Solving the World's problems with common sense and a flamethrower.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

New Site Motto

OK, so I've come up with a new motto for the site/blog:

humanus est causa , non apparatus

Translation is left as an exercise for the reader. Now all I need to to is design myself a funky coat of arms - which will be fun to do!

For those who speak Latin - if it's grammatically/syntactically incorrect, I used an online Latin translation so don't know how accurate it was in picking up tenses and context. So tough - I like it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dumbshield Redux

Came in this morning to the email below:

From: Orrible DBA (the same one as yesterday)
Sent: 15 October 2007 14:57
To: IT
Subject: RE: Your call is now resolved

Please can you reset password for $secondaryVPNaccount as this has also been reset somehow.
(Italics are mine)


Orrible DBA
Oracle Conslutant

Er, right. A vitriolic VPN with a personal grudge against you decided to reset both the passwords for your account.

There's no way it could be that you, oh, I don't know - FORGOT YOUR PASSWORD!

My VPNs are fine, thank you very much. Go blame something more likely.

Sheesh - not even 0800 and my Dumbshield levels are already falling.

< clickety *change password to "donotforgetmeagain" and remove password change facility* click >

That should get the message across!

Monday, October 15, 2007

In Praise of the Dumbshield

Boxers and rugby players - in fact, anyone taking part in an active pursuit - wears a gumshield to protect their teeth.

Those of us in the IT Support business, though, have no need to protect our pearly gnashers. Rather, it's our poor battered brain cells that suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous lusers.

So - I'm sure you can agree that we all wear our very own mental Dumbshield.

As we work our way through the day's idiocies, our Dumbshield effortlessly counteracts the stupidity of those with which we wrestle. It is the Dumbshield that insulates us against the excesses of users and inures us to their cretinous witterings.

Were it not for our Dumbshields - well, let's just say that there'd be a waiting list for water towers. And rifles.

So it was unfortunate today that my Dumbshield was almost defeated - by a series of heinous attacks not by the Generally Clueless, from whom I expect nothing more, but by those in our own rarefied profession.

Part One - On the difference between inside and out
So our largest client does a great deal of work for a Major Computer Company. To protect the guilty, I will call them Halfwit Packrats. In order to facilitate the work done for Halfwit Packrats, $CLIENT has a VPN. Supplied by Halfwit Packrats, and 'supported' by them too.

Anyhoo - overnight Halfwit Packrats update the VPN client. Without telling $CLIENT, who suddenly discover a marked inability to connect to the VPN. Call us. We troubleshoot, and I end up talking to a Helldesk Drone from Sector 7G (VPNs) of Halfwit Packrats.

  • Me: "Have you changed the VPN gateway?"
  • HD: "Yes, it's".
  • Me: < fx="clickety-click">"No, it isn't"
  • HD: "You also need to add this IP to your outbound ACL -"
  • Me: *sigh* "Nope - that's an internal address."
  • HD: "Add this one too! blah.blah.blah.blah"
  • Me: < whimper > "So you've gone from one gateway to three - two of which are internal, all of which are to be used simultaneously? Why - and how?"
  • HD: "Well if you want to access the Halfwit Packrats VPN, you'll actually need to open the following address range - outbound"
  • HD: "Durrrr...well you need to permit that address range on the firewall"
  • Me: "OK, pretend I have no Clue and that you understand what you just said - then explain to me how my lusers connect to every single internal address on your network, including how doing that would, in any way, relate the the concept of Virtual Private Network. Oh, and don't forget to add in how they would actually reach your INTERNAL addresses across the Internet."
  • HD: "Oh, they can reach them easily through the VPN Concentrator".
I could almost hear his personal lightbulb come on as he spoke.
  • Me: < mode="sweetness & light"> "Ooo, a VPN Concentrator! You don't think I might have the address of it, do you?"
  • HD: "It's blah.blah.blah.blah".
One < fiddle > in the ACL later, and LO, the VPN did arise again, and packets did move on the face of the ethernets.

