Archive for category Soapbox

Say no to 0300?

I’ve just noticed from our main website logs that quite a few people are searching on google for “Say no to 0300” and “Say no to 0330”.

This is crazy. There’s good solid reasons for trying not to use 0871 numbers, and even 0845 numbers, which, whilst notionally “the same price as a local call” are generally more expensive than an actual local call as competition has driven call prices down since “the price of a local call” was defined in advertising law.  Moreover, 08xx calls, even 0800 calls, are generally NOT counted against your “bundled minutes”, so end up with you paying for the call on top of whatever your monthly bulk-buy brings you.

But 0300 and 0333 numbers were invented to SOLVE this problem. An 03xx number is charged by your landline or mobile billing company at the SAME RATE as an 01xx or 02xx “geographic” number, and it WILL be taken as minutes from your pre-paid bundle, or if you have an “unlimited weekend calls” type deal, 0300 numbers are covered.

In short, 03 numbers have NO disadvantage for the caller. Looking for an 01 or 02 number to use instead is just wasting your time. Which is why there’s no site equivalent to the very useful


More information on 03xx numbers can be found here  –

Putting a face on Faceless

Royal Mail have lost a parcel. Well, at least, I posted it on Thursday last, first class, tracked. It has not arrived. If I put the tracking ID in their website, it says “It was posted on Thursday at (correct post office name), and is passing through our delivery system.”

I ponder WHY it’s still passing through their system, and if they had considered syrup of figs. I note a “Contact Us” button next to the answer. I click it.

I’m encouraged to “Ask Sarah” and there’s a picture of Sarah, pretty looking girl so surely she’ll be helpful and friendly. It says a new window will pop up. By now, frankly, whilst I’m not expecting someone called Sarah per se, I am expecting a popup “chat” window as is becoming increasingly popular for support.

Oh sad. What I get is, a new tab opened with the answer to a brief Knowedgebase/FAQ search which has (fairly cleverly) deduced I’m trying to find a parcel, and it helpfully gives me the URL of the tracking page I just came from.

Any attempt to re-phrase my question or, as I now know it to be, my search terms, to get it to tell me how I can find out WHY the parcel is not there yet and WHEN it might arrive, get the same response.

Scamming Skype users

There’s a “Popular” scam going around in which you will get a phone call from someone purporting to be from Microsoft, or some other vague organization like “Computer support”, who will tell you that a problem has been detected with your computer.  It is of course utter bulwarks, they have no way to KNOW what’s going on on your computer – though I guess the ones who pretend to be from Microsoft might manage to persuade you your Windows computer has reported the problem back automatically.
They will attempt to persuade you to let them log in to your computer using one of the many “remote support” tools on the market, most of which are free to the “supportee”. Note – there’s nothing wrong with the tools per se – we use TeamViewer ourselves. But you should only let someone you TRUST use them to control your computer.  Letting one of the scammers in means they can damage your system, install a virus or trojan, access your private files, saved passwords, etc…

The latest variation of this scam is Skype calls from a user called something like “System Notice – Urgent System Repair”. If you answer the call you’ll hear a “robot” automated voice spinning the same sort of sorry story about a problem on your computer. It may even try to “prove” it knows about your actual computer by giving you an “identifying number” from your computer – though of course it gives you a number which when you look it up is the same on all computers! Don’t waste your time listening to it. Ignore the call, Block the caller, and tick the “report abuse” box, and get on with your life. You will be hearing from them again in a couple of days because once everyone blocks their account they just sign up for a new account with a similar name and try again. I don’t know why they think people who blocked their account the first time will fall for it the second time but as it costs them nothing to try…

The screenshot shows a Skype Profile for one of these accounts.

Protect yourself – think – don’t panic – if someone you’ve never heard of pops up and says your computer has problems, talk to someone you HAVE heard of about it if you can’t bring yourself to believe it’s a scam.


[Later that same day]
Calls from new Skype accounts from the same culprits are now up to two an hour. I have changed my Skype settings to accept calls from people already on my contact list only. Another service degraded by idiots.


123-reg – a warning.

We host domains for our clients. We don’t have a pretty webby control panel for them – we find most of our customers prefer to administer their domains by phoning or emailing the required changes to us and having us take care of the fiddly techy details.

But we have some customers who prefer to host their domains elsewhere. Which is fine by us. And we still help with advice on what to do when changes are needed.

Today we are switching a customer to a new ADSL network and as their incoming mail is delivered directly, that means a new MX record. We sent the client the info they would need to add to the domain, which is hosted at 123-reg.

During the process we suggested that they add records to allow our own name servers to be “secondary” (or “slave”) servers for the domain. That means any changes to the domain would be advised to our servers at once!

Adding secondary servers should just be a case of adding two new “IN NS” records to the domain’s existing NS records. The existing ones point at the 123-reg servers, of course.

However, adding two new NS records permitting the Wizards dns servers to request updates from the master, broke it – because on adding these records, 123-reg’s system assumed that they were meant to be taken INSTEAD of the original ones (though our client did not delete the original ones).  So within minutes she’s getting phone calls saying “we can’t send you emails, they bounce back”.

On re-visiting the 123-reg control panel, she finds that the wizards DNS servers are now the ONLY NS entries.

On returning the NS records to what they were before, we further discover that to back up their invalid assmption that we wished to CHANGE name servers, not add more, they’ve deleted all the A and MX entries for the domain.

