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* Posts by Christopher Woods

44 posts • joined 10 Jul 2006

Who wants T-Mobile UK?

Christopher Woods
Thumb Down

...Ah. :(

This would probably explain the complete lack of new HTC handsets released in a timely manner (Voda already has the Touch Pro 2, T-Mobile will probably never have it at this rate).

This is a real shame for TMUK, and moreso for all their loyal contract customers. I really like them as a network, plus I got a very tasty renewal deal too which locked in my custom for another 18 months.

I, like I suspect many other fellow geeks, jumped on their WnW services soon after it came out and I've been a happy TM customer ever since. I don't mind being sold to another network, but the one caveat of that is that I get to keep a package identical to what I have at the moment. Will that happen for all us (currently) happy customers? I somehow doubt it.

Damnit, why do I have to begin shopping around yet again for a decent mobile deal! And I do NOT want to have to go back to O2, I left them in the first place because they were just utterly pisspoor!

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Sky dishes up iPlayer-style service for Xbox 360

Christopher Woods
Stop

Ugh... And they want us to pay for this?

When will Sky realise that they need to do this kind of thing just to keep up, never mind charge extra for it? Some of the more savvy companies are realising that they need to continually reengage with their customers to make sure they keep on handing over their cash... This should be considered as a promotional tool or brand enhancement, not an 'optional extra' like leather trim or alloys on a car. Really, for the price you have to pay for a Multiroom subscription, this should really be a free value added service - not come with its own separate price tag just to use it.

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T-Mobile getting out of blighty?

Christopher Woods
Paris Hilton

Oh fer chrissakes

I've been a TMUK customer for going on three years now - got an excellent renewal deal, still got my original handset (Vario 2). I've had problems in the past and they've ALWAYS gone above and beyond to solve the problem. The fact their CS is UK based is also excellent.

All this has secured my continued custom with them and to be honest, I'd probably be happy to have two contracts with them if I ever needed a second phone again.

Compared to O2 and H3G, with whom I've also had contracts, TMUK wipe the floor with them in just about all areas. If they're 'borged' (I like that verb!) by another telco I will get mad as hell if they drastically change anything related to tariffs or PARTICULARLY data tariffs.

I agree with the comment about the number of TM stores in Brum centre... There's just no need. The one on Corporation Street is the one I go into; I think the locals and people who know the score with the Bullring go into that one ;) and it's right next to the bus stops! Handy. I can understand the Bullring store (you'd have to be an idiot not to have a store in there, all the other telcos do) but two are definitely enough.

Don't go TM :( Maybe you should stop spending so much money on virals and reinvest into your network?

Paris, because even she knows a good bundle when she sees one

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Microsoft extends Red-Ring-of-Death cover to fresh Xbox fault

Christopher Woods
Stop

Oh please, get off the bandwagon, it's already overflowing

Not every anti-Microsoft geek hates the XBox... I'm a pragmatist: I don't agree with MS' corporate and OS user policies. They overprice their software and it's just not good enough. However, their XBox teams have got it right, and because they're largely left to be the masters of their own kingdom they're like Microsoft hardware - there's an unwavering fanbase and the gear is more often than not pretty darn good.

We have a 360 in our house. Not the Elite, just the regular one with a 60Gb drive. It's used for five/six hours every day at least, seven days a week. Set up on top of a PS2 (which also still gets used!) and it's not gone wrong, ever.

We also use it to play TV shows, stream media over uPnP etc. I know the PS3 can do all this, but the XBox is 1) cheaper, 2) XBL 'just works' (even I paid £30 for a gold account, and it's not even my XBox!) and their online content is really nice. Plus, they've had just enough 'coups' in terms of first-to-XBox releases to retain their market share.

RRoD would piss me off horrendously, but it's not happened to our box yet. And in the meantime, it just does what you want it to with no mess, no fuss. It Just Works. If you buy a PS3, it's a serious investment. A 360 is almost a throwaway investment these days, and that adds to its appeal. Who gives a monkeys if it breaks, you can just get another one free from MS. Plus their online community has a sorta 'feel' to it which the PS3 hasn't really held a candle to... It's a nice gizmo/gadget, but to be honest I'd feel a bit of buyer's remorse if I'd bought one. It'd probably just sit idle or crunching Genes@Home or SETI stuff most of the time, and my PC can already do that.

And @ Greg - the 360 isn't a shoddily made machine. The first gens were a bit crap, just like pretty much any console. But don't you avoid first gens of any hardware to avoid the bugs? Any sensible geek does. My N64 was an absolute class console back in t' day, but I had no end of problems with it. (blowing on cart contacts anybody?)

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'Mad as hell' news agency declares war on light-fingered sites

Christopher Woods
Paris Hilton

Typoman strikes again...

... But I'll get to that in a minute.

