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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What makes children naughty?

I have been involved in raising three children. Sometimes they were naughty, or awkward, or uncooperative, or miserable, or annoying, or cranky, or crispy, or silly.

After much observation and experimentation, I came to the conclusion that nearly all of the time this undesirable behaviour stemmed from the child being in one of these six states:

  • Hungry
  • Thirsty
  • Tired
  • Poorly
  • Needs a poo
  • Done a poo

So much so that I made this up into a little saying, putting these things into pairs: Hungry or thirsty; tired or poorly; needs a poo, done a poo.

("Done a poo" only applies to the child who is still in nappies; the others apply through toddlerdom, and into early childhood, and who knows how long beyond that.)

Of course each of these six states has something you can do to get the child out of them:

  • Hungry: Feed
  • Thirsty: Give drink
  • Tired: Send to bed
  • Poorly: Give Calprofen (Ibuprofen in liquid formulated for children)
  • Needs a poo: Encourage to do poo. Give warm tea. (In future ensure they drink enough so their poo doesn't get so hard.)
  • Done a poo: Change nappy

and once that is done, the child usually cheers up rapidly.

So whenever the child would become naughty, I would think through the list of six things and try to divine if one of them could be the problem.

So for example in the morning we would usually give them a drink of milk. But if that was delayed for any reason, they would tend to be thirsty and this would make them naughty. But by giving them a drink, they would rapidly cheer up again.

One time my boy didn't get enough to drink after breakfast, and he became naughty and uncooperative. I realised what the problem was: thirst. But on this occasion there was a problem: he was now so uncooperative that I could not get him to drink anything. A vicious circle.

I decided to time how long things would take. It took … 45 minutes … to persuade him to drink something. He then drank a significant proportion of a glass of drink. I then watched to see how long it would take for the drink to take effect.

The time taken for the drink to take effect?

Eight minutes!

— after which time he was once again happy.

This was understandably frustrating at the time: to have to spend so long persuading him, when the drink had such a relatively quick effect.

But this experience proved to be gold dust afterwards. If ever he became "over thirsty" and uncooperative, I could always explain to him that he was cranky because he was thirsty and remind him that a drink would cheer him up in eight minutes. Because there was a concrete example to refer to, it would have a much better bet at punching through his uncooperative frame of mind.

I wonder how many parents do not realise that these six things are often what makes children naughty, and waste untold effort disciplining and sanctioning their children, when all that might be needed is a drink, or to feed them at regular intervals.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Adobe Flash Player 11 direct download links

A little while ago, I posted an article with direct download links for Adobe Flash Player.

This worked fine for Flash Player version 10, but since then Adobe has published version 11, and the existing links now return only the version 10 player.

I have now managed to procure links for Flash Player version 11. As Adobe have now made a 64-bit version of the Flash Player in version 11, there are now more different versions than there were under version 10, so there are more links.

Windows 64-bit

Flash Player for browsers other than Internet Explorer:

Flash Player for Internet Explorer:

Note: the 64-bit installers will install Flash Player for 32-bit and 64-bit browsers.

Windows 32-bit

Flash Player for browsers other than Internet Explorer:

Flash Player for Internet Explorer:


Flash Player for supported browsers:


Windows 32-bit:

Windows 64-bit:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Avoiding Click-to-Run on MS Office 2010

Setting up a PC for a client, one of the things which needed to be done was to install Office 2010 Home & Student.

In this case, all that was supplied with the PC was a product key on a card, but with no instructions on the card as to how to use it (FAIL!). There is some MS Office in the pre-load image on the PC, but I was specifically re-installing from scratch to get rid of the manufacturer's crapware.

It later transpired that this was a Product Key Card — another case where you need to know the "magic" name of a thing in order to make progress.

So, it later transpired that you can go to Microsoft, and there is a page which tells you how to use a Product Key Card.

Part way through the process, it told me that the key I had was associated with a pre-loaded install. This immediately gave me a sinking feeling that they would then block me from downloading the Office install. But it turned out it was just a warning and I was able to proceed.

So I followed my nose, and ended up downloading a thing which turned out to the the beginnings of a "Click-to-Run" installation of Office 2010 Home & Student.

In summary, with Click-to-Run it pretends that you already have everything installed, and when you try to use something, if it hasn't already got it, it promply goes away and downloads just that bit. In the meantime, it downloads everything so that eventually you have it. The idea is that you can start using it straight away. Personally, I don't see it as much of a benefit. People understand that they have to download it and run it, and the problems caused by Click-to-Run tend to outweigh the touted benefits.

One problem with Click-to-Run is that it sets up a Q: drive, which is for some reason necessary for the virtualisation to run. The problem with this is that it's one more piece of weirdness for people to deal with; one more thing to explain to my client. Gee, thanks Microsoft.

