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 ūüėČ )

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.

Windows has encountered an error…

So I just got to play with two things I never knew existed in my PC

The UEFI BIOS recovery system and the Windows 7 recovery system.

… was doing a Windows Update, PC turned off, when I turned it back on the power button got stuck and made the PC repeatedly power up and down which corrupted the BIOS.

So then after that Windows went mental and decided to bluescreen at boot (because, unknown to me various subtle BIOS settings had been set to useless factory defaults – I gained a serial port though!). Thinking my machine had got corrupt I had a play with the system restore stuff in Windows 7.

It’s really cool, you have various options to really break your machine, drives are identified by GUID labels rather than useful names people understand and there’s a tempting command prompt option if you really want to destroy your data. Or you can just click the ‘restore my computer’ button which repeatedly reassures you that your documents and other non system data will not be altered. It told me that three times, it was quite reassuring.

This didn’t fix my PC though. Going into the BIOS and setting my SATA controller up properly fixed my PC. Took all of five seconds.

So yeah… turn on all that automated backup crap that comes with Windows 7 (and I presume 8), it does actually work and seems better than totally¬†re installing¬†everything.

Oh and my wireless USB keyboard stopped working until I installed the drivers for no obvious reason. Logging in with the onscreen keyboard is a right laugh, I highly recommend it.

Broken shower pull switch

After using the shower last week I tried to turn the power off using the ceiling mounted pull cord switch but found the switch didn’t click like usual and seemed stuck. For a few days the switch had been quite stiff to pull, but still seemed to work OK. However, as you can see from the image above, something went very wrong with it. The last time I pulled the cord the power turned off, but the switch got stuck and was quite hot to the touch. I also noticed the crack on the casing and the slight brown mark too.

Today the electrician came to replace the switch and after he’d left I took some photos. Click on the links below to see them

Burnt out shower pull switch showing a crack in the plastic casing and a small brown mark.
Internal shot of the burnt out shower pull switch, showing extensive burning of the plastic.
Closeup of the terminals inside the burnt shower pull switch.

After taking the switch apart it became more clear why the switch had failed. The switch contacts hadn’t shorted together and most of the burnt plastic was localised around the screw terminal for the live wire coming from the fusebox. The electrician also told me that because the shower wires are quite thick it’s difficult to make them all fit into the terminal holes and tighten the retaining screw enough. So rather than the switch failing, which would have welded the contacts together, tripping the circuit breaker, the terminal must have been loose making the electricity arc inside the switch.

According to the British Gas energy meter I own, the shower draws around 10KW of energy when in use (it’s winter, we have the heat setting turned up quite high). While the switches are made from very thick thermosetting plastic and large pieces of copper I feel there is a design fault because this is the second switch I’ve known to fail in this way, and the electrician said it was fairly common for this to happen also.

Next time the electrician visits, I’ll have to ask him what the strange switch at the top of the stairs is for.

Macbook battery requires service

I think my Macbook is reaching that stage in life that every laptop eventually goes through; the battery isn’t holding charge like it used to, and the power meter tells me to “service battery”. I think that is Apple Speak for “take to Genius Bar, walk out with new battery and less money”.

I had a look in the System Profiler, and the battery shows 276 charge cycles, with 3679mAh remaining out of a total 3847. According to the Apple website the battery should retain 80% charge after 300 cycles, so I suspect there is some sort of counter inside OSX that looks for batteries that are reaching 300 cycles, and the “service battery” warning is enabled.

This isn’t really an issue, I tend to use the battery as a convenient UPS and since OSX will suspend the computer to disk if the battery dies while the computer is sleeping, I’m not concerned about the battery running out when the machine is closed and unplugged.

Stop Spam, Read Books, Waste Time.

I hate Captcha challenges, I wasted five minutes trying to sign up to a website[1] to try out a piece of software because the damn ReCaptcha system was spitting out gibberish. Human-powered OCR only works because we don’t need to see every letter when reading words; we treat the words as “lumps” of meaning rather than collections of letters, and the odd scrambled or badly scanned letter won’t throw us. This only works when recognising words in our vocabularies.

The following lumps of gibberish are not in my vocabulary…

Continue reading Stop Spam, Read Books, Waste Time.