This is a storm in a teacup, and it'll all blow over pretty soon once the AP's got it out of their system. Nothing's going to change in the long run, they can't stop the millions of blogs' copypasta - I have no qualms about quoting chunks or paragraphs from press releases or news articles if it helps convey the meaning, whilst also linking to the full report on their web site (so my readers can clickthrough to read the full article if they so desire).

To me, that equates to a friend telling me about some news in summary format, then telling me I can go pick up a copy of the Grauniad to read the full investigation. What's changed? Nothing, except the medium in which this summary information is conveyed.

AP is smoking something potent if they think they can ever 'win' this 'war'.

Also, The Drudge Retort [sic]... What's the deal with all the spelling mistakes on El Reg recently? Have your F7 keys broken or something? (Hint: it's in Tools -> Spellcheck if you can't find its menu entry)

I might go and see if drudgeretort.com is registered or not... maybe I could sell it to some organisation or celebrity which hates Drudge and wants to post responses to some of his articles, and make TENS of pounds. Epic winnings.

Paris, because even she knows the value of gd splin, grama & pnctuatn when she's a-typing on her free Sidekick

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Elgato Turbo.264 HD hi-def H.264 encoder

Christopher Woods
Paris Hilton

Christ on a bike

Even with the naff visual quality it's obvious with an A/B comparison that this device sacrifices PQ for the sake of raw speed.

Urgh. x264 + custom matrices does the job very nicely, and keeps all the visual quality. There's a reason all the HD rlsgroups don't use these dongles (instead asking for cappers with quadcore machines!)

Paris, because she goes like the clappers with a dongle in her

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Spies hacked US electrical grid, says WSJ

Christopher Woods
Paris Hilton

Fact or fiction?

I find it somewhat amusing that not three months ago, 24 had this as an integral part of one of their story arcs. Infiltration of a chemical refinery's systems to cause an explosion, hacking in via computer (using a pinched security device which gave the baddies unlimited access to just about every Government system connected to the intertubes).

Is this REALLY going to happen in real life? Surely people in charge of security at key facilities are going to be even more paranoid about their network security than we are of uk.gov. (If not, they kinda deserve to be killed in a massive meltdown for their shortsightedness...)

Paris, because she's had a few people own her box

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PRS v YouTube: No UK vids, but royalty row runs and runs

Christopher Woods
Flame

Oh for crying out loud

Once again, the industry goes toe to toe with the Foe du jour. this won't bring about any real positive change, it'll just cause yet more hassle for people who already regard all the content on places like YouTube as free (even if the rightsholders want compensation).

I'd wager that the PRS won't win this one; why can't they just accept this? Getting less licence money than you were asking for is still better than getting nothing whatsoever.

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BT price rises go down well

Christopher Woods
Coat

Shop around...

I have my line rental with the Post Office - their HomePhone package is still £10.95 a month, they removed the £1pcm DD discount when they changed their tariffs in August last year.

However, this was a good thing - at the same time, they introduced inclusive weekend calls to Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Canary Islands, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and US landline and mobiles. (In the daytime and evenings calls are 5ppm).

And yes, I did have the letter on my desk to copy off :P

The most interesting thing they did was also introduce free weekend calls to UK mobile numbers - so as well as the free evenings and weekends to UK 01/02/03 numbers, you can call mobiles for owt now too :) As a consequence though they did up their connection charge to 6p per call from 3p per call, and you have to pay something like £1.75 per month for Caller ID.

The thing is, we only use our landline for the odd call - it's primarily there for the Be* ADSL2+ connection. Overall, we make a big saving over paying our line rental to BT Retail (and being tied into at least a 12 month contract too).

Oh, and even better - the Post Office's contract period is 15 days, so if they do massively hike their prices, we aren't tied into the remainder of a contract for months and months.

This is the way all telephony companies should operate imo! I will definitely be sticking with the PO for my line rental for the foreseeable future (or until either good FTTH is rolled out in the UK or hell opens its first ice rink, whichever comes first ;)

Sorry if I sound like an evangelist, but if you're after a bargain going with a third party company for your line rental (which usually provided over Openreach copper anyway, like ours is) then shopping around and generally having a bit of nouse pays off!

Mine's the one with cheaper bills in the inside pocket

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Seagate promises second fault fix in 24 hours

Christopher Woods
Thumb Up

Reminds me of the Heart song...

"And if the real thing don't do the trick

You'd better make up something quick

You gonna burn burn burn burn it to the wick

Oooo, barracuda?"

In the meantime, I'll still buy Seagate drives (again) for my next rig. They're the only drives I've used to date that don't either get hot enough to fry bacon and eggs on (Western Digital), or fail spectacularly all at once when there's the slightest hint of a power fluctuation (Maxtor).

