Saturday, July 31, 2004


Grrr, my e-mail is down.

Whenever I try to collect it I get an informative dialog box saying my password is incorrect. Surely not? Employing skills I learned as a Sendmail consultant, I telnet into the pop server:

jeremyp@titania:gsg$ telnet 110
Connected to
Escape character is '^]'.
+OK InterMail POP3 server ready.
user myusername
+OK please send PASS command
pass w0uldn'tyoul1k32kn0w
-ERR mail storage services unavailable, wait a few minutes and try again.
Connection closed by foreign host.

It's been like this all afternoon.

I check out NTL's web site for signs of problems and find out there was some spam activity in May.

I go to the NTHellWorld site and find out NTL have shut it down. For those who don't know NTHellWorld was a site for people who had been shafted in some way or another by NTL's customer service department. It consisted mainly of a forum where people bitched about NTL's service which was, I'm lead to believe, apalling. Eventually, NTL bought the site and now, after a decent interval, they have closed it.

I was about to file a support request on the handy e-mail form that you can get to after wading through NTL's site for half an hour (they don't like to make it too easy to contact them), when I realised I'd never get any response until the problem was fixed. Looks like it is time for the telephone. After another period of intense research, I found the support number and dialled it.

The prerecorded message goes something like (I paraphrase just a little):

Thank you for calling NTL. All our lines are busy at the moment. If you called us about your e-mail problem, we already know about it and our teaboy is scratching his arse trying to think of something to do about it. If you wish to remain on the line, we'll take ages to answer because our switchboard is flooded with people wanting to know why their e-mail doesn't work.

I sit back with a beer and wait....


My e-mail is back, I just sent a test e-mail through, but all the mail that was sent to me yesterday has been deleted. I know for a fact of about 10 messages that should have arrived but didn't.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Proggie by us and the spider from baths

Rich and Luke and I have just embarked on a new webby project that will blow everybody's socks off. It's the pneumatic footwear remover....

Well no, it's a bit more prosaic than that. Anyway, Rich has already mocked up the web site look and feel and I can tell you it looks pretty spiffy already even though when you press the wrong button you get mysql errors. He can work wonders on half an hour of tax payers time ahem. As it was my idea, I'm in charge and coordinating (oh dear). We are using Subversion to control the source code which is PHP and mysql. There will be regular updates as we go along.

Spiders? oh yes, I also meant to talk about spiders. Basically, there was one in my bath this morning. Now, I'm a man with a beer gut to prove it and therefore not frightened of anything.

Except spiders.

I firmly believe it will be a spider that kills me. One day there will be one in my shoe or in a glass of water I'm drinking and it'll give me a cardiac arrest. That's what they do to me. Don't even ask me to touch one, much less pick it up.

So I have a dilemma. Either I deal with the spider or go around ponging all day. The second option is looking good especially as I have had no accidents (look for "Orifices" - actually don't), but there are strategies for removing spiders from baths.

The vacuum cleaner did the trick. There was only a slight queasy moment as the spider rattled down the tube. I carefully put the vacuum cleaner away with the nozzle pointing upward to make it harder for the spider to get out again.

There's no hot water.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Internet collapses

So I was looking up something on Google and I pressed the button to run a search. I was a little surprised to get a 503 response back (internal service error 27). The BBC had already noticed.

Anybody know any good search services?

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Spaced out man

Edwin AldrinI wouldn't normally bother to blog just to recommend a web site, but this one has some photos on it that can only be described as awesome.

I have a vague memory of being woken up by my parents one night when I was very young and being dragged downstairs to watch a moon landing on the telly. The romantic in me hopes that it was Apollo 11.

Photo credit: NASA, scanned by: Kipp Teague


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

In Tune

I was browsing the iTunes Music Store this evening when I noticed an e-mail from iTunes that had just arrived in my in box. Every Tuesday they add a few albums to the music store for my perusal.

Opening the e-mail, I noticed that one of this week's new releases was "Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols". People say I have strange tastes in music (in fact I was pondering this while downloading "Gimme All Your Lovin'" and "All Around my Hat" in the same session just now). I have always considered this phrase proved by the fact that I like the work of both the Sex Pistols and Pink Floyd. I seem to remember that at the time that was like supporting Arsenal and Spurs simultaneously. (NB I didn't pick up my taste for the Sex Pistols until the mid 80's).

Well I clicked on the NMtBHtSP link to have a nostalgic look and what did I see under "Listeners Also Bought"? Meddle and Wish You Were Here. Seems I'm not so unique. I wonder if there's a coming together effect. As music gets older from the perspective of the years it gets more similar.