On painstakingly re-creating all these (fortunately we had notes on what they should be! A good idea, folks if you maintain your own domain configs) 123-reg made a further assumption – that we would want the client’s emails sent to the 123-reg email servers. So it had added two MX records for that to the ones we had set up. Good job we went back and checked it *again*. So finally these extra MX records were removed, and finally the domain is… back where it started!! Only now the client will not receive any email from her regular co-respondents until their local DNS caches have expired, which will be around 8 hours, or, a whole working day lost!

Thanks, 123-reg.


Gentle reader, if you host your domain with 123-reg, please take note that any time you make a change, it appears that 123-reg computers may look at your change then make some wild assumptions about what you really meant, and make further changes which you are unaware of. After you’ve made the chances you want, please, log BACK in a few minutes later and review the now current settings just to make sure they are what you wanted them to be!!



Fibre at last

I’m pleased to say that today we saw the FTTC (bt fibre internet) go live for a customer who actually needs it! Out miles from the exchange, they could barely get ADSL at all, and only at very low speeds with poor reliability. Today they have fibre. Advertised at up to 40 mb/sec, they’re only getting about 7 mb/sec, coz they’re also a long way from the street cabinet, but that’s still a lot faster, and hopefully more reliable, than they had before.

The really good news is that they could get it at all – as despite the fact that this technology is intended to help bring broadband to people in remote locations who can get no ADSL at all or only poorly, BT have chosen to recoup their development costs by installing it first and foremost in busy urban locations as “faster”. They advertise it on telly (under the name “Infinity”) and tell you how much more wonderful it will be for your online TV viewing and those poor folk who live on the top of a hill in nether-shire, still can’t even get email.

Well, I’m at least pleased to say that though rural locations don’t appear to be on the radar yet, BT do appear to be accelerating the installations of new FTTC/FTTP enabled exchanges, and more and more folk are able to take advantage of it every day. If you want to know if that includes you, give us a call!! 01494 837515.

Sync that Android

Having an HTC Android phone has lots of good points. But one of the things which constantly has me tearing at what remains of my hair is trying to sync the data with my PC.

I even switched from my old mail system to using MS Outlook to avoid any possible issues of compatibility with “less popular” software.

The problem, as I’m sure more than a few of you know, is that you plug the phone in, you select “Sync” on the phone, and then, after a delay, it says “can’t find HTC Sync on your PC. Would you like to install it?” And, of course you know HTC Sync is not only installed but is running.

Thing is, it *isn’t* running, not any more. It might’ve been last time you synced half an hour ago or last week, but not any more.

Well I think I’ve found a trick to make it work, without having to totally reboot the machine. Especially these days, with XP or Windows 7, unlike the bad old days, you don’t HAVE to reboot windows every day, and, in fact, I get cross if something makes me reboot it more often than once every couple of months.

Here’s the trick. Please let me know if it works for you, or if you find a quicker way.

  • Unplug the phone from the PC
  • Close the HTC Sync app
  • Using Task Manager, kill the process called CapabilityManager.exe
  • Similarly kill the process called ClientInitiatedStarter.exe
  • Finally, kill the process called FsynSrvStarter.exe
  • Now close task manager.
  • Re-start HTC Sync from the Start menu (or your desktop icon) in the normal way.
  • Connect the phone, and tell it to sync.
  • Cheer. For it will work. I hope…

I shall experiment further and find out if the trick can be accomplished by killing just one of these modules, coz I assume it’s a bug in one of them that causes the problem.

It’s a pity HTC wont’ admit to the existance of the problem and fix it. (Well, I say they won’t, I can’t find any reference to it on their website, FAQ list, etc.)


A message from the Harriers

A flypast of #10 by a flight of  Harriers to commemorate the passing of the marque.

OK, I don’t believe a word of it but hey, stranger stuff happens at sea. Esp when you don’t have fighter cover…

Political honesty (lack of)

I have a brand new bee in my bonnet.

Two classes of people seem determined to fail to understand how coalition government works. I can’t tell if it’s stupidity or they’re deliberately doing it because they think it’s a reasonable form of “opposition”.

1) The Lib Dem voter

These people keep cropping up as commentators on radio and TV or vox-pops, saying “we didn’t vote for XXX so the LibDems shouldn’t be doing it”. The latest offender is Yasmin Alibhai-Brown on Radio2 today. She’s having a go at Vince Cable as it is announced that he may abstain on the vote on his OWN proposal.

But even a ten year old should be able to realise that as SecState he has to put forward the policies of the government. The coalition agreement then permits him to not have to vote for it! If he were a tory minister this would be hypocracy. As he’s a Lib Dem, it’s a realistic result of the situation, and the LD voters should be glad that he is able to abstain in the vote, and isn’t forced by whip and party policy to support it.

In summary, Dear LibDem voter in the street, take note, that election we just had? YOU DIDN’T WIN! If we had a majority LD government every compaint I’m hearing would be valid. Go out and get your mates and family to vote LD next time and just maybe…

2) The opposition.

Hey, see above, the nature of the coalition government is clear enough, it isn’t even secret, it’s available here for all to see. As such, you’re not fooling anyone when you cast about suggesting that LD members are behaving oddly with respect to their manifesto and stated policies and preferences.  Stop wallowing around in your “it’s so unfair” gloom, get over the fact that you (entirely deservedly) lost the last election, and start being a proper opposition who point out real flaws and put forward realistic alternatives. Or resign yourselves to not getting back into government for some time – the main reason you were in as long as you were is because the other lot never got the hang of being a half way credible opposition. Learn from them, or flounder.

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