That said, the 2.5" 250Gb WD SATA drive I have in my laptop (from ebuyer) was an absolute steal when I bought it - about half the price of any other comparatively sized drive - and it's not gone wrong yet. (touch wood)

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Gov stumps £4.3m bee health funding

Christopher Woods
Happy

A good start

A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to Farming Today on R4, one very early Tuesday morning.

The plight of British bees in the UK was explained in the programme - and it's far more severe than I ever realised it was. Bees are either succumbing to a disease which infects more than 3/4 of all UK hives (carried by little bugs that get into the hives), or they're just being killed off by the European and American bees. Overall, the number of pollinating bees in the UK has been decreasing year on year for quite some time now.

There was discussion in that issue of Darling being approached to provide funding for research into this to see if the trend can be reversed - I hope it can, and I'm more than happy for taxpayers' money to be put into this rather than something like a harebrained nationalised IT scheme for the NHS.

Oh wait, what?

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OGC cracks one off on with new logo

Christopher Woods

Haha

It looks like inspiration for this was derived from a mixture of the UGG shoe company logo and a couple of other high street brand names... Nice.

Can someone tell me where I apply to become a designer for uk.gov agencies? Sounds like there's loads of taxpayers' money splashing about for us plebs to earn back!

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MobileMe wreaks wipey revenge on freetards

Christopher Woods
Paris Hilton

To all iPhone users suffering from this

Caveat emptor, idiots. Learn to use your handset properly.

Paris, because even she'd read the small print.

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Microsoft sued in China for black screen of death

Christopher Woods
Coat

"...might not realise they had bought illegal copies of its products..."

... But I've always been under the impression I got my illegal copies of the Vole's products for free.

Mine's the one with the 8-in-1 DVD-R in the left pocket

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$236m judgment lands on mom and pop spam shop

Christopher Woods
Coat

There might be other ways to pay this fine...

Say a finger is worth approx. $29.5 million... That works out quite nicely. "Which would you like to keep sir, your ring fingers or your thumbs?"

Mine's the one with the blunt hacksaw in it

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Virginia de-convicts AOL junk mailer Jeremy Jaynes

Christopher Woods
IT Angle

Virginia Supreme Court judiciary = idiots

...Unfuckingbelievable. Are we swimming amongst a sea of fools and idiots? Please tell me that there are at least a handful of judges who understand these newfangled intercomputerwebthingummies.

The article has intimated the sheer stupidity of this whole thing a few times, but hasn't gone so far as to explicitly state this - but I'll do the legwork for them.

Their argument for overturning the ruling is so full of holes it's laughable.

"The court unanimously agreed Virginia's anti-spam law is "unconstitutionally overbroad" because it bans all unsolicited bulk email with false or misleading originating addresses, both commercial and noncommercial."

So what's the problem? It's UNsolicited - and it's technologically unfeasible to have the email equivalent of a Do Not Call list unless you want to turn yourself into the internet equivalent of a Xenophobe (accepting no email at all except for from a close circle of friends, and that's not a sacrifice you should have to make just to avoid spam).

"Justice Steven Agee wrote in today's ruling that the state law violates "the right to engage in anonymous speech, particularly anonymous political or religious speech" protected by the First Amendment.

Agee added that "were the Federalist Papers just being published today via e-mail, that transmission by Publius would violate the statute."

"Publius" was used as a pseudonym in 1787 and 1788 by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay to argue for ratification of the US Constitution."

As the article intimates, for political comment this is fair enough - there was nothing like email in the 1800s. If someone had gone round posting unwanted "prolonged enlargement of the phallus" letters to the gentry of the land, they would have been promptly lynched (and maybe we need to revisit that concept).

Are they stuck in the 1800s themselves? Do they not *GET* the entire concept of email? Fortunately Bob McDonell seems to have an ounce of a clue, and let's hope that he can convey the bleeding obvious to an Appeals court.

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Phone phishers hop on filesharing legal threats bandwagon

Christopher Woods
Thumb Up

@ "Amazed", Anonymous Coward

UKFSN are one of a group of small businesses who resell Entanet's ADSL packages as part of their portfolio (I do so also on a small scale) - Entanet's ADSL service runs on a basis of peak-time and off-peak traffic allowances, and they are very reasonably priced. There's a small markup (of course, each provider might charge their own amounts anyway, but that's up to them) but their truly unlimited packages pretty accurately reflect the actual potential cost of 'unlimited', constant usage through a 28 day period - if that's what it costs the carrier, then why shouldn't they charge the actual amount?

Businesses looking for quality broadband with guaranteed unlimited service are likely to sign up for those kinds of packages anyway. Personally I prefer services like Zen's (although I have ADSL2+ at my gaff anyway!)