Dumbshield Status: 60%

Anyway, I cheered myself up by resolving a couple of easy calls and slurping vast vats of coffee - and just as my mood was brightening, An Email hit my Inbox.

Part Two - On Fault Reporting
This was a good email. This email came from our support colleagues in Eastern Europe, who are supposed to be our opposite numbers in both role and skillset.
The Email Said Thusly:

"We are having problems connecting to $DATACENTRE. Please resolve"

Well, let's see, you Euro-Plonker.

"Can't connect to $foo" is most assuredly NOT a valid fault report. I'd expect that sort of muppetry from a Common-or-Garden Luser, but another Helldesk? Where's the screenshot of the error message? A traceroute? Basic stuff, chaps. Perhaps the mental torture of drafting a 9-word fucking email forced a temporary neural shutdown. Or perhaps you're just cretins. I remain undecided.

One brief email ensues, explaining that the (non-specific) outage was caused by a transient network error, now resolved. Of course. Call closed.

Dumbshield Status: 30% - Warning, Dumbshield Levels low, Luser penetration possible

More coffee ensues, and I while a few happy minutes trying to work out why $SENIOR_PERSON had a spam hit her Inbox suggesting that she might like ejaculate on her face. Then - the grand finale.

Part 3 - On the Difference between My Problem and Your Screwup
Another email hits - this time from one of our Oracle DBAs - again, someone we could reasonably expect to have at least a basic degree of Clue.

My faith in humanity - or at least, Orrible DBAs - takes another beating as I read the HTML dribble in front of me:

"The VPN is broken. I can't connect."

Oh, my VPN is broken, is it? Is it really? Then what, precisely < checks > in the name of ARSE am I connected to?

A few more < clickety-clicks > and I start to wonder.....

...Reset user password. Wander over to Orrible DBA's desk.

  • Me: "Would you try logging in with this new password?"
  • ODBA: "Well that won't work, the VPN's broken"
  • Me: "Humour me - please"
  • ODBA: "OK then" < fx="clickety">
  • ODBA: "Hey, it works! You fixed the VPN!"

< gibber > Shield Down! Shield Down! Dumbshield has Failed!

So I'm slowly bouncing back now - but I need to get a new Dumbshield.

Lusers, lusers everywhere, even where you'd expect Clue. My cynicism meter needs recalibration.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Today I have been mostly....

...messing about with video compression.

I do like my days off - I can spend a whole day geeking out, using my machines to do stuff I've been meaning to do (interspersed with household chores, of course - got to keep the Darling G happy).

Tonight is the third week of my photography course, which I'm really looking forward to. It'll be a shame when it ends next week.

Didn't manage Judo last night. I was feeling too tired and groggy, and it's really not a good idea to do an intense contact sport unless feeling 100%. Unless you like Casualty wards, that is.

I am still suspenseful.

Gerry's away again tonight - Yorkshire last night, and Worcestershire tonight. Even though I'm used to her being away - and sometimes extended absences - I still miss her terribly. I never sleep well when she's not there, which made last nights' bout of insomnia even worse.

I finally dozed off at about 0200, having actually gone to bed at 2100. Being woken by $mother-in-law at 2200 was, as it happens, not helpful.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Insomnia... a Bitch.

I spend all day feeling worn out and knackered, fall asleep at quarter to nine...and am woken at 2145 by $mother-in-law.

Now I can't get back to sleep.

Insomnia is a Bitch.

In suspense....

I am. . . suspenseful.

I can't say more than that.

There are things which might be occurring, possibilities which may become probabilities, chances which have the outside potential to be certainties.

Cryptic I know, but I need to be cryptic as these things are for me and me alone.

As these things change state, perhaps I can write about them and how they makeme feel.

More to follow. . . . ?

WTF. I mean, seriously, WTF???

I'm frequently accused of 'ranting' when it comes to the inequities of our current Government.

