OpenOffice really is way too clever for it’s own good…

It’s latest massive fail in the “I know what you want better than you do” department is to decide that just because I already have an instance of OpenOffice running on my desktop what I really want when I type oocalc foo.ods is for it to open the document using the existing instance and, more problematically, on the same X display.

The only problem with which is that I’m now on my laptop and want this spreadsheet to appear there where I can actually edit it!

For Pete’s sake people - either launch it in a new process when the X display is different or teach it to support multiple X displays with different documents displayed on different X displays from the single process!

At the very least could you please do what Firefox does and provide a switch to force a new process to be started…

For a number of years now I have used my old desktop computers to act as firewalls for my home network - when my desktop is upgraded the old firewall is freecycled and the old desktop becomes the new firewall.

A powerful desktop computer in a large tower case has a number of disadvantages however, both in terms of it’s physical size and the amount of power it needs to run on a 24/7 basis. So I have been meaning for some time to replace my firewall with a small, purpose built, low power system.

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Yesterday, as mentioned in my previous post, I (eventually) sent BT a message via their web site asking them to stop making marketing calls to me.

Today, rather than just replying by email to say they would stop, they decided to phone me up. Not once. Not twice. No, they phoned me THREE times. Twice to my landline, both of which were silent calls with nobody on the other end once I answered and then to my mobile.

Why, when I’m complaining about them phoning me up would they be so insane as to think that I would welcome another high priority interrupt (in the form of a phone call) when a simple email that I could read at my leisure would suffice?

Answers please, on a postcard, to 81 Newgate Street, London…

PS If you want to block such calls yourself then 0800 0285085 is the number to redirect to the screaming monkeys on your asterisk servers…

So I get an annoying telesales call from some (for once reasonably comprehensible) guy in India on behalf of our dearly beloved national telco trying, somewhat bizarrely, to offer me a Visa card. After explaining that I prefer to obtain financial services from financial institutions and to stick to purchasing telephone service from a telco I hang up and go looking for a way to tell BT to cease and desist with this nonsense.

You see although my phones are all registered with the statutory anti-telesales list, the Telephone Preference Service, BT are still allowed to call me because they have an “existing customer relationship” with me. At least until I explicitly tell them not to by invoking the snappily titled Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.

So I start by logging into my account on their web site and looking at the preferences, where there is a helpful option to control whether I “Would like to be kept up-to-date with BT special offers and innovations by email?”. Unfortunately there is no equivalent option for phone calls…

Next stop is the “Contact Us” link which leads to a long menu of reasons why I might want to contact them, none of which really apply in this case. Unfortunately there is no “none of the above” or “other” type option for miscellaneous enquiries.

Even the “Complaints” section of “Contact Us” has a carefully selected list of narrow categories in which you might wish to complain with no general way to make a complaint, or even to make a meta-complaint about an inability to complain.

Needless to say, when I do find a way to complain both barrels will be being discharged in view of the fact that they’ve managed to make complaining so hard…

UPDATE: Having re-read the PEC regulations I now believe that in fact the “existing customer relationship” clause does not apply to phone calls (it does apply to email) so BT were in fact breaching regulation 21(1)(b) with their phone call.

So to continue where my previous post left off, on Monday morning I signed up for my free trial with LOVEFiLM and added some films to my queue (actually I just copied over my BlockBuster queue) and sat back and waited for something to be allocated and sent out.

At the end of the working day I was still waiting, and starting to think that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea when, at about 7pm, the LOVEFiLM web site was replaced by a maintenance message. Six hours later when I went to bed it was still there and I was definitely starting to think this may have been a bad idea.

Tuesday morning came round, and the web site was back and, a few hours later, some films got allocated so I sat back and waited for them to change to dispatched. Once again the end of the day came and there was no sign of any further change.

Wednesday morning arrived and I was already resigned to having to wait until at least Thursday to receive anything when I noticed that, mid-morning, a dispatch date had appeared. Not paying any attention to the detail I assumed they had just been dispatched and would probably arrive the next day.

The pleasant surprise was to get home and find them on the mat - when I looked the dispatch date was in fact Tuesday, but it didn’t get shown on my account until Wednesday morning.

So far then LOVEFiLM seems to be teetering on the edge - not obviously excellent but not obviously crap either. Time will not doubt tell.

So for about the last eighteen months I’ve been using BlockBuster’s DVD by post service and, aside from them never paying my QuidCo cashback, things have generally been working fine.

Lately however they have started to annoy me - things at the top of my list for months on end with no sign of them being sent out, ignoring requests to send out more envelopes, a web site that frequently refuses to adjust priorities or delete items from the queue for hours on end and so on.

The final straw was when I tried to report a faulty disk (which gets a replacement sent out immediately instead of them waiting for the disk to come back) and was told I had reported too many faulty disks in the last 30 days. That might have been okay except that it was 56 days since I had last reported a fault disk!

To add insult to injury they ignored my email reporting this apparent bug in their web site.

So I started looking at other options and found that LOVEFiLM charge the same price (or less if you pay for several months at a time) and seem to have a rather better web site.

So I decided it was time to try the competition and see if they could do better than BlockBuster

It seems Hasbro had a brilliant idea - launch a free online version of Monopoly™. So they got Tribal DDB to build it for them and engaged on a media blitz promoting MONOPOLY City Streets everywhere they could. Then they went live… I suspect they fairly quickly wished they had done things in a slightly different order because they quickly discovered they had generated rather more demand than they could handle.

The comments on their blog posts rather beautifully demonstrate just how quickly you can trash a carefully built brand by failing to anticipate and prepare for the load generated by your own marketing antics. It really is a brilliant exhibition of just how EPIC a FAIL can be.

This was all of interest to me because they are apparently making use of OpenStreetMap data in some way - exactly how is not entirely clear because nobody can get in to find out!

In order to register for the ACCU Autumn Conference (Security; Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow) which is being held at Bletchley Park on 7th November I needed to create an account on the Bletchley Park web site.

Given the association of Bletchley Park with the history of both computers and security issues, and the subject of the conference, it was with some astonishment that I discovered that the first thing the web site did after I registered was to email me a plain text copy of my chosen password… Security Fail!

Despite that I would of course encourage people to come to the conference - it has a great speaker line-up and will benefit a very good cause.

Apparently all Tyan AST2050 remote management cards have the same ethernet address (00:10:20:3d:40:5f). Certainly the ones supplied in OpenStreetMap’s two new servers, yevaud and errol, had the same address. Which means trying to talk to both from the same machine led to constant fights in the ARP table over which IP address should be mapped to that ethernet address.

To add insult to injury, attempts to change the ethernet address with ipmitool don’t seem to be working, even after a cold reset of the BMC card.

Ed Parsons provides an interesting example of just how crazy the world UK of geodata can be - when a digital copy (with essentially zero marginal cost) of an Ordnance Survey map costs more than twice the equivalent paper map, with all it’s associated costs of production and distribution, something is very, very wrong somewhere.

They probably think they’re going to rake it in - lower costs + higher price = more profit, right? Well except for this small piece of economic theory called supply and demand guys - if your higher price kills the demand then you won’t sell any and high profit x low sales may well be less than low profit x high sales.