I happened to have a sniff round on the subject and stumbled across a little golden nugget of information: You don't have to use Click-and-Run. You can just do a conventional download-and-install. The feature is hidden away behind a quiet "Advanced Options" button.

It's described in (my emphasis):

In order to successfully use the Office Click-to-Run version of Office Home and Business 2010 or of Office Home and Student 2010, use one of the following methods:

  • Determine which application or which hardware uses the Q: drive letter, and then move it off the Q: drive by referring to the documentation from the manufacturer or to a support channel of the manufacturer for help. After the Q: drive is made available, the installation does not display the error.
  • Download a version of Office 2010 that is not an Office Click-to-Run product. To do this, visit the site where you purchased Office 2010, and sign in by using your Live ID. Then, click My Account at the top of the home page to access your Office 2010 downloads. Click Download for the suite that you purchased, and then click Advanced Options under Download Now. A version of Office 2010 is listed that is not an Office Click-to-Run product and that does not require the Q: drive to be available.

It sounds implausible, but it actually works. You do go through "My Account", and there is an Advanced Options link, and going through there results in options for "32-bit download", "64-bit download", and "Click-to-Run". All you then need to is take the 32-bit download and it gives you a 900+ MB file, which is the complete installer for Office 2010 Home & Student. Cool.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

My Dell Downloads - Beaten

Setting up a PC for a client recently, I wanted to flatten the main Windows partition and re-install from the Windows install DVD.

All the drivers can be downloaded from Dell. But some of the software is a bit more sensitive, like the CyberLink DVD playing software, and can't be downloaded. Nor it is supplied with the machine on a CD-ROM or DVD-ROM.

All is not lost however, as the CyberLink DVD playing software can be downloaded via My Dell Downloads. The website gives you a little program which verifies your machine's service tag and then lets you download the more sensitive softwares which are associated with your PC. You are, however, limited to three downloads per file.

You get a little program which downloads the files you want. Each program comes as a nice packaged Zip file.

But then we have a problem. The little program downloads the Zip files, then promptly unpacks them, then promptly deletes the Zip file!

No! I want that Zip file, because it's a nice single file which encapsulates the program. OK, I could probably make up a new Zip file, but I like having the most original version of anything.

It turns out that there is a solution. We can use the NTFS permission system to our advantage. We can change the permissions on the directory ("Documents/My Dell Downloads") so as to remove the "delete" privileges. I found two delete privileges so removed them both. If you want to do the same, your waypoints are that you need to get into the permissions dialog, then do "Advanced", then turn off inheritance, copy existing inherited rights, then remove the delete privileges from all users.

Delete privileges removed, we can now use the little program to download any files we like, and when it tries to delete the Zip file, it promptly falls over with an error, and we are left with the nice original Zip file.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Adobe Flash player direct download link

Update 2011-11-02: The links below are currently returning an old version of Flash (, rather than the current version 11. For download links for Adobe Flash Player version 11, see my later post Adobe Flash Player 11 direct download links.

I kept Googling for these, and sifting through the search results to find the "good" answers.

To save me having to do that again, I thought it might be a good idea to find the good answers, and then write them down here.

Adobe Flash player direct download for Firefox [URL now de-linked and shown for posterity only. See Adobe Flash Player 11 direct download links]
Adobe Flash player direct download for Internet Explorer [URL now de-linked and shown for posterity only. See Adobe Flash Player 11 direct download links]

Monday, September 12, 2011

'puppet resource user' fails with 'Could not find file /root/resource.pp'

Trying to follow the documentation for 'Puppet', we try a simple

puppet resource user

only to find that we are presented with the error message 'Could not find file /root/resource.pp'.

Googling over the error message returns nothing useful.

The answer is that in Puppet v2.6.0 things were changed to use a single binary rather than several binaries, but you are using a version of Puppet prior to v2.6.0 (for example you are using the one out of Ubuntu 10.04 LTS (Puppet v0.25.4).

(In case you're wondering why the Ubuntu 10.04 version appears to be so hideously ancient, the answer is that it isn't; Puppet switched version numbering paradigms and went straight from v0.25.5 to v2.6.0.)

puppet resource is the new way to invoke ralsh. So the way to do what we originally set out to do it to use

ralsh user

which will give you a dump of user data in Puppet RAL format.

If you have a look at the relevant bit of the changelog you can see the relationship between the new forms and the old forms.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Stop HS2

In order to secure a debate on HS2 in the House of Commons, 100,000 signatures are needed on the e-petition below. Previous signatures whether electronic or on paper, are not counted - please log-in and sign now.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Perldoc down was down recently. This prompted me to dust off an old idea I'd had to create a Perl documentation site closer to home.

So I have set up This is UK-based and UK-administered, and just works, without going down for a week at a time because of mysterious router problems.

