Hasta La Muerte, Motherfucker

Archive for the category “Technology”

Small Wins – Backup

Way, way back in the day – Nov 2006, to be precise – I bought a backup drive for all my music, photos and work. It wasn’t anything hugely special – a now laughable 320Gb drive – but it did what I wanted, and made sure I’d got everything preserved.  (Amusingly, I just took a look, and the roughly-similar drives now done by WD start at 3Tb!)

And then I moved a few times, and the drive got separated from its power brick, and I sort of gave up on it a bit.  Over the last few years I’ve mainly been using online backups instead (which mean that as soon as I save a file, it’s backed up, and synchronises to my other machines) and the drive became even less of an issue.

I always knew where the drive itself was, even though I was fairly sure I’d lost (or thrown away) the power lead/brick.  The drive has been on one of my bookcases, doing nothing except attracting dust.

Last weekend, though, I found a random power cable that looked like it might fit the drive.  So I took them both into my office this week, and gave it a go.

At the end of the day, I’d pretty much given up on it – it’s been sat there doing sod-all for a number of years, and has been carelessly moved, shoved in boxes and so on. So I expected nothing.

And yet, when I plugged the cables in and connected it to the laptop, it all worked. Straight away, with no issues, clanks, grinds, or other Warning Noises Of Doom.  Needless to say, I’m actually pretty impressed.

Of course, I’ll also now be working to ensure that a lot of it is backed up somewhere else as well, as that drive is distinctly venerable, but all the same, it’s a bit of a win for it all to have come back in the way it has.


The Joy of Tech

Yesterday, while doing a quick shop on the way to work, I suddenly realised I’d left my wallet at home. Bugger.

I was just about prepared to take everything back to its shelves/locations, when it occurred to me that actually I was still OK – I had my phone with me still. That meant I’d got the ability to make a contactless payment – and because I’d also added the details of my Monzo card/account to the phone, it meant I had everything I needed.

It’s pretty amazing, the way these things have now become so much more mainstream than they were ten years ago, or even five.  Since I got the Monzo card eighteen months ago (it’s the only one I have that also connects into my ApplePay account on the phone) I’ve stopped carrying cash except for specific occasions – for example, the car wash I use still only takes cash.

I still prefer to carry physical cards (hence usually having a wallet) but it was still interesting to realise that forgetting it is no longer the “Oh shit!” moment it used to be. (So long as I remember my phone, and that I can use it, anyway)

Ain’t progress grand?


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.

Reducing Caller Spam

When I moved to the current place, I got a new phone number – not surprising, as I was in a new area, and a new (to me) house.  As always, I registered that number with TPS and so on, and made sure it was ex-directory.  I usually only use landline phones for broadband purposes – although it turns out I also use it here for some calls, as the mobile coverage inside the house is shockingly bad.  So I have a phone landline, and a phone connected to it.

Unbeknownst to me, the number I got had obviously been owned by someone else before me, and that person was the type of fucking moron who’d sign up for all kinds of promotions, and ran up all kinds of debts.  So right from Day One I was getting a couple of calls a week looking for the previous occupant. (Well, the previous owner of that phone number – it wasn’t a name connected to the house at all)  And because they were for a previous person, it turns out that TPS doesn’t really apply.  (Which is an interesting, and fucking annoying, loophole)

Even so, I re-registered with TPS, and put a spam-calls block on the line. (Which was absolutely useless, and so came off again) It was only a couple of calls a week, and usually while I was out at work. *shrug*

Over the last two years though, it got worse.  The phone’s call log would get filled up in the course of a week, all with “Number Withheld” and “International” numbers, along with the ones who didn’t conceal their numbers, who left messages and blocked up everything else.  I used a couple of other number-blocking services, none of which did much good.  Hell, if I were cynical I’d say they were the ones who sold the number on and spread it ever further. Not that I’ll ever know for sure, one way or the other.

Late last year, the situation was ridiculous. We’d gone from a couple of calls a week right up to filling the phone’s call log every day.  Nothing was working to prevent the calls, and it was just getting stupid.

So I bit the bullet, and changed my phone number. I explained to BT why I was doing it – in the hope that they now blacklist that number completely (although I doubt it, they’ll just have farmed it off on some other unsuspecting sap) – and got a new number allocated to me. Same set-up, it’s ex-d, and registered with TPS.

The big difference though, is that in the three months since I got it changed, I haven’t received a single solitary spam call. My phone call log stays blank (as I said, I don’t use it that often) and it’s lovely.

Sometimes these extreme measures are the ones we need to take. I wish I’d done this one two years ago…

Technical Dipshittery

Yesterday, I got a text message from O2, telling me that they were going to be closing their TuGo app (an app that allows phone calls to be made/received through my wifi connection, when the mobile phone signal is bobbins) at the end of November.  It gave some options for enabling better alternatives, including their ‘4G & WiFi Calling’ through a range of phones, so it will no longer need a separate app.

That’s all well and good – and TuGo has always been a bag of shite anyway.  So I started to go through the process, as ‘detailed’ by O2 of how to get it all set up on my phone.

Except that once I’d enabled it on my phone (or tried to) it told me I needed to do it via the O2 website, to activate it on my account. Bit of a pain in the arse, but OK, let’s get it done.


The page detailed in the message doesn’t actually contain the information necessary. I can see a link explaining how great the 4G and Wifi Calling is, but nothing to activate it.

So, I start up a LiveChat with one of their Tech Gurus, who tell me that it’s still showing I’ve got Tu connected to my account, and that needs to be removed before I can do anything. No worries though, they’ll sort it out.  Give it about half an hour, reboot the phone, it’ll be done.

Except it wasn’t.

