it is worth a 6 points head start to Wales. In this case, lined up behind the Welsh team and singing along with 62,000 voices in the crowd, it was an utterly priceless and incredibly emotional experience.

I am proud to tell the world that that IT manager is my sister Sue Davies who also plays first violin for the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra.

PS I realise that the above post has very tenuous links to IT and Communications. That’s just editorial privilege I guess. In mitigation I should tell you I got her the domain name Why not get your own personal domain? Click here to check if it available 🙂

PPS Wales won of course and didn’t need a head start.

End User internet spam

Another Spam Good News Story

The Washington Post has reported that USA colo provider McColo has had it’s internet connectivity cut off by its ISPs because it had been playing host for some time to Spammers. It’s very much worth reading the article.

End User internet

Berkeley University Lecture Downloads

The University of California, Berkeley too the step a couple of years ago to make some of its lectures available for download via podcast. A year or so ago it started making these lectures available as video on YouTube.

Yesterday I was told that the number of lecture downloads has now exceeded 1 million. Pretty amazing.

End User internet

Social Networking Report

A very interesting report on the uses of Social Networking has just been published. The report, entitled “Network Citizens, Power And Responsibility At Work” was commissioned by Orange and written by Peter Bradwell and Richard Reeves of Demos.

The report highlights the tensions that exist between use of Social Networking for social and work purposes. I have very much seen these tensions in Timico where some people are reluctant to mix work and home life which is the inevitable consequence of using websites such as Facebook.

My view is that it is going to happen in anycase and that we should embrace the technology sooner rather than later. You can download a copy of the report using this link network_citizens1.

If you want to interact with me by all means hook up on Facebook – my username is Trefor Davies. At Twitter I am Trefor.

End User internet

The Internet – Now In A Caravan Near You!

Everyone reading this blog has, I’m sure, accessed the internet from somewhere that is not their office or home. Typically this might be using their mobile phone, an internet cafe or perhaps at a wifi hotspot or “Costa Cafe”.

What amazes me is that people now sit in their caravans browsing the web whilst on holiday. Timico subsidiary KeConnect has a deal with the Caravan Club in the UK to roll out its KeZone wifi hotspots to UK caravan sites.

Punters either use their credit cards or buy vouchers from the shop at the site. When I was a kid we used to play Monopoly when it was raining on holiday. Now they either watch TV or surf the web!

I’m a tent man myself, no electric hook-up, much to my wife’s annoyance 🙂 .

End User fun stuff

The Ducks Are Lined Up

We have just finished hiring more staff for the Networks Operation Team. This has taken some time because we wanted to be sure that we found the right people.

I have to say that the wait has been worth it. Timico now has a superb core of people that will drive the network forwards. I’m sure it helped that they had the new Network Operations Centre to move into but also that there is a lot of technical action here at Timico. The business is constantly developing.

We are very fortunate as a business in the people that we employ. Today I sat in at the final presentation of a group of corporate account managers who had been working on developing multi-site communications solutions proposals. The team, mentored by yours truly, did a great job (I know, I know I would say that wouldn’t I).

I guess the point is that it’s people that make the difference to a business and to our customers and I am happy to be working with such a great crowd.

The photo? Ducks, because they have to be lined up to be successful, and because you can’t always take life too seriously. 

End User internet security spam

Spammers Hammered – Hooray

One of our tech support team, Will Curtis, mentioned to me today that the amount of spam he has been receiving on his home email account dropped considerably around two weeks ago.

He also came across this article which tells that the Federal Trade Commission in the USA had raided an organisation that was supposedly one of the largest spam gangs in the world. The Chicago based gang had all its equipment confiscated.

I asked around to see if anyone else had similarly experienced the reduction in spam. Amazingly Ian Christian from the netops team had also seen a reduction and was able to provide a graph to show it in action. There is a clear drop in week 41.

Unfortunately spam will inevitably rise again. Our current monitors suggest that 37% of mail inbound through the Timico mailsafe system is spam. Very little of it makes it through to the end users though.

End User mobile connectivity

Google G1 Phone Date Announced

Google is launching its new mobile handset, labelled the G1, in the UK on Thursday 30th October. This is Google’s first phone and is based on a new open source operating system named Android.

I haven’t had a play with it myself yet and am unlikely to in the near future as T Mobile has an exclusive deal in the UK.  In anycase it is initially going to be a consumer play and I use a mobile phone for business rather than listening to music etc.