If you're wondering why this post is so similar to the previous one, the answer is that a popular web searching system, whose name begins with a G, did not seem to want to index that page over the phrase "perldoc down", which is where I would like to get listed. Hence this page, which is titled "Perldoc down", so there should now be no excuse for them not to index it.

Friday, August 26, 2011

UK hosted Perl documentation site

Recently had a problem accessing and decided it was time to dust off my idea for creating a Perl documentation site a little closer to home.

So I have now set up, which is similar to, but hosted on a UK-based server. So for UK and other European users, this should result in lower round trip times.

It's currently a work in progress, with various things not quite right. For example it currently shows the documentation only for the distro Perl (currently Perl 5.10.1 from Ubuntu 10.04 LTS).

IPv6 heads will be pleased to hear that the site is enabled for IPv6.

Keywords: perldoc down, perldoc mirror,
perldoc UK mirror, perldoc Europe mirror, perldoc European mirror, down, mirror, UK mirror, Europe mirror, European mirror, Perl documentation mirror, Perl documentation UK mirror, Perl documentation Europe mirror, Perl documentation European mirror

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How do Energizer Lithium AA cells work?

How do Energizer Lithium AA cells work?

Non-rechargeable lithium cells are 3 volts right?

But if they're AA cells, then people will expect a notional 1.5 volts at the terminals right?

So ... what gives? Do they have an internal DC-to-DC converter or what?

The answer is that there are many battery formulations which use lithium, and cells made using them can all be described as "lithium cells".

As far as I can tell, Energizer Lithium AA cells are Lithium Iron Disulfide cells. According to Wikipedia this formulation results in a cell voltage of about 1.4 to 1.6 volts, which should make them broadly compatible with scenarios expecting 1.5 volt cells.

Search strings:

  • How do Energizer Lithium AA batteries work?
  • How do Energizer Ultimate Lithium AA batteries work?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Lexmark X543 beeping five times

Lexmark X543 decided it didn't want to start up. The power was coming on and the display was lighting up, but nothing was being displayed, and it was giving me a five beep cycle.

The Lexmark website said that this five beep indication would be given if the main board could not see the control panel.

So I wondered if it was as simple as a loose connector on the cable connecting the main board and the control panel.

So took off the back panel which covers the main board and had a look. Had a poke around to see if there were any loose connectors. Nothing really in evidence.

Switched it back on. Still not working. Gave each cable a poke and a wiggle. When I poked the membrane cable in the top centre, the display changed and started to show the sequence of dots for the printer startup. The printer then came up and was able to print. Cool.

Later on I tried printing but the printer had frozen again. Switched off the printer and switched it on. Not working. Held the cable slightly up. The printer then started up and I was able to print a page.

Decided it must be this membrane cable causing a problem and wondered if it was just the connection to the main board which might be the problem. Wondered if it could be unplugged from the main board so, with the machine switched off again, gave it a progressive tug.

The membrane cable came out of the recepticle on the main board. Then wondered if it would go back in again, so carefully lined it up and carefully eased it back into the recepticle.

Switched printer on, and it booted up without assistance. A few minutes later it proceeded to print the entire backlog of unprinted jobs on the Windows 7 machines on the network. Ah well, at least it's printing again.

If it carries on working, I may decide to risk putting the back cover on again.

If this posting helped get your Lexmark X543 printer working again, please consider donating 5 U.S. dollars or 5 Euro.

Keywords: Lexmark X543, not printing, not starting, beeping 5 times, beeping five times, five beeps, 5 beeps

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How to get reliable IPv6 on Windows lappy

On 2 July 2010, I wrote about how to get IPv6 on a Windows laptop. This involved setting up gogoCLIENT from gogo6 to access Freenet6.

This did actually work, but it turned out it was not as good as it first appeared. The problem is that the Freenet6 PoP I was using (Amsterdam) seemed to keep going down. Once down it would stay down for days at a time until it was mended. It turns out that Freenet6 were aware of the problem but there was some limitation which meant that they weren't able to maintain it very well.

So I looked around againt to see what I could do. HE was not satisfactory because they only offer classical 6in4/protocol-41 connections which do not work from behind a NATting router, at least not directly. Whilst HE do offer a PPtP service to tunnel a public IPv4 address to a client system, over which a 6in4/protocol-41 service can then run, it is messy, extra work to use on a daily basis, more things to go wrong, and would route all my IPv4 over HE's network.

Then there was SixXS. I had previously decided I didn't want to use SixXS for various reasons, but as it was the only thing I hadn't now ruled out, I re-visited it. It turned out that I could use SixXS because they offer a service which runs over AYIYA which will work from a NATted connection.

To use AYIYA meant using the AICCU client software. This is now working, but was hard to set up. The AICCU software needs to run all the time you want IPv6 connectivity. So I had to get a shim software which would run an arbitrary program as a service. Also it wanted to use the same pseudo network interface that OpenVPN uses. So I had to arrange for a second instance of that network interface to be created.