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Holiday text messages to cost less than 9p

Christopher Woods
Unhappy

@ SMS vs MMS Anonymous Coward

When I was speaking to T-Mobile about this, I was told it was due to the way in which the MMS fees have been capped - an EU Directive, so they have to charge that amount (as do all other providers EU-wide) - I'm guessing it was due to the wording of the Directive which meant they had to include the cost in tariffs, whereas with SMSes they still charge on top.

Although the guy confirmed that the data usage involved is free also, even when roaming, I still have a feeling you're charged for data - but when it's such a miniscule amount (literally 1kb per MMS) it's hardly not worth even bothering about.

I also exclusively send MMSes when roaming :)

I wish UK providers would charge loads more for calls and texts when roaming, but include it in allowances! (so for example, a call which would cost 20p/min in the UK would actually cost 80p/min when roaming, but it still came out of your inclusive allowance) - the provider who implemented this would quickly become THE most popular telco in the UK, especially for business users. Yet they all seem to be waiting for someone else to give it a go first...

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Best Buy removes craplets for $30

Christopher Woods
Thumb Up

Waaaaiiiiiit a minute...

If the stores in the US are doing this, maybe PC World in the UK will start doing this soon - and if they do:

1) undercut by £5

2) advertise in local paper

3) ...

4) profit!

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Cloned US ATM cards: Can they fool Brit self-service checkouts?

Christopher Woods

The whole system is a fallacy

I used to remember going on holiday with parents - to nowhere far, just France... Now, when the banks first started issuing cards with chips in to UK customers, my Dad had a couple of them, one which was his primary credit card. The French adopted their version of C&P years before we did (they had those handheld readers for bars and restaurants years before we did, too). You'd think the UK cards' chips would've worked, right?

Nope.

This was always a source of much consternation for both us and the people on the other side of the desk, putting the card in ' *bleep* unable to read chip, try again... *bleep*.... try again.. *bleepbleep*, and have to swipe in the end. We were even accused of having a fake card once, until the person's manager pointed out to her that it was a UK card and 'they do this all the time'. In fact, when I (or my parents) go to France now, the machines *still* have to fallback to swipe and sign - and the machines' mag readers hardly ever get used, so it's a bloody mission trying to get the thing to even read the magstrip.

Unless the countries of the EU make a concerted effort to align their systems in some vague shape or form, the whole C&P scheme will have been an utter waste of time (and it was never that great to begin with, echoing the sentiments of other commenters here, particularly Greem).

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Actors paid to queue for Poland's iPhone launch

Christopher Woods
Coat

Re: Apple Has Become PATHETIC. Should Have Used Russians .....

In Soviet Russia, phone company pays you to get iPhone!

Mine's the one with the chipped, scuffed - but still superior - HTC Hermes in the left pocket

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Virgin Media ads throttled by peak time bandwidth squeeze

Christopher Woods
Coat

@ Martin Nicholls...

I've heard from people living in some London areas (who are currently VM customers, too) that BT are beginning to conduct quiet trials of FTTH tech with a view to future rollout. Don't know any more info, was told this by someone who also uses the vm discussion newsgroups... But evidently, even with the DOCSIS 3 rollout, VM will soon be left in the dust with an overcontended, underperforming network if FTTH becomes a viable reality.

Personally, we're making the move away from cable back to Be* (who we were with for a year before we signed up for XL cable in 2007) - and I can't wait to hook my modem up and finally get a decent quality Internet connection again. No enforced punishment for going over a certain threshold in an evening, just pure and simple internet how it should be!

Maybe VM need to go down Californee way, I hear they got some internets there they might be able to use

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T-Mobile not alone in spinning price hikes

Christopher Woods
Thumb Up

@ MrQ...

O2 actually stopped the inclusive 0870/0845 allowances a couple of years ago - I had a contract with them between 2005 and 2006, and I used 0870 dialout numbers to call my friend in Ireland. I left O2 because their service was shocking for other reasons - and Retentions made no attempt whatsoever to keep my custom even though I spent £30 a month with them and bought their flagship smartphone at the time.

O2 was the last - there are no providers in the UK who offer inclusive 08 minutes, and there haven't been since 2006/2007ish. However, I've started to use Eqo on my WM5 smartphone with T-Mobile - it functions in a similar manner to how the Skypephone establishes skypeout calls - it uses the 3G/GPRS connection to logon to the server and about 1kb of data to establish each call, it dials a London gateway and uses your inclusive tariff minutes - and you can call 0870 and 0845 numbers with it, as well as international numbers, mobile numbers, just about anything. Not _all_ numbers work though, some just don't work for reasons unknown and 09/premium numbers are specifically blocked. (I was having a lengthy discussion with them as to the merits of offering 0844 access via Eqo, and I hope I may have swayed them in favour of offering it).