The exciting thing here is that Android is open source. Anyone can write an application for it. I’m sure there will be gotchas that benefit Google but that is understandable. Why otherwise would a company make such an investment.

If you don’t understand the implication here of “openness” look at Facebook. Facebook has had thousands of applications developed for it, good and bad.

Nokia is making its own Symbian OS open source and Apple allows developers onto its iPhone although not with complete freedom. The mobile revolution is about to move onto its next phase.

End User internet

Theatre Royal Update

I mentioned that I would chart the progress of the “Save Lincoln Theatre Royal” Facebook Group. The diagram below shows the membership growth over the past 12 days.

I’m not saying this is a stellar recruitment campaign nor making any point other than an observation on how this particular effort is going. The Group has however been publicised on BBC Radio Lincolnshire and its exposure is increasing.

What seems clear from the Group membership is that the demographics of Facebook are still squarely set with the younger generation.

What is also interesting is the difficulty I have had in recruiting Facebook friends from the UK ITSP community for the ITSPA Group – currently standing at 16 members after a few weeks of trying.

ITSPA is a closed group with membership by invitation only. However this is still slow progress. Most company representatives in the ITSPA world are in their thirties or forties I would guess and likely not comfortable in the Web2.0 space.

Business still has a long way to go with Web2.0.

End User internet

Large Hadron Collider

The LHC is in the news at the moment. I am pleased to tell you that I gave a talk at CERN probably 15 years or more ago, about radiation hard circuit design using Silicon on Sapphire technology. The LHC was being planned at that time. It involved having to go to Geneva and dining in the executive canteen (restaurant) in the company of 3 Nobel prizewinners.

It’s all very well of course but how does this relate to the subject matter covered in this blog. Much of the R&D for the world wide web was done at CERN, culminating in the world’s first ever website in 1990 (pictured below – sorry I don’t have the source to credit other than CERN themselves).

For anyone worried about the end of the world happening when they switch on the experiment follow this link for reassurance


End User security voip

Identity theft – Skype style

If your business uses Skype then you could do worse than check out all the cases of identity theft that have been occuring in the Skype user community. For those who don’t know Skype is a free PC based VoIP telephony service that also allows paid for calls in and out from the PSTN. It has always been tagged as an insecure service which potentially opens a corporate network to hacking.

Recently Skype users have been having their identities stolen, and their accounts being used to make illegal phone calls. What’s more if you periodically top up your Skype account using PayPal note that people have found their bank accounts being debited of funds to pay for someone else’s calls. This on it’s own is bad enough but the problem is compounded by the fact that you can’t ring up Skype to complain or get it sorted. Skype relies on email contact for support with apparently slow or non existent response.

What’s more your exposure as a business is exacerbated by the fact that in stealing your identity a Skype hijacker can also steal the business contacts you keep in your Skype account with who knows what consequences.

You can read more about the Skype problems on The Register and if you want to phone a VoIP service provider to discuss how to get a professional service call 08700 949600. 

broadband End User internet

How to Get Faster Broadband — Move to Spain

If you want to get faster broadband move to somewhere like Spain. Aha do I hear you say? Just the excuse you have been waiting for to make the move to a place in the sun? A bit drastic I’d say especially when I explain that the reason you might get faster broadband in Spain is because it almost certainly rains less there than in the good old UK.

It’s very interesting what snippets you pick up at Timico. Today, whilst gazing out the window at yet another downpour, I quizzed the tech support team as to whether there were any hot topics occupying their time. “Broadband” they responded. “We always get more broadband calls when it is raining”.

This took me somewhat by surprise but I checked it out and it is true. If you are a long way from your telephone exchange a bit of wind and rain can cause higher than normal noise on your copper cable, usually due to imperfect connections at the telegraph pole. That’s electrical noise – not something audible to mortals. It isn’t something easily diagnosed and ground based connections and leased lines do not suffer the same problem.

This noise can result in a temporary slowing of your broadband. Hence if you want faster broadband speed move somewhere where it doesn’t rain as much.

You heard it first on

PS if you do need tips on where to relocate the rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain.

End User ofcom security


Oh oh here come the pirates!

What a rogue.

It’s a constant battle.

Everyone needs a little help.

Ofcom to the rescue.


End User scams


Sorry – it’s not what you think. That should have read fishing. The quayside Whitby. I’ll talk about phishing another time.