D4D

Last up against the wall when the revolution comes

Archive for the category “Geeky”

Dickhead

There are times where (as many people already know) I’m an absolute dickhead. This is the (fairly short) tale of one of those times.

One of the reasons I wanted to visit Toronto (which I finally did earlier this year) was because I’ve been a fan of a band called the Cowboy Junkies (who I’ve written about several times, and saw twice in November) for a very long time – since the first time I heard their “Trinity Sessions” album, in fact.  The Trinity Sessions was an album that was all recorded at the Holy Trinity church in Toronto, with only one ambisonic microphone to pick up all the voices and instruments.  It’s one of my all-time favourite albums.  However, I’d never seen a picture of the church. (This is relevant)

Then, on the anniversary of the recording of Trinity Sessions, they put a photo on their Facebook page of the church

And I thought “I recognise that church“. It turns out we’d gone in and visited it while we were in Toronto, and I hadn’t even realised it was the same place.  Indeed, we only went in because it looked interesting (and was hidden away down a little side-street, so we’d only glimpsed the place and its architecture) and it turned out to be a great little find, because it’s beautiful inside, as well as having an absolutely massive organ. (Fnarr)  And I knew it was called the Holy Trinity church. I just hadn’t connected the two.

So it took me another six months to realise that I’d actually been in the place, despite all the clues that were there.

And that, in this case, is why I’m a dickhead.

Upgraded

Last week, I upgraded my internet connection to an “Ultrafast” one – known by BT / Openreach as G.Fast.  Apparently they’re slowing down the roll-out of this in favour of full FTTP (Fibre To The Premises) roll-out, but for now it’s the best speed I can get.

G.Fast offers a guaranteed 100Mbps download – and I’ll get compensation if it dips below that – which is amusingly ridiculous. When I moved here six-and-a-bit years ago, I was only just able to get ADSL and a 2Mbps connection. It was painfully slow, although it did enough for the necessary at the time.  When FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet) came here, I got it, and went from 2Mbps to 75 overnight.  At that point I could do streaming TV and so on with no problem at all.  And now I’ve doubled even that. Truly insane.

I wasn’t actually aware that this tech had been installed in my area, but BT sent me a promotional mail about it at the start of November, and I’d dragged my feet on it a bit.  But then I got a “Black Friday” promotional letter about it as well, where I could also get it installed for free, for an extra £1 a month on what I pay already.  Well OK then.

(As an aside, it’s the only “Black Friday” deal I bothered with at all – and only because it saved me money on a product I was actually interested in)

The engineer came round on Friday to do the installation – it needs some changes at the cabinet, and as it’s still new stuff, they’re doing it with engineers rather than self-install.  This had a happy side-effect, in that he also appears to have finally fixed the line problem that’s been plaguing me for more years than I care to mention.  (And has cost me the price of an engineer visit on one visit out of the five, because they worded the ‘fix’ badly, but that’s a dead issue now)

Ever since I moved in, the line has been dodgy on occasion, and it’s just got worse over time. The broadband connection has been fine in general – unless I have to make or receive a phone call. At that point the crackles on the line were enough to knock out the broadband connection. BT insisted this wasn’t possible, and that all the options I suggested were Just Wrong. (Because obviously I don’t work for them, so what could I possibly know?)  In that time, I’ve had five master sockets, and swapped from ADSL to FTTC for broadband, so I knew it was nothing in the house. It was always either going to be a fault in the line (“Oh no, sir, that’s not possible, more people would be complaining if that were the case”) or in the cabinet itself (also apparently “impossible”)

Anyway, this time the engineer could hear the problem, and tested to find where the problem was. Surprise surprise, it was in the cabinet.  So while he was redoing connections for my new broadband, he had a look round the cab, and the terminators on my line (I dunno) in the cab were “worryingly loose, I could just pull them off, didn’t even need pliers“. When he came back to the house, oooh look, what a surprise, no crackle on the line.

So, I’m now working with a 150Mbps download connection, and a lovely crackle-free phone line. All told, bit of a win.

Typos

Note 1 : Owing to Muphry’s Law , there will likely be at least one typo in this post.

Note 2 : It may also induce eye-crossing rage/despair in some.

Anyway – this week I’ve had two emails containing images that include typos (or just piss off my pedantry) The first came from Cotton Traders.

For fuck’s sake

Seriously, how the hell does that make it through umpteen proof-readers, editors, and marketing twerds? #rage

The second was a promo for a novel, and I’ve trimmed it down to just the bit that grated on me.

This one is a bit more pedantic – but it grinds my gears anyway.  “A prickly woman” is fine. But crossing out the “Prickly” makes it “A Independent Woman” – which isn’t right.  Find another word for “prickly” (which they’ve chosen because the title of the book is “The Cactus”) that starts with a vowel, or a synonym for independent that starts with a consonant.  Then it works. And wouldn’t annoy pedants.

Anyway, now I’ve shared my irritation. You’re welcome.

Current Scams

At the moment, there are a couple of interesting (and fairly well-crafted) scams going around.  I’ve seen/received all of these in the last week or so.

Firstthe ‘we know what you’ve been up to‘ scam email.

It says something along the lines of “I know what you’ve been up to – when you were on that porn site (it’s noticeably non-specific on details) I loaded a screen-grabber to your machine, so we could record your ‘activities’“.  Some of them also have something like “We know your password for the site was [whatever]” – the password is usually an old one that they’ve taken from a record including your email address, and gambles on people using the same password across multiple sites. (In fairness, most people do exactly this)  And then it asks for a ransom “or your shame will be available for all to see” It’s pretty basic, but is apparently enough to scare a certain sub-set of people (AKA gullible idiots) who so far have forked out around $250,000 to the scammers.