...Put it like this, I currently have £14 of credit on my account (which just stays there until you use it), and it's already saved me probably £20 in call charges from T-Mobile in this month alone. The future, at least until true on-device VoIP clients with acceptable voice quality reach maturity, is pseudo VoIP :)

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Charter suspends NebuAd data-pimping experiment

Christopher Woods
Paris Hilton

Do these companies not listen to each other?

How could NebuAd think that, based on the kind of negative feedback Phorm has received in the UK (thanks to consumers, rather than government weighing in) that the climate would be any more favourable in the US? If anything, the States are arguably MORE litigious when it comes to matters of personal privacy and freedoms.

It amazes me that companies such as NebuAd, FrontPorch and Phorm even think there's a potential market to bring their 'services' to.

Paris because even not even she is stupid enough to back one of these companies!

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T-Mobile doubles 0870 call costs

Christopher Woods
Stop

@ Dan Bowtell...

... Why did you do that? Web & Walk is the key to dialing 0870 and 0845 out of your inclusive minutes.

Step 1: Sign up to EQO (or similar pseudo-VoIP service like Gizmo5)

Step 2: Install handset client (EQO offer Java midlets, a proper WinMo app, Symbian app etc...)

Step 3: use the bit of free credit you get when you sign up, or top up your account with a little more, and call nearly all 08xx numbers for VASTLY cheaper rates - 1 cent a minute from your EQO credit and the outgoing call to the service's voice gateway (a London number) is included in your geographic rates.

I've saved at LEAST £15 in the past two months which I would've otherwise have had to pay on top of my regular tariff cost, at the cost of almost nothing (I signed up and received £4 credit, and a little credit for a few friends I invited). I object to dialing any 08 number on my phone out of principle, but sometimes unfortunately it's unavoidable - and I'd rather ring an 08 number this way than call it directly.

The Web & Walk ensures that I don't pay for the 1kb of data the app uses to prepare the service's voice gateway to connect to the number I've specified when I dial in to it - it's really quite seamless. So, keep the Web & Walk (if you're going to stay with T-Mob!)

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HP begs AMD PC owners to put XP SP3 on ice

Christopher Woods
Paris Hilton

Pfft, I'm not surprised

I installed slipstreamed SP3 onto my laptop as a fresh install - and bam, as soon as I installed the latest ATi drivers from ATI.com (WHQL certified too) all my OpenType fonts stopped working (did something which somehow corrupted the Adobe OTF parser which Microsoft licenced way back when, and use in all versions of XP). Rolling back to the older graphics drivers made OpenType fonts work again.

Oh, and another version of the ATI drivers made my machine completely lock up after about a minute of uptime. Fortunately a rollback got me out of that, but I had to bugfix myself - would've never thought of rolling back graphics card drivers. Ended up installing the Omega drivers a month or so after that and it's been trouble-free since then - but I also had HUGE problems with my Realtek HD Audio onboard sound (which many others experienced) due to Redmond inexplicably REMOVING integrated support for the HD Audio chipsets... It's addable via a manual patch installation and then driver installation, but why REMOVE driver support for one of the most widespread audio chipsets used in laptops today?

The mind boggles, and I just hope I don't have to install XPSP3 on my laptop again in the near future because it was enough hassle the first time. That people are having comparatively minor (and obvious) problems such as constant reboots due to incorrect power management OS components doesn't surprise me in the slightest.

Paris because I think she put together SP3.

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Sales slide at PC World, Currys

Christopher Woods
Joke

It's quite simple really...

If they didn't horribly overprice their products and changed their focus to a 'sell loads of a smaller range of items' ethos (with more available on short-leadtime order) then I think they'd do far better. Argos seems to survive quite well like that, although equally I wouldn't want them to become Argos.

What took the biscuit for me last year was when I walked into Currys.Digital in the Bullring (Birmingham), formerly one of their 'Xtra' stores - there was a wireframe bin on the shopfloor on an aisle end filled with Belkin Cat5e cables, with a handwritten cardboard sign attached to the little stand.

On it, it had words to the effect of 'network cables - moving into Halls this year? Every student needs one of these.' The cables were unremarkable 4m grey Belkin Cat5e cables... And their price? £20.

Yes, £20 *per cable*. (my uni gives all its Halls students a free cable anyway if they're moving into Halls, but I always have loads lying around...) Now I know that wasn't probably a UK-wide promo, but for crying out loud - stop treating customers like mugs with overpricing, foisting of the highest-profit options (warranties etc) onto big ticket items, and that's how you go about Currying favour.

Mine's the one with the Cat6 cables coming out the pockets

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Virgin Media in premium rate U-turn

Christopher Woods
Flame

The only problem with this decision...

... It was decided upon, and announced, about six months too late. The customers who've found it most offensive have either already left or have their minds set on leaving - when my contract is up in August, they'll have to give me a REALLY good deal to make me stay, otherwise it's right back to ADSL2+ again.