Once this is all configured, AICCU will connect up and set up a tunnelled IPv6 connection. This is all well and good, but Windows 7 won't "believe" that it has "proper" IPv6 connectivity unless it sees a "real" IPv6 address assigned to the "main" network connection. The upshot of Windows 7's disbelief is that whilst it will allow IPv6 to work at the packet level, it will not use resolve AAAA records in preference to A records. So if you browse to a dual-stack website, you will still go over IPv4. If you go to a pure IP6 website, it will work (IIRC).

To get round this, we need to assign a proper-looking IPv6 address to the "main" interface. So we can add this to the wireless interface and also the ethernet interface. We can use addresses in the 6to4 space for RFC1918 private ranges (2002:C0A8::/32) which should never clash with a real IPv6 address but which look perfectly genuine to Windows.

Having done this, is now completely happy with my IPv6 connectivity, and is happy that IPv6 is preferred.

Friday, April 15, 2011

APNIC IPv4 Address Pool Reaches Final /8

As of Friday, 15 April 2011, the APNIC pool reached the Final /8 IPv4 address block, bringing us to Stage Three of IPv4 exhaustion in the Asia Pacific.

Last /8 address policy

IPv4 requests will now be assessed under section 9.10 in "Policies for IPv4 address space management in the Asia Pacific region".

APNIC's objective during Stage Three is to provide IPv4 address space for new entrants to the market and for those deploying IPv6.

From now, all new and existing APNIC account holders will be entitled to receive a maximum allocation of a /22 (1024 addresses) from the Final /8 address space.

Monday, April 11, 2011

More registrar hunting

Still looking for the perfect registrar.

After asking around on the AAISP IRC channel #A&A, someone mentioned an outfit called Portfast.

Portfast appears to be a provider of hosting, virtual servers, and domain names. They offer native IPv6 (cool), they have a good name (Portfast), and they operate out of a .CO.UK domain name ( which is something I like to see. They appear to offer a no-nonsense service, and have sensible prices.

.UK domains are priced at £6+VAT per 2 years and .EU domains are priced at £9+VAT per year.

I liked what I saw so gave them a phone call. The phone was answered quickly, and the first person I spoke to had the technical ability to use the phrase "regular expression" in the conversation, and also the ability to recognise (in about one minute of conversation, starting from cold) that I would be able to understand that phrase. With other companies, this sort of ability doesn't manifest until about third-line support. I liked what I heard, so thought I'd give them a shot.

I have now taken my .CO.UK and my .EU over to Portfast.

There was no charge for taking the .CO.UK over. There was an annual renewal charge of £9+VAT for taking over the .EU, but that is par for the course because EURid charges registrars for transfers.

The .CO.UK went over fine. But the .EU appears to have hit a snag in that all the nameservers were lost in the transfer. This meant that there were no nameservers registered, which of course will have broken the domain name's operation. Fortunately Portfast offers on-line nameserver setting, and it seems these are pushed through to the EURid WHOIS and EURid nameservers within a matter of seconds, so it was easy enough to get things going again.

I asked Portfast about the loss of nameservers, and they replied quickly to indicate that this was not something that they expected to happen, and that their systems were specifically programmed not to touch the nameserver configuration over a registrar transfer. So a bit of a mystery there.

There is still a snag though. Portfast offers on-line configuration of IPv6 glue for .UK domain names. But for .EU domains, on-line configuration of glue records for .EU domains only goes as far as IPv4 glue and does not include IPv6 glue. To Portfast's credit, this is not a limitation imposed by them but rather by OpenSRS who Portfast use to register .EU domain names.

(It is not unreasonable for registrars to subcontract .EU domain name registrations to other registrars because of the somewhat onerous terms imposed upon registrars by EURid, for example the lodging of a €10,000 deposit.)

OpenSRS do not currently support the setting up of IPv6 glue on .EU domain names via an automation interface. So .EU domain name resellers using OpenSRS cannot reasonably offer automated IPv6 glue configuration to their customers.

(Despite APNIC being a mere 10 days away from running out of IPv4 addresses completely, the world does not seem to have realised that the time for saying "Oh we'll be handling IPv6 at ... [waves hand in a dismissive fashion] ... some point in the future" has long since passed.)

So I am currently pursuing the possibility of having Portfast pursue OpenSRS to set up IPv6 glue manually.

So far, OpenSRS has replied to say that they don't support IPv6 glue on .EU domain names. Unfortunately for them, I do not believe they have the option of taking this this position because under the registrar agreement they have with EURid, they will be obliged to offer all services to customers that EURid provides. I've submitted a request to Portfast that OpenSRS be asked again, and where we are now is that that request is currently outstanding.

Thus far Portfast has been entirely helpful and professional.

So at the minute it seems that Portfast per se are absolutely fine.

