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Politics and opinions

I deleted my Facebook account

I have been deliberating this for a while and I have finally decided to delete my Facebook account. I have disabled it in the past but now with all the news about data exploits its a no brainer.

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Politics and opinions

I am Fox

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Politics and opinions

DVLA on speed

Well, you know how many complain about government institutions being very slow when applying for documents. Just recent memories from the passport scandal flood back.
Well on Monday I had to file for a renewal for my drivers licence. Did it online as advised by the DVLA letter. Filled out all the forms, was able to use my passport photo that they had on file and to my complete amazement I received y shiny new drivers licence in the mail today.
It must have been sent in the post at least yesterday!

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Politics and opinions

Yet another energy provider

I have lived at my current address for last 6 years and started of using Swalec as my electricity and gas provider. Then found out they were ripping me off so I switched … only after I clawed back the money they owed me. Switched to EDF which had its own little scams. They failed to clearly explain that they will be increasing my bills by switching me to a Standard tariff if I used their smart meter.

So then I moved the lot to Atlantic, which had a nice standard tariff and must say I was quite pleased with them although this was technically the same company as Swalec, as they are both part of SSE.

Now, with the recent price hikes that have been going on (October 2013) I have decided to have another look for a cheaper deal before my bills go up. Partly because of the winter, partly because of the before mentioned price hikes. Now I know I was quite cross about the whole issue and I didn’t think switching providers would help but it seems it can help. I was listening to the uSwitch guy speaking on BBC’s Watchdog programme and there are apparently tariffs on the market that will be frozen for quite some time.

Turns out there was something for me. For the last year I have paid about £460 for electricity and gas. Switching to npower’s tariff I will not only save about £60-£80 (depending how if I calculated the new tariff based on my previous kW usage or £££ spent). Plus the tariff is frozen till 2017 but no penalty charges if I leave early.

Not bad as now I won’t be affected by the price hike but if, by some miracle, the prices come down or there is a better deal elsewhere I will be able to still switch.

So as the final message I would advise you to not wait for the government to impose any price restrictions on the energy companies anytime soon. Get yourself a better deal and shop around.

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Politics and opinions

I put Nottingham back on the map

OK, sounds like a flashy title, but I did notice that the city of Nottingham was missing from Google Maps in any of the zoom views I chose.

I tried reporting a problem a while ago and recently received the following reply:

Hi  Martin,
Thank you for reporting this problem. We’ve reviewed your problem and you were right! The default view in Google Maps has already been updated to reflect your suggested change, as shown below.

The city of Nottingham does not appear to be named in any of the zoom views.

Depending on the nature of the problem you reported, it may take some time for the update to appear on other products and services such as driving directions, Google Maps for Mobile, and Google Earth. If you see an issue with the way we fixed your problem, please feel free to send us another note. Thanks for helping us to improve Google Maps! Thanks for helping us to improve Google Maps!

In any case it seems to be fixed now as Nottingham appears where it should be. I now expect to be inundated by messages of gratitude from the citizens of Nottingham, however I feel I should not hold my breath for very long. 😉

I was surprised to learn that the city of Nottingham is twinned with my home town of Ljubljana, but Ljubljana does not publicly acknowledge that fact. I have contacted the officials in the Ljubljana municipality but I am still waiting for them to get back to me.

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IT Politics and opinions

Poskus phishinga SKB.net

Danes sem prejel e-pismo, ki me je želelo prepričat, da posodobim sovje podatke spletnega bančništva na SKB-ju, in to v precej polomljeni slovenščini.

Upam, da je to sporočilo čim manj prepričljivo, sicer pa povezava vodi na stran (http://www.pulipull.it/wp-admin/maint/skb.net.htm), ki trenutno sploh ne deluje, poleg tega pa jo tako Firefox (14.0.1) in Chromium( 18.0.1025.168) zaznata kot nevarno stran in prikažeta zelo očitno in vidno opozorilo.

Tudi če sem kliknil naprej in si pogledal stran sem dobil napako 403 Forbidden. Slovenija verjetno ni tako pogosto žrtev takih napadov, slišal sem že za phishing napad na NLB Klik, nisem pa, vsaj ne osebno, doživel phishing na Skb.net.

Malo podrobneje…

Stran vodi na spletno stran pod domeno www.pulipull.it in whois poizvedba po domeni vrne naslednje podatke:

Domain:             pulipull.it
Status:             ok
Created:            2011-08-30 10:01:20
Last Update:        2011-08-30 10:01:41
Expire Date:        2012-08-30

Registrant
  Name:             Cristiano Predielis
  Organization:     Pulipull S.n.c.
  ContactID:        DFT-R-53594

Admin Contact
  Name:             Cristiano Predielis
  ContactID:        DFT-A-53594

Technical Contacts
  Name:             Unita Tecnica DominioFaidate
  Organization:     DominioFaiDaTe S.r.l.
  ContactID:        DFT-T-1

Registrar
  Organization:     DominioFaiDaTe S.r.l.
  Name:             DFT-REG
  Web:              http://www.dominiofaidate.com

Nameservers
  ns1.dominiofaidate.com
  ns2.dominiofaidate.com

Domena je, v tistem trenutku, kazala na IP številko, ki je v lasti ponudnika spletnih storitev seeWeb.it – torej tudi v Italiji.

Zaposleni na Si-Certu očitno budno bdijo nad takimi pripetljaji in so tudi že objavili opozorilo glede tega napada: http://www.cert.si/obvestila/obvestilo/article/si-cert-2012-09-phishing-napad-na-komitente-skb-banke.html

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Politics and opinions

Watch out for the financial black hole

I decided the other day to clear up my finances, get rid of the mess and make a cull in all those dodgy direct debits I had in my bank account.

