Social cockup of the centuary

I think I have managed to undo a rather large mess…

Backing up my Twitter to my personal blog worked well. I forgot I had a “repost blog to facebook” plugin running. Sorry Internet.

I highly recommend this Google Chrome plugin!

Facebook Post Manager

Mass delete posts in Facebook timeline. Bulk hide / unhide timeline items. Bulk unlike items. FREE! Unlimited!

Zen and the art of the Internet


It was back in 2002 when I first got ADSL. Back then it was all the rage to have an Alcatel USB ADSL modem that ran under Windows. And it ran at 512k/sec and we were happy with that, coming from a time when dialup Internet was normal. Although I also used to use GSM 9600BPS dialup at one point too…

Then I got an upgrade to a 2Mbit line when stuff just naturally improved with the technology. There was then the improvement of ADSL2+ which gave me about 8Meg. Then I moved house and got 10Meg, apart from the incident where my phoneline fell off the house.

And now, thanks to Fibre To The Cabinet, VDSL and a suspiciously cheap looking OpenReach branded router downstairs I get the rather silly figures you see above. Oh hello future me, what are we on now? Gigabit? Through our mobile phones?

I know there’s faster, but that involves either having cable Internet and no static IP, or living in a place where you can have fibre to your house. I don’t, the fibre stops at the green cabinet at the end of the street. I can see it from my front door and don’t think my line is the limiting factor in my speed any more.

It’s unlimited too, just like I used to have with Be Internet.

A menagerie of Microsoft Mice

Way back in the mists of time (2002 to be precise) Microsoft were doing an interesting deal on their new optical mice, trying their best to make us not buy ball mice any more. To qualify for this you needed to


post them a mouse ball and in return you got £10 cashback on a Microsoft Intellimouse USB.

11 years later I’m finally replacing that mouse with a Microsoft Comfort 4500 mouse. Let’s see if I get 11 years of usage out of this one. It’s a good chunky size, so fits nicely in my hand.

I’ll stick the Intellimouse in a box as my emergency backup mouse. It can live next to a selection of Apple USB mice that I also own.

Spam phonecalls

I get two types of spam phonecalls. The first kind I call the “callcentre bastards that won’t leave me alone”, the second kind I call the “silent ones that just hang up”.

Dealing with both kinds is easy – when the phone rings, pick it up and listen. Can you hear anything or does the line sound dead? If you can hear something, does it sound like a callcentre? If you can’t hear anything, send a good irate sounding “HELLO?” down the phone, most of the time this’ll get you cut off and you can go about your day.

If you hear a callcentre, continue to sit silently listening. It can be quite interesting hearing other people’s calls. At some point the caller might give an inquisitive “hello?” down the phone at you. Your mission now is to figure out whether they’re someone important like the bank, or just a telesales callcentre. Telling your bank to go away and procreate with themselves isn’t always wise after all. Listen for telltale signals like them asking for generic terms – “Can I speak to the householder?” “Is the major bill payer available?” etc.

If they ask for you by name, continue keeping your guard up… it might be your bank, but it could be their “let’s sell you a loan” department.

If it’s a genuine spam caller, and they’re now rattling off their spiel at you… simply hang up, they’ve wasted enough of your time already. Don’t bother trying to politely get them to go away, they don’t care. Don’t even bother trying to waste their time, it’s like peeing on an oil fire to put it out – the difference you make is not measurable. Just cut them off and continue about your day.

You can then wonder and marvel at modern communications. Every form you fill in that demands your phone number probably has a “tick this box to opt out of marketing and time wasting calls, we promise to only use your number for legitimate reasons… things like the parcel courier getting lost”. And yet we still get these calls. Does adding your number to the TPS actually do anything, or is it really a trick to harvest our phone numbers?

Oh and never, ever put your mobile number in there. However “You’ve rung me at a really bad time, I’m actually on the toilet” is possibly the best way to get rid of someone on the phone.

I have greylisting on my email server – if you email me, initially your email gets rejected and your mailserver gets told to try again in five minutes. If it does this, you get accepted and the mail goes through. If only I could make my phone emit a busy tone the first time an unknown caller rings, and then if they ring back later it lets them through…

A shocking surprise after my UPS failed

So in my cellar I have a Linux server… and a NAS running FreeNAS… and a managed gigabit swich… and a router running pfSense… and maybe some PoE gear feeding power to an ADSL modem and a wifi access point elsewhere in the house. Yeah, I like complicated, complicated is cool.

Losing data because the power goes out isn’t cool. But having a UPS and the NUT UPS tools on my network is really cool – power goes out, the UPS starts screaming at me and all the hardware gets told and shuts down in a tidy manner. Very nice.

What isn’t nice is when the UPS appears to be faulty – randomly deciding the mains has gone off, even when it hasn’t, which is what it did at 1:55am this morning

Aug 4 01:51:57 cex upsmon[1996]: UPS ups@chi on battery
Aug 4 01:55:22 cex upsmon[1996]: UPS ups@chi battery is low
Aug 4 01:55:27 cex upsmon[1996]: UPS ups@chi: forced shutdown in progress

Nice to know the system works, but would have been nicer if it only shut down when the actual mains had actually gone off, for real (like it did the other day at about 3pm). Seems I also need a better UPS, 4 minutes of power is a bit … short.