The problem I have left is that OpenSRS appear to be being a bit dim.

Results so far:

AAISPReasonable level of technical competence within the organisation, and reasonably easy to get through to technically competent people on the phone. However they do not support on-line configuration of nameservers — you have to submit a support ticket, which is quite pants. Nor do they support automated registration of new domain names — you have to put in a support ticket, which is utterly hopeless if you are looking to "grab" a domain name. A generalised lack of automation on domain name handling — "all handled through tickets". Support tickets would be fine, however it typically take 1+ business days before you even get the initial response on a ticket. UK domain names quite pricey at £12+VAT per year. I don't know if they even provide .EU domain names. Recommendation: Not good for domain name registrations on their own, but OK if buying registrations along with other services, and you aren't cost conscious.
NamesCoTechnically incompetent. Don't touch with a bargepole
Nominate a.k.a. BB-OnlineTechnically incompetent. Don't touch with a bargepole
PortfastTechnically competent in and of themselves. Very reasonable pricing. Portfast handles IPv6 glue on .UK domain names "natively" through their on-line system. Unfortunately Portfast uses OpenSRS for .EU domain names, and it remains to be seen how OpenSRS will behave on IPv6 glue for .EU domain names. Recommendation: Seems to be good for .UK domain name registrations; the jury is still out on .EU domain name registrations.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Where have all the good DNS registrars gone?

I have been trying to register a couple of domain names, a .CO.UK and a .EU, and have them set up with my name servers with Glue Records (IPv4 and IPv6).

Should be simple right? But it has so far turned out to be a mammoth task.

I started out by looking for a not-too-expensive registrar who could cope with .CO.UK and .EU names, and who would process the initial registration automatically (and immediately), as opposed to requiring a message to be submitted to a human for processing whenever they saw fit.

After searching around, I landed on NamesCo. Their automated system processed the initial registrations straight off.

Unfortunately they rather messed-up the registrant's (i.e. my) e-mail address as recorded with EURid, putting their own e-mail address instead of mine — VERY naughty. Also it look a LOT of jumping up on down on them via several support tickets to get this fixed. In the end it looked like they had to do (what EURid call) a "trade", presumably at their expense, to get the domain ownership transferred to me. Eh? Yes. From EURid's point-of-view, the domain wasn't actually registered to me at all! So it looks like NamesCo were being extremely naughty and registering names requested by customers to themselves — seems to me to be really quite illegal.

Anyway, I eventually got around to wanting the nameservers and Glue Records set up. So I put in two support tickets, one for each domain name.

The .CO.UK was processed correctly within one business day and I was all set.

After a while, they came back to tell me that the .EU was done. I checked. It wasn't. I queried. A different person waded in on the support ticket and made a comment that was total nonsense. I queried. They made another nonsense comment. This went back and forth a few times before the original person re-surfaced and told me to disregard all the comments from the other person, and made a comment which made sense. Professional? Not really.

This first person made some enquiries, and finally came to the conclusion that they could not support IPv6 Glue Records on .EU domain names because the company which actually processed their .EU registrations (Register.IT) did not support IPv6 Glue Records on .EU domain names.

This was bad as it was. But it was made even worse by the fact that I had deliberately asked, in a support ticket a few weeks earlier, whether they supported IPv6 Glue Records for .EU domain names. Their reply was that their ability to support IPv6 Glue Records was limited only by the ability of the relevant registry to support them. So having said "yes", they now said "no".

I checked the sample agreement which is agreed between EURid and registrars. In section 2.5 it says that registrars must offer all the services to end-users that EURid offers. I also telephoned EURid in Belgium (English +32 2 401 27 60) and asked them if they supported IPv6 Glue. The chap I spoke with didn't know, but he telephoned me back later to say that they did. So it would seem that Register.IT is actually obliged to support IPv6 Glue on .EU domains, but doesn't. So what is that? Probably a civil wrong toward EURid. Ah well.

Eventually I decided that NamesCo was not for me and started to have a look round for another registrar. After looking around I found that AAISP have a domain name "", and that was registered through an outfit called Nominate.

"Nominate"? Odd. Sounds like some kind of play on "Nominet", and really quite a silly name. Ordinarily I would not have any truck with a company which (a) has such a silly name and (b) appears to be deliberately trying to confuse people into thinking it might be some other organisation (Nominet). But, I thought, hey ho, if it's good enough for AAISP, it's good enough for me.

So I spoke with Nominate to see if (a) they did deal directly with the registries Nominet and EURid, and (b) if they would support IPv6 Glue. They said that they did deal directly with those two registries. On the subject of IPv6 Glue, they said that whilst it was not something they had done much of, they did have access to most registries, and doing "unusual" things with domain registration was something that was well within the sort of thing that they would do.