I've had too much poor service to merit staying with an ISP - 0845 is still a bit of a kick in the teeth. If they truly cared about customer service, they'd go for an 0844 (or even an 03 number).

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Two centuries of Hansard to move online

Christopher Woods
Thumb Up

Wow, for once this is money well spent

I wholeheartedly agree with this. No better way to show evidence of democracy in action (even if people criticise the parties ;) than by making every single comment, question and reply publicly available to the country's citizens!

This is really something quite special I think and deserves more attention, we're all guilty of being too passé about these kind of technical milestones, but imagine trying to do this five, even ten years ago. I'm proud of this country's history and the fact that we're one of the few countries left which has a partially-codified constitution - yet we're stll going, with no revolutions for a LONG time, and it all just seems to 'work' most of the time! The very fact that I'll be able to leaf through hundreds of years of previously-unviewable documents detailing every tiny step and decision made is absolutely fascinating, it almost makes it feel like living history... There's something intrinsically British about the whole endeavour.

Plus it's something to do in my lunch break. Top marks to the Hansard Department!

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Malaysian woman jailed for worshipping teapot

Christopher Woods
IT Angle

The REAL IT angle...

All good IT folks enjoy a warming cuppa at any appropriate point of the day (I usually always have one next to me from 9:20am until 5pm)... Remind me to not jobseek for a Malaysian IT position!

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DivX shutters also-ran cat piano video site

Christopher Woods
Unhappy

What a bloody shame :(

I used Joox LOADS - it was perfect for some light relief during lunchtime at work. The DivX Web Player's one of the few ActiveX controls I actually wanted to install!

Between the free offerings, the DivX streaming video quality is unbeatable - just super smooth, crisp, with decent audio quality (YouTube's 64kbps audio just doesn't cut it any more!), and the desktop darkener was such a clever little touch.

I don't really think I'll be able to go back to YouTube :(

Right, now, who wants to secure some Round 1 VC funding for a high-quality, H264 & AAC-based, UGC-sourced video streaming site?

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Virgin Media eases off bandwidth throttling

Christopher Woods
Stop

This is actually a retrograde step

From the initial "we have no plans to introduce traffic shaping or caps" to the current STM limits, to these new STM limits snuck in through the back door... These new limits are actually worse than before. At least with the previous STM, the upload wasn't capped.

I was worried when I first heard of VM trialing different STM thresholds and trialing capping the upstream as well as the downstream, but now they've announced they're implementing it, it's dispelled any hopes I had that they'd turn down the severity of the STM a notch... Not to be, however.

The silver lining to this big cloud is that the monitored STM period is only until 9pm - running to midnight was an absolute joke, in theory you could be capped at 23:59 and be 'managed' until almost 4am, now you could only be capped until 1am.

As a previous Be* customer who only moved away to VM because my phone lin couldn't get more than 10mbps, I can't wait to move back to ADSL2+. 1.3mbps upload, unfettered downstream with better latency and less contention... No STM! Joy.

I'm actually more looking forward to jumping onto the Entanet WBC LLU services as soon as they're available in Birmingham (testing going on at the moment, we're considering... well, I'm pushing the boss to join ;) the trial at the business I work at.)

I almost have pity for VM, they're trying so hard to make money without making any kind of sizeable investment in the upkeep of their core network, and the reality is for the majority of their UK-wide network, DOCSIS 3 is years off - it's really beginning to feel like money for old rope.

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999 comes to VoIP

Christopher Woods

About time for home UPSes to make an impact?

All this talk of VoIP and emergency calls makes me think of availability (and, as some have said, how you can't generally use VoIP phones when the power's out). Why not solve this problem with a solution readily available? For example, my parents are slightly ahead of the curve in that they have a UPS just for their DSL router, Dad's two SANs and our DECT base station. It's one of those little APC units with three-pin sockets (four battery backup, four surge protected only). I also have a UPS but it's IEC-style connectors for me, I don't have a VoIP phone yet anyway.

We have five of them at work though, and I keep on trying to persuade my boss to invest in a couple of UPSes - he won't for the time being. UPSes should be offered as part of a home voice package in my opinion, it's safer, effectively adds insurance to your electronic kit and is just a good thing to have, so if they don't cost much these days why doesn't an ISP take the reins on this one and start to recommend them for anybody who's buying a VoIP system (or just buying new internet kit?)

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Employee sacked for texting in sick

Christopher Woods
Go

The true power of BT revealed

If he'd just used BT's Text-To-Speech facility by texting one of their landlines, all this could've been avoided. All hail BT.