But yesterday's Pre-Budget Report - and the BBC's coverage of same - can lead me to only one question:


I know that we are living in a 'fake' democracy. I know that our politicians view us as farm animals, milked of our resources and kept in an information-free pasture.

But come on, Mr Darling. Do you seriously, seriously believe that anyone with an IQ above room temperature couldn't see straight through the poorly spun, plagiaristic BOLLOCKS you spouted in the Commons?

It's sad enough that you think you can get away with it. Even sadder that Auntie Beeb make it sound like you're not talking arrant tosh.

Given that you are clearly unable to do basic mathematics - or to understand the essential difference between 'new policy' and 'rehashed announcement in a desperate and ultimately failed bid to regain the political initiative', perhaps you might like to consider the information below:

You did not Increase the Inheritance Tax threshold
I'm sorry to break it to you, Darling, but you didn't. You see, the current limit is £300k. Per person. You announced, in the Commons, that the limit would be 'increased' to £600k. Per couple.

Basic Arithmetic 101: 300 + 300 = 600

Google has a calculator function if you are that unable to fucking add up.

So just to clarify - you took something that was already in place and which could already be achieved with a simple legal document - and made it sound like you were doing something more.

And what's this - taxing non-domiciles? Hang on, this sounds familiar! Would that be because it's the SAME policy announced by George Osborne at the Tory Party Conference?

So - what we see here is a strategic masterstroke, therefore, by Gordon Brown.

Make noises about an Election, make sure your minions are poking the right people - even Nick Robinson thought it was going to happen - and force your opponents to publicise their policies.

Then steal them, and say 'no, of course we're not going to have an election'.

Next, announce those fiscal policies as your own. For bonus points, and to show your complete contempt for the British people, announce these 'new' policies just 1 WEEK after your opponents went public with them.

We're all too stupid to notice, right?


Monday, October 08, 2007


Oh well. The QVC Presenter Search Final was won, in the end, by Craig.

Sam was tremendous and did her best, and we're proud of her - I doubt it's the last we'll see of Sam on our screens!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Shout Out to My Sis - Good Luck!

Those of you who follow my myriad ramblings on Twitter will know that Sunday is a Very Important Day.

This Sunday my sister - the lovely, gorgeous and exuberantly talented Sam - is in the Final of the QVC Presenter Search competition - an X-Factor stylee contest with a years' presenting Contract at stake for the lucky winner.

Sam has worked tirelessly since graduating University to get into presenting - from working with Aardman Animation, working as the Production Assistant on Bargain Hunt, presenting small, international programmes on cable - but this is a big chance.

From over 20,000 potential hopefuls, the field was thinned...and thinned...and thinned...until as of a few weeks ago, just 8 remained, and they had to endure 'trial by TV Vote' each week, along with the pointed comments of judges, to get to where we are now.

........We interrupt this program, as the author wishes to make some personal observations regarding Guest Judge Vanessa Feltz...
Vanessa, FOAD you fat, snide, cretinous, miserable excuse for a human. Please slink into the obscurity you so richly deserve.
................Thankyou, we now return you to our scheduled programming...

The Final.

So now it all comes down to this. 3 Contenders, 1 Show. 6pm Sunday, QVC.

We're all going to be there - all her friends and family, which is a big crowd - all wearing our 'Vote Super Sam' t-shirts and green afro wigs in her honour. Cheering, shouting and supporting her with all our hearts for her to achieve what she wants and deserves so much.

Please, if you can spare an hour, tune in and watch Sam on QVC Presenter Search, 6pm Sunday on the QVC Channel, and give her your support too.

Go Sam!!
Text 'VOTE SAM' to 80782 on Sunday Night!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

On the failings of the Human Memory in Politics

I believe in Conviction Politics, whatever colour your rosette. To this end, I've created a Pledge to that effect. Please Pledge your support by agreeing to turn out and Vote with your conscience at the next General Election. Thank you.

You know, for the longest time I've tried to avoid venting my opinions about the current political situation. Improvements in my life have meant that the rage, which previously drove me to comment on any and all political pronouncements or events, is no longer part of my life, and is not missed in the slightest.