So anyway, I woke up this morning and realised I had No Internet and after entering my underground data centre I was greeted with that eerie silence computers-that-are-supposed-to-be-on-but-aren’t make. Muttering at my crappy UPS I stuck my arm across the first machine to turn it on and received a bit of a zap.

It was like this, only not as bad.

Nothing too bad, kind of like licking a 9v battery, but on my bare arm (which is neither a tongue nor damp). And this is where things got weird. I got my multimeter, stuck it on AC voltage and put one of the probes onto the metal casing, the other probe wasn’t touching anything. The meter read 8VAC… Bit weird, so I took hold of the free probe and tapped it with my finger… the meter then read 115VAC.

Yes America, the voltage between my PC case and my finger read the same as your wall voltage. And here I was, stood barefoot on a slightly damp stone floor going “hmm this is indeed strange, seems there’s 115V going down my finger”. OK so the actual current must have been tiny since I wasn’t lying on the stone floor gently convulsing, but still, clearly we had a bit of a ground fault.

And yes, the sockets in this house are protected by an RCD. It didn’t trip, so I guess the current must have been really small and it was only the relatively high voltage that made me notice it. I have an 88 amp-hour 12V DC battery and can hold its terminals all day without feeling anything. Volts thrill, amps kill, but you need both together to grill.

After some probing with the continuity tester I realised there was no continuity between the wall socket’s earth pin and that PC I had been touching. Nor was there any continuity between the casing of the PC under it and this PC. A bit more probing with a multimeter showed me there was no continuity between the earth pins on each end of that PC’s power cable.

So yeah, I’d been drawing about 60W of 240V quite happily without an earth connection, gradually letting the casing charge up. No wonder the UPS had been going strange – the ground pin of the USB connector was probably sending this unwanted current into the UPS’s monitor and control electronics.

I’ve removed the offending power cable and cut it in half. The bit with the IEC plug has proper continuity, the bit with the plug on doesn’t. Later I’ll cut the plug open and see if there’s anything interesting in it.

This would also explain a few strange things I’ve noticed in the past. The UPS would only seem to go crazy if its USB management cable was attached. My old server would freak out whenever I plugged the UPS in – telling me there was ESD on the USB port. At one time I had a USB SATA enclosure that uses an IEC mains cable for its PSU. This SATA enclosure always seemed a bit odd, in that its metal casing always felt “strange” (if you’re one of those people who can touch an aluminium Macbook and feel a weird ‘bumpiness’, you’ll understand). I guess the common thing between them all was this mains cable.

Why did I keep using a clearly faulty mains cable? Well it was a convenient short length – it was only 75cm long, ideal for keeping wiring tidy. And it was a cable with moulded plugs that contain all the required UK safety logos and numbers.

Damit IT, stop being pretend-ironic


So I had to get a new ISP after my last one was bought by satan telecoms Sky (thanks O2 for going off to pursue 4G mobile data instead of maintaining one of the best British ISPs out there). I chose one that seemed the best, given the current situation. OK so they cost more and I have a pitiful 100Gig bandwidth limit… but at least I get a static IP and am generally left alone to do what I like online.

Unless it’s 6pm on a Friday or – as seems to currently be the case – 9pm on a Tuesday. In which case it’s like the bad old days of modems and bad phonelines. For those of you that don’t understand… when I was with Be Internet I was on an exchange with LLU. This meant my Internet traffic flowed down other cabling separate from the regular ADSL service most ISPs in this country use.

Imagine your own private motorway with no speed limits and barely any other traffic. It was like that. All the time. You could drive at 12Mb/Sec for 24H and gobble as much data as you liked and nobody cared. Clock up 200 gig in a month? Well done. It was, to put it simply amazingly good.

At this point I decided maybe living in a shed again in the Lake District would be a good move.
At this point I decided maybe living in a shed again in the Lake District would be a good move.

Now imagine the middle of town in rush hour, and you’ve got one of those cars that is only insured during daylight hours. That’s what my new Internet experience is like now that I’m back on regular smelly BT managed ADSL2+. I actually think I could use IP-over-avian-carrier and it’d be faster than my connection sometimes.

I was going to have a moan about this on Google+, but while typing it out my Internet died. Then Chrome died and wouldn’t come back again. Chrome had died, and so had the Chrome crash handler.

I am now obsessively hoarding data again. Every zipfile or update that comes down the connection gets stashed on my server for future usage. At some point I will buy some large hard drives and a NAS and begin the tedium of archiving my Steam collection so that I can reinstall that without having to download about 400 gig (most of which will be Team Fortress 2 updates and spare DoTa 2 invites 😉 )

No, I won’t be buying a modern console, I don’t want to download 10 gig games if I’m limited to 100 gig per month. I like retro stuff and all, but having to meter out my Internet is a bit too retro for my liking.