Second – and there are two types of this currently bonging around – are the HMRC scams.

These basically draw on the whole paranoia about HMRC losing payments, or trying to take the business owner to court.

I’ve had umpteen emails about “Your payment hasn’t gone through” along with attached links or forms to fill in – always a pretty damn good clue that it’s a scam.  And again, they’re all ridiculously non-specific, don’t mention a company name/details, or what the payment is supposedly for – another warning sign

The second type, which is a bit nastier, is the phone message – I’ve had a couple now, with a message saying “We’re issuing a warrant in order to discuss this matter with you“, and sounding a lot more official.  Still no details though, or anything about what they’re wanting to discuss. (I know, in theory GDPR would also stop them from discussing, but that’s a side point for now)   However, they show the phone number – in my experience, calls from HMRC and the like come through a switchboard, and usually show as “Unknown Number” – and a quick search on that number provides more than enough evidence that it’s a scam.

 

Of course, there are plenty of other scam emails out there – it’s just that these are the ones I’ve noticed specifically this week, and particularly after having received a couple of the “HMRC” calls yesterday and today, so I thought I’d write a bit about them.

Lead Developer 2018

This week I was in London during the week, attending the 2018 Lead Developer conference.  I’ve been before, both in 2016 and 2017 (so I’ve only missed the first one, back in 2015) and this year was as good as the previous ones. It’s gone from size to size, and this year had 1,100 delegates – which also meant that it’s outgrown the QEII centre, so this time we were at the theatre in the Barbican centre instead.

I had decided this year that I couldn’t be arsed with frantic travelling, so instead went down to London on Tuesday afternoon, checked into a hotel in Islington (so I had plenty of opportunity to keep up with walking and so on as well) and stayed for two nights.  On the Tuesday I also darkened the doors of Mac and Wild, where I had a truly ridiculous (and rather excellent) off-menu burger. Following the first day of the conference I also walked to Mere (again – and I hadn’t remembered I’d done much the same thing last year until I re-read the post from then) and back.

On the Thursday, once the conference was done, I walked up to where I’d parked the car, and had dinner in Wahaca up there before driving home.  This had been planned, as it meant I left London just at the time that England started their kickyball match in the World Cup, which meant that the roads were comparatively much quieter than usual, and that the drive home was pretty easy.

Along the way, I’ve also been able to complete a full working week, allbeit crammed into three days rather than five. It’s been pretty tough, but at least it’s all done now.

After this weekend, things calm down a lot – and I honestly can’t wait.

Ignition

A long, long time ago, someone on Twitter repeatedly introduced me to the chemically geeky “Things I Won’t Work With” blog, which basically did what it said on the tin.  Chemical compounds and experiments that were… on the energetic side, shall we say?  The way it was written made me laugh, and I loved seeing the sporadic updates.

Then it disappeared, and I pretty much forgot about it.

Only it turns out to have been (still sporadically) updated, but on a different site – something I found out this week. I’d been on The Twitter to mention to that original someone about a newly reprinted copy of “Ignition!” (which , from memory, had been one of the inspirations for “Things I Won’t Work With”)  and then other Twitterers reminded me of the name of the blog.

Ignition! An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants” is fascinating.  Originally written in the early 70s, it hadn’t been reprinted in decades – (but there’s obviously been some demand for it, as the publishers weren’t going to go to the effort if there weren’t) but it was on my ‘want to read’ list if I ever found a copy.  When I saw earlier this year that it was being re-printed, and available as an eBook as well, I pre-ordered immediately, and it arrived this week.

The book itself has an irreverent style to it, which is fine – and even understandable, considering that the author was part of a very select group involved in all this stuff.  I’m not a full-on chemistry geek, so some of it is a bit mind-boggling, but it’s been a great read.  I’m really glad I managed to get it in the end.

Gone Phishing

One of the things about being a techie is that I own a fair number of web domains. Some I’ve got for things like ongoing projects, business names I like, and a bundle of other stupid shit.  A lot are in the “when I get a chance” state of being – the ideas remain, and haven’t been done by anyone else, but for now they’re kind of drifting.

However, one of the other things I do is have a couple of domains that are purely for use when buying stuff.  They’re set to forward everything to my home email account, so it means I can set up anything @ the domain and it’ll do what I want. While it sounds a little bit mental, there’s a very good reason for all this.

For the purposes of explanation, let’s say I own a stupid domain, like myemail.com

So – when I buy something from a new company, I register with them using [company_name]@myemail.com . Any mail there will come to me – it’s a legitimate email address, just not one I’ll ever send an email from. (I can if I need to, but that’s a different point)  Everyone’s happy.

The key, though, is that if [company] starts spamming me, I can block that specific address, rather than having to do any kind of weird and fragile message rules etc.  It’s easy – I just add [company_name]@myemail.com to the ‘bin everything’ list, and there we go, it’s gone.

What I’ve found recently though is another interesting one – I can easily tell when [company] has been hacked, or lost its mailing list somewhere.

This week, I’ve been getting some *very* clever phishing emails (the ones about ‘just log in, give us your details, and we’ll sort this out’) to one particular address. They’re good enough that if they had come direct to my home email, I might’ve clicked on one by mistake. (I haven’t, but I could have)  They’re *that* good.  But I can see that they’ve come to [company]@myemail.com , so a) I know they’re shit mails, and b) I know that [company]’s mailing list is being used.

I’ve let [company] know, although there’s not much they can do about it now. But at least maybe they can notify their customers that their details have been leaked/stolen.

All told though, it’s another interesting reason to have that particular domain, and to use it in this way to keep my own information as safe as possible.

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