So I got back in touch with O2, this time by phone instead of LiveChat. Oh dear, oh dear.

I (eventually) got through to another of their Tech Gurus, who again says that Tu is still connected to my account, and that I have to uninstall the TuGo app on my phone in order to get rid of the connection. No idea why the previous tech person said they could do it, that’s not possible, it can only be done from your phone, sir.

So I uninstall the app, in the usual way.  Oh no, sir, you haven’t uninstalled it. You’ll need to go back to the app store, reinstall the app so you can uninstall it. (Eh? What?)  Yes, you’ll need to reinstall the app – you didn’t uninstall it, “you just deleted the little picture on your phone”.  That’s a direct quote. From a Tech “Guru”. Who doesn’t appear to even know the word “icon”.

So. Let’s see how this goes.  Phone call goes to speakerphone, so I can go through the process while the “Guru” is still on the call, and telling me what I need to do.  I reinstall the app – and in order to get in to it, I have to rebuild the connection and association with my number – because uninstalling the app has got rid of all that information . Which is exactly as it should be.

I rebuild the connection, then go into the app’s Settings and Delete the Account.  The Guru says “Oh there we go, I can see you’ve now uninstalled the app”. No, I haven’t, I’ve deleted the account. The app is still installed, I can see it.  “No, it’s uninstalled”

All the way through the call, that “Guru” couldn’t tell the difference between “Delete the Account/Connection” and “Uninstall the App”.

It’s resulted in two further interactions with layers of O2 management, telling them the problems, fixing the issues, and generally getting it more sorted.

And all the way through this, all it would have taken was for that “My Device” webpage saying “You’ve still got an active connection to TuGo – you need to remove that before we can progress. Here’s how.”  That would’ve fixed everything, and I wouldn’t have needed to speak to O2 at all, let alone a total of four times.

Sometimes I just despair of people, and companies.

Recharging and Vindication

A couple of weeks back now, I took my car to the local Kia dealership (as it’s a Kia) for its MoT.  It had been serviced there a couple of weeks prior, and at that point the dealership hadn’t impressed me for a couple of reasons I won’t go into for now.

It passed the MoT just fine – needed two bulbs replacing, and that was it.  But that evening, once I was home, the car wouldn’t start – the battery was completely flat.  The only thing different to its usual treatment was the MoT, and the recovery guy who came out to sort things agreed it was likely they’d done something to flatten the bloody thing.

I spoke to the dealership the next day, and they denied all possibility that the problem was down to them. Couldn’t happen, sir. You left here fine (forgetting that it was running when I got in, I hadn’t had to start it) so it can’t be us. Just one of those things.  If you really want to check, we’ve got a super-expensive tool for testing batteries properly, you can come in and we’ll do the check.

Which I did.  Went in, and this super-tool said “Battery 100% OK”. Fair enough, it might be one of those things, I suppose.  They were quite patronising about it all, and again insisted it couldn’t be anything to do with them.  The only other way to find anything (“sir”) would be to drop it in for a couple of days, let it wait around and we’ll see if it drains, or what might be wrong.

However, the problems went on. It’s never completely flattened on me again, but I’ve been more aware of the delays on starting, and I’ve given it some bigger runs just to ensure the battery is as topped as possible.

So last week, knowing I’d got a hire car for a day-trip to Leeds (of which more in another post) I also booked it in to the dealership again for today, so they could have it a couple of days and find out what the problem is.  It led to a bundle of fucking about, but it all came together in the end.

Lo and behold, this evening I got a call.  Apparently, the battery *is* fucked, despite what their super-tool said a week ago. So they’re replacing it, and will then see tomorrow how everything goes, and hopefully I’ll collect it on Wednesday.

It’s fair to say, we’re going to have words when I do collect it.  This has been a shitload of hassle, and it’s taken me a bundle of time away from work in order to keep on getting things sorted. My sense of humour has, as they say, somewhat failed about the whole thing.  It’ll be interesting to see what happens – but I do feel somewhat vindicated about the whole thing.

What the dealership doesn’t seem to realise is that the servicing department is as much of a sales tool as the showroom is. I’ve got a Kia, and so far I’ve been quite pleased with it. I would have considered getting another one – and it would likely have been from that dealership.  But if they can’t sort me out with a cheaper car and be competent, why the *fuck* would I stick with the same company once the current issues are sorted, let alone buy a new (to me) Kia?

Moving Emails

Over the weekend, I ended up moving a lot of my email processing over to Amazon’s “Workmail” product. So far, it’s gone pretty well, but we’ll see what happens over time.

The email server/service I was using (via a company I do a lot of my hosting with) was generally OK, but had some significant issues which they didn’t appear to be able (or willing) to fix. The main one was that emails with attached files – particularly PDF and Word documents – would occasionally disappear. They wouldn’t bounce back to the sender, and they wouldn’t tell me (the recipient) that something had gone wrong, they’d just disappear with no notice to anyone.

Generally it’s been survivable, but last week there were things for HMRC and others that didn’t make it – things that were, safe to say, bloody important.

So I’ve moved the primary accounts over to Workmail, and it’s been quite smooth.  The setup didn’t take long, and while there were a couple of teething errors when it came to migrating the emails from Old to New, it all worked pretty nicely.  Once I knew what the hell I was doing (and/or looking for) it became even easier/better.

After that, the main ball-ache has been putting the new accounts onto all my devices, and getting everything to syncronise properly again. It’d be nice if you could just push the new account to your devices, but that’s a level of tech that’s above and beyond what we’ve currently got, sadly.

Still, it’s all worked, I’m fully moved over with all my key accounts, and it hasn’t made me want to throw computers through windows. Even that is pretty noteworthy, I think.

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