So I took a chance and promptly transferred my .CO.UK and .EU to duly took over the domain names. I then asked them to set up the .EU with the desired nameservers and Glue Records. Within a short while they had managed to get those set up correctly. Fantastic.

At this point both domains were set up and from a DNS point of view, all correct and returning the correct nameservers and Glue Records, including IPv6 Glue Records. In addition, the information recorded with the registries legally identifying me as the registrant owner was correct. Fantastic.

So Nominate were starting to look reasonbly good.

However their web control panel does leave quite a bit to be desired. For example the Postal/geographic address bit doesn't really have the right layout for UK postal addresses, and unless you have an unusually brief address you end up having to cram it in and shove bits of the address into what is really the wrong box.

Also, Nominate are incapable of accepting e-mail addresses which don't happen to fit into their own private definition of what is acceptable. RFC5322 doesn't seem to have reached as far as Longfield, Kent, and they will not accept an e-mail address with a plus symbol in it. Clang!

Even worse was the reason they cited. Something to do with their system treating e-mail addresses as regular expressions! Bizarre! So if the e-mail address contains a plus symbol, this will be interpreted as "match one or more of the previous entity"!

Now, I can tell you, as an I.T. professional with 20 years experience in the business, that this is HIDEOUSLY, HEINOUSLY BROKEN, and indicates that their technical staff (if they have any at all) are hideously incompetent and any company that is this technically incompetent should not be touched with a bargepole.

So in summary: I'm still looking for a DNS registrar which is at least a quarter decent. If you do have any suggestions, please do let me know.

Results so far:

NamesCoTechnically incompetent. Don't touch with a bargepole
Nominate a.k.a. BB-OnlineTechnically incompetent. Don't touch with a bargepole

Humax Foxsat-HDR won't record two channels at once — FIXED

A few years ago, I installed a Sky free-to-view system for a relative. This involved installing a Sky minidish on the outside of the house with a single LNB and a single cable coming down to a Sky digibox. This was just a straight standard definition receiver box — I think it even pre-dated Sky HD services in any case. There was no record facility so it, so only one cable was required. The Sky digibox was acquired second-hand via eBay. I think I originally set it up with one of those viewing cards which was no charge per month and let you watch just the basic channels.

This all worked fine. After a while the situation meant that the relative wanted to have a basic package from Sky, which they got, and were paying fees monthly to Sky. After another while, they decided they didn't want to pay Sky anything, so changed their package again down to a no-charge-per-month package.

This was fine for a while. Then the digibox started playing up. It would work for a while, then go downhill with the picture breaking up. If switched off overnight, it would then work for a few hours the next day before going downhill again.

I was called in to fix it — a 100-mile trek. I reasoned that as it worked for a while after powering up, it must be the digibox, perhaps something like it was overheating. So I swapped in another digibox, the same make and model, which I had lying around after having had my own installation upgraded to Sky Plus.

With the other digibox swapped in, everything looked fine. 100 miles back home. But then it started doing the same problem as the first one had. So I wondered if perhaps it was something else.

In the initial installation, I didn't really know what I was doing, and had bought the dish and cable as a kit. There was 20m of cable (aluminium foil screened I believe) in the kit, which wasn't really long enough to reach, so I had routed the cable in a way which left it a bit exposed to the elements and not thoroughly clipped down. So I wondered if the cable had deteriorated. So, after another 100 mile trek back to site, I tried putting in a short temporary cable (using proper copper-foil-screened foam dielectric cable) from the dish to the box, and I also tried a third digibox (my Sky Plus box from home).

Neither of the Sky digiboxes would work on any cable, but the Sky Plus box worked on all cables. So I reasoned that my second "test" digibox was broken in the same way as the first digibox.

So this would require changing the box. I advised my relative that they might want to take this opportunity to upgrade to a recording Freesat system and to get a Humax Foxsat-HDR.

Now, at the time they only had one cable coming down from the dish, and of course a Foxsat-HDR, to work fully, would need two cables.

So the plan was for them to get a Humax Foxsat-HDR, install it themselves on a single cable, and then I would come back another time to arrange a second cable. 100 mile trek back home again. As it was, the original cable was not long enough and was not routed optimally, so I decided to put in two new cables.

So eventually I found the time to put in two new cables from the dish to the Foxsat-HDR. 100 mile trek back to site again. This time I used proper copper-foil screened, foam dielectric cable, with brown outer insulation to match the colour of the house, clipped on with matching brown clips. The cable was also routed properly so as to be out of the elements, no tight corners, and clipped all the way. Much better.

Connected it up to the Foxsat-HDR. The box said that it could see good signal on both inputs. "So", I thought "Job Done". 100 mile trek back home again.

I spoke to my relative in the meantime to help get them into being able to record programmes, which eventually I was able to do. After a while they discovered that they were not able to record two high definition programmes at once. I was puzzled by this, but put it down to the data rate on high definition programming being too high to cope with another stream at the same time.