All that aside, sometimes I'm still struck by the urge to write - when the news just gets too much, and Gerry can't handle me griping at the TV any more. And now, I'm filled with the desire to ask just one simple question:


I've been watching coverage of the Conferences over the last couple of weeks, and it appears that we're driving headlong toward a much-needed snap Election. Yet unbelievably, the general opinion is that the 'new' Prime Minister should be 'given a chance' and that 'things might change'.

I can only assume from this that the average British voter is so dulled, so inured to spin, lies and misleading statistics that they cannot see the facts for what they are.

For the record - Gordon Brown is not some new rescuer, parachuted in from nowhere to save British politics.

Gordon Brown was, for ten years, the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the very Government that has caused the problems we all suffer with now.

- It was this Labour Government which increased the Tax burden through rises in stealth taxation (99 tax rises between 1997 and 2006) - recommended in the Chancellor's Budgets. By Gordon Brown.

- It was this Labour Government which raided UK Pension funds by scrapping Dividend tax relief - recommended in the Chancellor's Budget. By Gordon Bown.

- It was this Labour Government that raised £22.5bn with the sale of 3G licenses, yet we now have a massive budget deficit of £7bn. And who was the Chancellor presiding over this mammoth wastage? Yep. Gordon Brown.

- Iraq and the WMD lies. The Cabinet voted (with notable exceptions) for military action in Iraq, and to stand by the 'Dodgy Dossier'. Who was the second-most senior member of the Cabinet? Any guesses? Anyone? Well done. Gordon again.

Then - as if that lot isn't enough, look at the policy 'promises':

Violent crime is up. Gun crime has risen fourfold since 1998. Antisocial behaviour complaints have risen massively. Oh, and we've run out of prison places.

Incidence of MRSA infections in UK hospitals has risen 31.5% since 1998. The NHS has been suffering a budget crisis since 2006. There's a huge problem with NHS dentistry, and problems with the GP service both during working hours and out-of-hours despite the much-vaunted - and wrong - new GP Contracts.

So despite ten years of increased taxation and ever-better promises, we are in fact worse off and worse served than we were in 1997.

Yet Labour still scream "remember the Tories! Remember how bad it was!". And, dutifully, the general populace believes them.

Yes, the Tories made mistakes in their 18 years. But as I recall, the last Labour administration nearly destroyed the country - anyone care to recall the Winter of Discontent? Or what the higher rate of income tax was? (83% - yes, 83%). Or, for that matter, what the BASIC rate of Income Tax was prior to 1979? (33%).

The other commonly-raised spin is that the Tories were the party of 'sleaze'. Yeah, right. Remember how Bliar said that his New Labour Government would be 'whiter than white'?

Are we supposed, therefore, to ignore David Blunkett? There's 2 incidences of sleaze right there. Or Peter Mandelson? Another two. Or Keith Vaz. Or Tessa Jowell and the mystery mortgage. And let's not forget the sitting Prime Minister being interviewed by Police in connection with 'Cash-For-Peerages'.

You may think, after seeing all that, that I'm going to try and persuade you to vote Conservative. But I'm not. Neither am I going attempt to sway you to Lib-Dem, Plaid Cymru, SNP or even Monster Raving Looney.

It's not my job to persuade people how to vote. A vote is a precious thing, and something we're lucky to have.

What I want to do, more than anything else, is persuade you to THINK.

Please, don't be swayed by biased reporting (you'll see that the links above aren't just from right-wing publications, there are independent and left-wing sources in there too). Don't be led by spin, or promises from any side.

Read. Get your political information from multiple sources. Make your mind up with the care and consideration suffrage deserves.

But please, please PLEASE - Use your MEMORY. Just because there's a new face at the helm, don't believe it's a new start, especially when that 'new face' has been a senior member of Cabinet for the last decade.

Whoever leads this Government today, they need to answer for the actions and errors of the last 10 years.

Thanks for reading.