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123-Reg takes weekend off

Christopher Woods
Thumb Up

Hmm, I suppose I could outsource my DNS hosting from 123-reg to another provider. Oh, wait -

I already do that. A few years ago I made the decision to outsource my DNS management to to Afraid.org's free services, and now I switch any new domain over as soon as I can after ordering it through 123-reg. You can do this from about 5/10 minutes after the domain name is configured on you 123-reg control panel, and you can preconfigure your domain on your afraid.org control panel in anticipation of the nameserver updates, and then there's pretty much no downtime.

I've got about 14 domains hosted on afraid.org, and they've had precisely one period of (partial) downtime in the past few years I've hosted with them. I like them so much, I subscribe to their premium services. On the contrary, I've had nothing but delayed DNS record updates, shit service, and crap tech support from 123-reg (they STILL wont' let me lock/unlock my .name domain, saying that that feature is 'coming soon' and requiring you to ring them up to ask them to unlock your domain, even though they advise you to unlock your domain to make modifications in the support pages!) Trust me, the only times I've rung them are to ask them to unlock my domain - so I could make the switch for my DNS hosting to afraid.org. Couldn't be happier since I made the change.

That's my little nugget of advice for today...

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Crypto guru warns over random number backdoor

Christopher Woods
Black Helicopters

Just like Dan Brown foretold

I'm hardly the first person to consider his works as entirely based on fact, but one thing does ring true... If you've read his book Digital Fortress, they talk about backdoors in algorithms and encryption protocols, and life mirrors art sometimes, does it not?

Did anybody SERIOUSLY believe that a Government-recommended scheme for encryption/decryption would be truly hackproof? Bloody hell.

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Virgin Media pins hopes on the broadband donkey

Christopher Woods
Unhappy

Argh, not again

VM running with the "FASTEST (up to) BROADBAND SPEEDS IN THE UK!" strapline, but they're neglecting customer service and network speeds to the point where both are pretty much unbearable.

You'll find most of the knowledgeable VM people help each other out with problems as it's just too much of a hassle to ring up tech support, pay for the call and then try to reclaim the call costs if it was a VM problem, because they're credited onto your bill at a later date but sometimes only if you ask for them to be (usually calls to the Indian outsourced CSRs are the problematic calls, the UK support agents generally can't be faulted for their knowledge... If you can get through to one!)

The newsgroups are the last stronghold of sensible customer support, and that's where you'll usually find me (and some of the other embittered VM xNTL and xTW customers) and some really, genuinely helpful UK CSRs.

Contention is awful, speeds are slow even offpeak, STM is looking like it'll be the straw that broke the camel's back for many people and I can see them gradually lowering the thresholds. As has already been mooted, what's the point in having a car which can do 80mph on the motorway but is forcibly limited to 20mph for 4 hours after you've done 80mph for an hour? :(

And now I hear they're planning on rolling out STM limits on upload bandwidth as well as download bandwidth... Not looking good. All these kind of things result in is people offsetting their peak usage to offpeak times, and VM's approach of whistling and walking away from it all isn't going to make this problem disappear. I wonder what their 07/08 churn rates will be like...

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BT battens down Home Hub backdoor

Christopher Woods
Alert

Ah yes, the Bestar problem strikes again

As the HomeHub is essentially the same router underneath its skin as the Bebox (which I had for a year whilst I was with Be*), I'm not surprised that this security hole was there.

I am surprised BT patched it though! Setting the router up in bridge mode is a doddle with the Bebox, someone published a custom template for it (see www.beforum.co.uk forums for more info), and I have a feeling it could be modified and adjusted for the BTHH setup as they're both similar routers (Speedtouches).

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Hackers unlock iPhone - again

Christopher Woods
Coat

Chuckles galore

You know, for all the dissing it gets from the Mac camps, my little Hermes (Vario 2) hasn't needed hacking or jailbreaking once.

It just works, and lets me put all that lovely third-party software on it, and it's never complained once. My network unlocked it for me, but it's trivial enough to download a small app to make the device SuperCID (and network-unlocked), which I guess is the extent of hackery required if you're too stingy to pay for unlocking your device (if your network even charges you for it!)

So while all this drama goes on around the iPhone... I just sit here looking slightly smug all the time :D

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Coding errors expose hidden area of BT site

Christopher Woods

Oh dear, looks like the site admins go home at lunchtime

It's 6:20pm as I check the site, and all the mentioned holey parts of the web site are still there.

Not very impressive!

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US punters gobbling up mobile data

Christopher Woods

US overtaking the UK? Er... Don't think so somehow!

"The US has long been seen to be lagging behind Europe in mobile, and in many areas that's still true, but these figures indicate that any lead Europe still maintains isn't going to last long."

Ha - networks in the US sell phones to customers that their respective UK counterpart operations couldn't GIVE away (example: go to the T-Mobile US or Virgin Mobile US sites, check out their phones and the prices & tariffs, and then see what phones are sold on the UK sites). Me and the CSR who handled my call had a good laugh about that last time I rang my operator.