After another long while, it transpired that they could not even record two standard definition channels at the same time. Very puzzling. After all, I had checked the box and made sure that both inputs were showing a good signal.

After a while it was time to visit again. I had a play with the box. Sure enough there was still a really good signal on each receiver channel (something like strength 90%, quality 100%). But if I told it to record a programme, then I went to watch something else, I would find that many of the channels were "greyed out" and unable to be selected. Puzzling.

I had a sniff round on the web and found that this problem could happen because of the box only using one receiver input. But … but … I checked, and the box was showing two good signals, so surely it couldn't be that.

Then eventually I found a suggestion that the box only "decided" how many cables it was going to use at initial set-up time, i.e. the thing which it usually only does once when you first set the box up. So, for example, it would not do it on a soft power-up time, or even on a hard power-up. Only when the box is initially set up. As I had not thought I would need to do this when I had first put the two-cable feed in place, the box would then only be using one of the inputs.

The solution suggested was to do a "factory reset" on the box. I was concerned that this would erase all stored programmes, something which people would not normally want to do. But I thought I'd go and have a look.

I went into the "factory reset" option on the box, and thankfully it presented a clear message on-screen to say to the effect that recorded programmes would not be removed.

So I went through factory reset, and the box went through its initial set-up, and I had to re-enter the postcode etc.. Crucially, at one point it put up a message to the effect of "Detected cables: two". This then told me that it was detecting the number of cables connected.

After that, I could tell the box to record a programme, then go and watch another programme, and all channels were available, i.e. none were "greyed-out" as before. I could also record two programmes at once.

So it looks like the engineers at Humax have decided that the number of cables is pretty much fixed, and they haven't really catered for the case of someone starting with one cable and later upgrading to two cables.

I am surprised that the box does not re-detect the number of cables more easily. It even shows the signal strength and quality on both cables, so it knows that the signal is there. Also there seems to be no option anywhere in the menus to re-detect the number of cables. The only way is to do factory reset and go through initial set-up.

Update 2011-03-14: It turns out you can change the number of cables without having to do a factory reset. The cable configuration can be changed through a hidden menu.

So it is both (a) hard to even tell that it hasn't detected the second cable, and (b) even when you do figure this out, it's a bit hard to discover how to fix it.

Once you know, it's easy. But the knowledge is "magic" and not easily discoverable.

Hopefully by posting this article, it may save some people some trouble.

If you found this article helpful, please consider donating 0.25 U.S. Dollars or 0.25 Euro.

Phrases to help people find this page:

  • Humax Foxsat HDR some channels are grey
  • Humax Foxsat HDR won't record two channels at once
  • Humax Foxsat HDR won't use second cable
  • Humax Foxsat HDR won't use second receiver
  • Humax Foxsat HDR won't let me record one channel and watch another
  • Humax Foxsat HDR problems

Friday, February 18, 2011

How not to respond to people chasing you up

How not to respond to people chasing you up:

Yes I was going to look at your issue but it slipped my mind. I'll have a look at it now.

I do have other things to do besides this.

What's wrong with this? Look at it from the point of view of the person doing the chasing. After they read the first paragraph, they have something, and they're reasonably happy. Then the person being requested continues with a comment which may be true, but comes across as a snidey remark implying that the request is of low importance. Simply omitting the second paragraph would have made the world a better place.

If we really want to include the sentiment about the person requested being busy, at least try to close on a positive note:

Yes. I have a number of things on at the minute and your issue just slipped my mind.

I will look at it now and aim to provide you with an update by the end of the day.

There. That manages to convey the sentiment that you are busy, without appearing snidey, and also finishes on a positive note and gives a reasonably firm timescale by which the requestor might expect to see further progress.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

cahoot is now total rubbish

Have been using cahoot for a bank for a few years now.

To begin with, they were really good. But in recent times they have gone downhill, and are now complete rubbish.

The on-line banking regularly does not work and says "service is suspended. We are currently updating our systems. This takes approximately 5 minutes. Please wait until the cahoot service is resumed. Thanks for your patience."

Now cahoot is just a branch of Santander. Despite Santander being part of the Faster Payments Service, cahoot does not support Faster Payments, and there are apparently no plans to do so. So it seems if I want 20th century banking, cahoot should be my first choice. No thanks.

Another thing they have started doing is to "accidentally" block my on-line access. When I phone them up to report this, they act like they don't know what it is and say they will have to call me back. After about half a day, they phone back and say it was "mysteriously" blocked for no reason that they can determine. They then say that they can restore access, but first they have to "take me through security". They then tell me that they are restoring access. This seemingly takes about ten minutes, during which time they make various noises to indicate they are going through umpteen different things on their computer. They then tell me that it is done. What confuses me is why they didn't just do it before calling me back, and why I have to sit on the phone listening to them operate their computer for ten minutes. Bizarre.

cahoot now appear to have totally lost the plot and seem to be completely incompetent.