Anyway I've bought the wrong version of Make Me Smile by accident (the live one), so I'll have to get the real one now.

Wow! Suzi Quattro did it too.

Monday, July 19, 2004

The World's shortest blog

This is shorter.


Sunday, July 18, 2004

Footnote and Fancy Free

One of the things my friends say about me (to my face) is that I'm an invaluable addition to any pub quiz team due to my good level of general knowledge. Well, actually, Sara often says I'm a "mine of useless information". The secret is, of course, that I read a lot. I can't bear the thought of a long train or plane journey without a good book to read. Not only do I read a lot, but I read a lot of non-fiction (pop science and history mainly) which brings me to the subject of this rant.

Non fiction books tend to have a lot of what are called "notes". You are reading through the prose and you come across a tiny superscripted "46". This means that the author has something to say that is not part of the main narrative. Normally you have to go in search of the note referenced by the number at the end of the chapter or the book. These little extras come in two main varieties: references and digressions.

References merely point you to the source of a bit of information that the author has just imparted to you. This allows the serious minded reader to go back and verify that the author is not lying or, if they are, they got it from somebody else. I have no problem with a separate list elsewhere in the book listing all the references.

Digressions are usually expansions to points in the text or perhaps whitty anecdotes or summaries of contrary positions. The problem is I want to read the digressions. They might have important or interesting information in them. I hate having to leaf forward to find the note, read it and then find my way back to where I was before. The problem is compounded by the fact that these books are often very weighty (the one I'm reading now and which set me off on this has over 1,000 pages). It can take ages to find the notes section and then the right number note in it. Even worse, if the references and digressions are all mixed up together, you might spend five minutes looking for a note in anticipation of some gem of wisdom only to find it just says "Hofstadter, 1978".

So, and I'm talking to you Mr Penrose, why can't you use footnotes at the bottom of the page you are currently on? If it's important enough to write it down, it's important enough not to hide away at the back of the book where I can't find it.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Servery rant

For some strange reason, we decided to get Microsoft Small Business Server to support our business infrastructure. Well actually, we thought to get the equivalent functionality using Open Source prodiucts or other alternatives would take several days of me hacking around with a Linux box. Whereas with a Dell Small Business Server (costing the reasonable price of around £2,000) we could just plug it in, enter some config information and we'd be up and running.

Well, the first problem was that the server that turned up was not in a rack mountable case which makes it a huge pain to put in a rack. Never mind blame the person who ordered the kit.

By 11am I had configured the thing (Dell had already installed the OS) and put the eight critical patches that Microsoft suggested (quite a lot of this time was spent sorting out network connectivity). I was now ready for SQL Server. Where shall I put it? How about this 500 Gigabyte D drive? Hang on - where did 500 Gigabytes come from?

Unfortunately, the two 250 Gigabyte disks were configured as RAID 0 i.e. as one big blob using all the disk space. The reason we ordered two disks was so we could mirror them. There was nothing else to do but wipe the installation and start from scratch. Actually from less than scratch, I had to wipe out the good work done by the Dell boys. It appears that the person who ordered the kit forgot to tick the box that said "please mirror my disks". That took the rest of the day and interestingly there were now 16 critical patches to install.

Now all I have to do is learn about Active Directory, yay!

Thursday, July 08, 2004

The future is bright

As my web site has the webmaster address displayed on it, I occasionally get spam to it. Not as much as you might think, actually, maybe one mail per week. Sometimes people guess e-mail addresses from the domain name - sales and info are two common guesses.

An interesting one turned up today. It was hawking logo design like most of the messages to info. What caught my eye was the final paragraph:

Please, browse our portfolio and hot offers. Simply follow the link: you loose nothing: except your future.

Naturally I did not follow the link. There's no way I wanted to lose my whole future.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Lottery and flying time

I'm a lucky guy! I've received two e-mails in the last week telling me I've won both the South African and Australian lottery. The latest one tells me
You hereby have been approved lump sum pay of US$500,000.00 (FIVE HENDRED DOLLARS) in cash credit...
What is a "hendred dollar"?

Call me a fool, but I think I'm going to pass it up.

Time flies. It seems like only thirty-six years since I tried to murder my brother in his pram by tipping him out on the ground (it's just occured to me that I might have been maligned unjustly, I could have just been trying to climb up the side in order to get a better look at my darling bro). Oh, it is thirty-six years. Happy birthday Rich - card is in the post ahem.

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