So the US is going to overtake the UK for mobile data? Right... Oh wait, the UK has at least two country-wide networks either running or rolling out 3.6mbps HSDPA networks (3 has the full 3.6mbps network, T-Mobile currently has a 1.8mbps network and both Vodafone and Orange are rolling out HSDPA networks nationwide)... And in one case, HSUPA (yum!) will make an appearance within the next 18 months, according to the TMO rep I spoke to, which fits in very nicely with the impending appearance of the HTC Kaiser, which supports HSUPA.

Oh, and on the whole, the data deals are far better too.

The US networks might have more subscribers due to their sheer volume of residents, that's luck of the draw really - but the UK'll still have some of the best core networks, even if some of the operators do royally take the piss (£7.50 a month for inclusive data on Vodafone, as long as you only do 120 MEGABYTES a month? I pay £7.50 to T-Mobile and I get 2Gb a month, and they don't mind if you go over a bit... How can Vodafone possibly expect people aside from those already locked into contracts to find that the LEAST bit enticing?)

That aside, our networks are FAR better. One bone of contention with UK networks - the RF interference. I do think that people in the US who diss GSM networks over CDMA have a point insofar as concerns the interference you get on radios and TVs - that drove me mad last week when I was at a relatives' house and had to use the mobile data access (going up north is sometimes like going to a different country telecoms-wise!) But then again, if I can get faster speeds on my 3G than US customers can with their EDGE connections, that's fine by me. :D

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O2 confirms XDA Zinc zapped

Christopher Woods

Unfortunately, it's still the HERM100

O2 has 'sensibly' gone with the original version of the Hermes - the HERM100. This is known to be problematic in some batches, which is why i-Mate went with the HERM200 and T-Mobile (who gave me my device) continued to upgrade the revisions it offered to its customers, settling on the latest version, the HERM300.

O2 seem to have been VERY reactive in this decision - I pestered them on contract renewal (September last year) about offering the Hermes, and I had mixed signals, mainly along the lines of "it's somewhat sure that it's coming, but we don't know when." So, I (happily) jumped ship to T-Mobile, and I've been deliriously happy ever since.

That O2 hasn't even offered the latest revision to its customers is a bit disappointing, they're in a prime position to do this!

Oh well, roll on the Kaizer :D

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Auzentech X-Meridian 7.1 sound card

Christopher Woods

Onboard sound = good, but STILL doesn't replace a good dedicated card

The fact remains that whilst onboard HD audio has come leaps and bounds, it's still (on the VAST majority of mobos) pretty limited, if you run a 5.1 system and want to use the mic and line in sockets you have to compromise because there's not enough physical sockets available to use at the same time.

Also, I have HD audio on both my motherboard and my (brand new!) Acer laptop. The former is AC97 (Gigabyte-branded) and the Acer uses Realtek. The laptop's output is pitifully quiet, and you can plainly hear interference from the other components inside the laptop... Noise whenever the CPU is working hard, slight noise whenever you use the touchpad... It's really annoying, and hardly 'HD' (unless the H stands for Horrible). I had to go and buy an external Terratec audio interface for my laptop just so I could get a decent-level, noise-free output. The PC's onboard fares better, but there's still constant interference-based noise, which seems to be endemic throughout just about all but the highest quality onboard sound chipsets. As it stands, I might spend £100, £150 - maybe even £200 - on a great mobo, but I'll still buy a separate soundcard.

My Audigy 2 still performs admirably after my several years of ownership, paired with the third-party kX drivers I have a near-realtime (3msecs good enough for you?) ASIO latency if I need it, which is CRUCIAL for anybody who uses their machine for audio and/or sound production, and I've yet to see onboard HD audio which can cope with low-latency audio work without grinding to a screaming halt (and loading up the main CPU with ASIO processing duties, which my sound card handles just fine on its own)... This article, by my estimation, is a pretty poorly-disguised effort for a Creative plug if ever I saw one (imho), it takes a competitor's product and then pretty much dismisses it, and just mentions various Creative products along the way. And a dedicated soundcard is STILL a necessary budgetary consideration for just about anyone save the most basic of computer users (and we're talking about the occasional-DVD-watcher-mainly-uses-PC-for-word-processing users here), especially if you're someone who needs discrete I/O sockets.

Hell, if you're someone who doesn't want to hear system noise through their speakers, you really need a dedicated soundcard. That mobo manufacturers slap 'HD' onto their audio chipsets and people STILL go all glassy-eyed when they see it - that really annoys me.

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Is Friday the 13th bad for your health?

Christopher Woods

Heh

Well, since I was born, my birthday has fallen on Friday the 13th of October no less than 7 times (out of a possible 21) - and my 21st birthday is, yes, on a Friday the 13th.

So I don't know about you lot, but I've always considered it a very lucky day. My favourite number's 13 too. :)

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