So I am now in the process of moving to another bank.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

IPv4 address pool final allocations ceremony

Here is the video for the IPv4 address pool final allocations ceremony:

ICANN IPv4 Ceremony | Miami

And whilst we're at it, let's have the IPv6 news conference:

ICANN IPv6 News Conference | Miami, Florida

Monday, February 7, 2011

gogo6 gogoCPE IPv6 tunnel router

Looks interesting. It appears to be an IPv6 tunnel router in a box.

It looks like it solves a number of problems. It looks like it could be used directly by end users to connect to Freenet6, or in connection with ISP-provided services to enable IPv6 over IPv4, or IPv4 over IPv6.

How to get IPv6 on Windows lappy

Update 2011-05-11: I have now ditched Freenet6 and am now using SixXS.

To get IPv6 going on the lappy, I had been using a tunnel from Hurricane Electric. One of the advantages for me was that the PoP is in London, which gives me a low latency connection.

But this was not without problems. Because it uses protocol 41 tunneling, it doesn't work through a conventionally NATted connection. To get around this, HE provides a public IPv4 address through a PPTP connection. The problem with this is that it then stuffs all of your IPv4 traffic through the PPTP connection, which is a bit smelly.

But recently discovered the gogoCLIENT from gogo6. This seems to be able to set up a tunnel over IPv4/UDP to Freenet 6. This then means that IPv4 traffic goes over its usual (direct) route, and IPv6 traffic is sent through the tunnel.

Now, my local Freenet 6 PoP is in Amsterdam. This is not the best, but at least it is on the same continent.

Friday, February 4, 2011

IPv6 (hopefully) explained for non-techies

Every connection with the Internet has to have a unique number (the IP address). This is because whenever any piece of data is sent across the Internet, it has to have the number of the connection where it is going to. There will be one number for your home broadband connection, one for my home broadband connection, one (or more) for any website you go to, etc.

These numbers are drawn from a pool of about 3.5 billion numbers.
The worldwide master pool is operated by IANA. IANA gives out blocks of numbers to five groups serving Africa; North America; South America; Asia Pacific; and Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. These groups in turn hand out blocks of numbers to either national bodies or smaller bodies such as ISPs, and eventually numbers get assigned to individual connections.

What happened yesterday (3 Feb 2011) was that the master pool completely ran out of spare numbers.

IANA no longer has any spare numbers to hand out to the five groups it serves.

That doesn't mean there aren't any spare numbers, but rather that any spare numbers are now in the hands of the five regional groups and the smaller groups below them.

The number of spare numbers is declining. Fundamentally, there was no "step" reduction yesterday (3 Feb 2011) in the number of spare numbers available, so in theory it is not really news, but the fact that the global authority IANA no longer has any spare to dish out is considered by many to be a significant milestone or marker in the decline of the Internet addressing system.

Over time, the shortage of spare numbers will hamper the setting-up of new connections.

This issue has not gone unanticipated. By way of of a solution, in 1998, the boffins came up with a new way of operating the Internet called IPv6, which stands for the Internet Protocol version 6. (By way of background, the current way of operating the Internet is called IPv4.)

Amongst other benefits, IPv6 uses a much larger range of numbers to assign unique numbers to each connection. Whereas IPv4 has some 3.5 billion available numbers to assign to connections, IPv6 initially has sufficient space for about 2 billion billion connections (for geeks: I am assuming the first nybble is 2 or 3, and every connection is assigned a /64).

Unfortunately, we can't just switch on IPv6 and everything's peachy again. For IPv6 to work, the computers talking to each other must both talk IPv6, and the intervening bits of Internet must also be compatible with IPv6.

Fortunately IPv6 and IPv4 can happily coexist on computers, and on the Internet in between them. Fortunately again, most of the stuff you usually use like web browsing and e-mail has already been upgraded to be compatible with IPv6 and will automatically use IPv4 or IPv6 depending on what's available. So for the ordinary person, there should not be much in the way of a noticeable difference.

So many people expect that the way forward will be for the existing IPv4 operations to move to combined IPv4 and IPv6 operations. Eventually we should get to a tipping point where more-or-less everything works fine with IPv6 and we can start dropping the old IPv4 system.

The problem is that there is some resistance amongst ISP to adopting IPv6 alongside IPv4. It seems that most ISPs seem to be waiting until there is a "brick wall" problem in front of their nose, at which point they will start running round like headless chickens trying to fix things.

Now, IPv6 is by no means a new technology. It has been live in many places for many years. The problem is that it will take time for people new to the subject to get their knowledge up to speed, systems to be upgraded, problems to shake out etc. and this will take months to years. If ISPs wait until the last minute, then it isn't going to work.

So there are various people trying to make noise, raise awareness etc.

We shall see.