British Paper-shuffling gone mad

To rent a van I need to provide the following

  • Driving licence (this makes sense)
  • Proof of my address (fair enough)
  • A credit card to take the deposit (if you insist)

The proof of address must be two documents, a mixture of a bank statement and a utility bill with my address on.

To rent a new house I need to provide the following

  • Photo ID (I suppose this makes sense)
  • Proof of address that cannot be a credit card statement

(This is in addition to the lengthy credit and background check they did a month ago)

Yes… to move into a new house I need to prove where I live. Or I need to prove where I just moved out of, which also makes no sense – “Hey look! I don’t live here any more and I have paperwork to prove it”. I might just wave the tenancy agreement at them and point out “you posted this to me, I have it. I think you’re probably talking to the right person”.

Madness. Especially when I went to print a gas bill and it had my old, old address from three years ago on it which caused five minutes of hold music and a confused man on the phone.

To get a resident’s parking permit so that my car doesn’t get a ticket I need to provide the following

  • Car details
  • Proof of address

Again, this makes sense… except what do I do with my car when I’ve just moved in and haven’t had time to fill in forms, post them off, wait for them to be processed and then wait for the sticker to be posted back to me. Or the rental van…

At least the woman sorting out my home insurance was more helpful and made sense.

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.

It’s not the end of the world, and we know it

If you’re going to make a countdown timer, at least make it stop at the end…

Unless you’ve been living in a storm drain, DIY ark or trying to get on top of some mountain, you’ve probably noticed the Internet getting a bit excited about the 12/12/2012 and how supposedly the world’s going to end.

I have to admit, it was a bit wet last night with the BBC News stating the obvious and helping make people remember to avoid living on flood plains, but that’s just the UK for you. 11:11am (why that nice neat time?) rolled around and it failed to rain fire from the sky, the ground didn’t open up and a mystery planet didn’t come and knock us out of the sky.

It was all quite boring really. So, to liven things up in this new era (according to a calendar most people didn’t know existed until some nutjobs noticed the date) go out, venture into the corners of the web where oddballs like to set up badly made websites. Roam around Facebook and find crazies, look on Youtube for videos. Find some great examples of the doomsayers going “errm… well… we didn’t actually mean the world was going to end, more that … err”.

I’ll start you off with with these crazy buggers and their facebook page.

Here’s some nice music to listen to as you go about your day.


This message is for the intended recipient only

… so if you got it, that’s actually our fault but we can’t do anything about it.

I just paid my credit card, I got this rather nice email. Email has been suitably mangled to vainly hide the place issuing my credit card (although it’s really not hard to work it out if you’re moderately intelligent)

Spot the logical inconsistency, win a prize* I really like the bit where they refer to me as an ‘it’ at the end.

* Prize not real, prize not valid in countries where breathing oxygen is permitted. Limit of zero per entrant.

Dear You (although at the end of this message we refer to you as an ‘it’),
Thank you for your payment made through Leading Brand Supermarket Credit Card.
Payment was submitted on xx/yy/zzzz aa:bb and will take 4 working days to reach your account.
Payment amount £ooo.oo.
Best wishes
Some Bloke
Marketing Director, Place that owns most of your life
Many internet users have recently been targeted through bogus e-mails by fraudsters claiming to be from their bank. These e-mails ask customers to provide their internet banking security details in order to reactivate their account or verify an e-mail address.
Please be on your guard against e-mails that request any of your security details. If you receive an e-mail like this you should not respond.
Please remember that, for security reasons, apart from when you create them at registration or when you change your Internet Pin or Password, we will only ever ask you to enter random characters from your Internet PIN and Password when you logon to this service.
We would never ask you, by e-mail, to enter (or record) these details in full and we would therefore request that you do not respond to e-mails asking for this information.
[Calls may be recorded]
Please do not reply to this e-mail as the mailbox doesn’t accept incoming messages. If you have any comments or queries, we can be contacted via our website at
Supermarket Personal Finance plc. Registered in Scotland No. 12345. Registered office: Address of a mailbox where there aren’t actually any people present.
Authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority.
This e-mail message is confidential and for use by the addressee only. If you are not the addressee, please return the message to the sender by replying to it and then delete the message from your computer.
Internet e-mails are not necessarily secure. Whoever Personal Finance plc does not accept responsibility for changes made to this message after it was sent.
Whilst all reasonable care has been taken to avoid the transmission of viruses, it is the responsibility of the recipient to ensure the onward transmission, opening or use of this message and any attachments will not adversely affect its systems or data. No responsibility is accepted by Whatever Personal Finance plc in this regard and the recipient should carry out such virus and other checks as it considers appropriate.

Reverse credit card phishing?

Just got this bizarre email…

Hi Sales,

Am ordering from Japan . I want to place an order from you. I know the difficulties encountered when shipping internationally, But that will not
be a problem because i am registered with a shipping company whom i have used severally without any delay nor problems with my goods. Before i place
this order, i want you to notify me if i am able to place the order and most important: If i can make payment with my credit cards Visa/Mc (Issued
in the United States) because that is the only way we are set for payment now without no delay. I don’t place online orders ,can i e-mail my ORDER
needed then you can give me a quote here and make charges to my cards manually on your end ? Pls Clarify. Looking forward to your swift response
then we can proceed further as soon as possible.


Sure weirdo, you can send me your VISA details and I’ll happily charge your card manually.

Make Google Translate go a bit mad

Google Translate is quite good, especially since it has a speech function that’ll read out most translations for you.

You can make it go a bit odd too. What I did was translate a simple English word or phrase into Chinese (Simplified), then copied the Chinese characters and pasted them into the input box. Now, leave the ‘From’ language as English and choose another language to translate to – like German or Afrikaans, it doesn’t matter so long as the ‘Listen’ option appears.

So you’re translating English to some other language, but instead of writing English in the input box, you paste some Chinese.

Wait for it to translate (it won’t) and then hit ‘Listen’ and listen to the gibberish that comes out. It reminds me of the speech from the old Amiga and Atari game Captain Blood.

CFL bulbs behaving oddly

Like most people, my house is full of energy saving compact flourescent light bulbs. Like most people I bought the cheapest I could find – 50p each cheap from Tesco. Those long 21w CFL bulbs that are about six inches long.

I’ve just been sat in the dark staring at the one in my bedroom ceiling light fitting. Why? Well it was flashing at me. Only the switch is off and the bulb has been off for at least an hour.

It randomly, but every five seconds or so gives off a brief flash that either lights the whole bulb or just the end – with the power off.

So, apart from potential demons in the loft chewing on the wiring I am left with an explanation equally strange. Earlier this evening there was a huge rain storm and some lightning. It is still raining but the lightning has stopped. All I can think is that the hous wirin is acting like an antenna and picking up enough stray energy to briefly energise the bulb. CFL bulbs are odd like that, you can light them using static electricity, microwave ovens or those cool plasma domes.

It’s cool, but also a bit freaky when your bedroom light starts flashing, it’s a bit X-Files.

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.

Weird things in my house

Moving into new houses is fun, they usually have all sorts of odd quirks and this one is no exception. It features crazy heating controller which has no manual and an alarm box that lacks any explanation of what the lights on it mean. Next to the electric box a bright yellow sticker warns people that both versions of BS7671 are in use and to be very careful when wiring things up.

Those are normal things and to be expected, but we have this odd thing screwed to the wall at the top of the stairs…

What is it?