I challenge you to have a look at your finances and see how many companies have a wide-open back door to your money.

Paypal

I have been a avid user of Paypal for years and always tried to use it to pay for on-line purchases if at all possible. However recently I had a problem with a company that I had a subscription with through Paypal, more precisely with the Paypal recurring payments. Unbeknown to me at the time they hide the fact that you had a recurring payment (a subscription) deep down in the History section of your account. If you do not look really really carefully you might be led to believe that the recurring payment is not active any more and you could forget about it. This was not the case as I regretfully found out.

I would expect Paypal to have a clear list of ALL your recurring payments (they are basically subscriptions with a different name) on the Profile section, not hidden so deep that even as a long-standing customer could not find them without getting help from internet forums.

The problems is that being human you forget what you are subscribed to by the time you should have noticed it and perhaps acted on it – like cancel the subscription. You might not even know where the subscription was set-up and how you are supposed to cancel it. The company I had the subscription with was also very sneaky and deeply concealed instructions on how to cancel the subscription and made the procedure complicated.

When I decided to start clearing the debit card and bank account connections in Paypal I started getting e-mails that  some of those connections could not be cancelled as there were outstanding payments. That turned out to be not the case. One of the warnings I had was completely false and I had to remove the associated card with the help of the customer support. The other warning was about some old recurring payment I set-up with my website hosting provider. Doesn’t instil confidence in the reliability of the Paypal service.

When I was finally able to cancel my account I received two e-mails about additional TWO subscriptions that got closed when the account was closed. Where did the y come from and how come I didn’t know about them.

That motivated me to go to my online bank and cull all direct debits that either were not supposed to be there, like my O2 mobile phone membership that I cancelled last year, and my Privilege car insurance that I also cancelled last year. Do you know these guys keep the direct debit going on for at least a year after you cancel the account – just in case they need to rip you off a little more. Because that is just what I want really – an open door to my bank account. If they do take the money then I wish you good luck on proving you did not authorize the payment and even more luck to get a refund.

Categories
Politics and opinions Trips and outings

Experiencing the M25 car park

M25 parking lot on December 18th  Photo: TOMMY HINDLEY

There were plenty of warnings about possible weather problems before I set off from Haverfordwest in the SW Wales to Stansted airport on December 18th. There was very little snow in Pembrokeshire and the airport was open. There were absolutely no problems up to the M4 exit for Slough.

Photo taken on my iPhone of the M25 standstill

Then it all started to slow down and by the time I got to theM25 exit on the M4 the traffic stopped. We managed to somehow move a little so I was mostly on the M25 slip road but that was it until about 16.45 when we slowly started moving. We more or less crawled on the M25. Managed to see the remains of the burned-out people carrier that caused all this mess – it was just near the M40 junction on the M25.

The Highway Agency was warning there were problems on the northbound M11 so I decided to take the A10 and A120 roads that ended up being very snowed up but at least empty with no accidents on them. I arrived at the B&B near Stansted called Puttocks Farm at about 8.30pm – about 10 hours after I left Haverfordwest. The trip usually takes me 5 – 5.5 hours.

To top it all the next day I couldn’t get a taxi to take me from the B&B to the airport about 10 minutes away. They were taking orders only after 2pm but that would be to late for me. Luckily the B&B owner gave me a lift so I didn’t have to leave my car at the airport costing me £13/day. And to top that as well the place was 2 hours late due to some engine problems – apparently something refused to start up in the plane. The passenger next to me remarked that the pilot just couldn’t find the reverse gear and in the end somebody else told him.

Categories
IT Politics and opinions Technology

My GMail account hacked by 115.52.213.93

Unfortunately my GMail account martin [dot] mcdowell got somehow hacked today and someone (or something) in China sent a spam message to all my 119 e-mail contacts in my address book at 15.35 this afternoon. The IP address the hack originated from was 115.52.213.93 and is assigned to the Chinese ISP CNC Group CHINA169.

It looks like there was a Google-wide attack as their systems crashed. There are several reports of hacked accounts on Google forums. The message was just a spam and did not contain any viruses or worms in itself.

Subject: How are you doing,my dear friend?

How are you doing,my dear friend?

I am really happy now because i got my new iphone.haha…

I really want an iphone,you know that,right?

And i just found a cool place to buy it with a cheaper price.

<www.newelecn.com>

Hope you can have a look.

Have a nice day and best regards!

For what its worth I have reported the matter to the police and I have also got in touch with the attacker’s internet service provider China 169. Unfortunately I have no suggestions, other than change your password regularly, on how anybody else should avoid this specific attack as I am convinced that both my computers are clean, one of them is even a GNU/Linux machine! I take security quite seriously but I do apologize to anyone who received this spam from my e-mail account.

Here is what I saw when I tried to access Google calendar about the time of the attack:

Update 24 November 2010

The one thing that angered me was that Google has a unusual activity detection system and even though I was on GMail at the time of the attack I saw no warnings. In fact the only warning I received as about 7h later at about 10pm. The original access table said the Chinese access came from a browser, now it says its ‘Unknown’.

Categories
Politics and opinions Trips and outings

Tragična zgodba Tommya Jonesa

Gospa Hamer, žena vrtnarja v majhni južno-valežanski vasici, naj bi ponoči sanjala o dečku, ki se je izgubil slab mesec poprej. Ko se je le opogumila in prepričala moža, da ji pomaga, se je 2. septembra leta 1900 skupaj z nekaj sorodniki odpravila na lastno iskalno akcijo. Ko je skupina z gospo Hamer na čelu prispela do grebena nad jezerom Cwm llwch, okoli pol kilometra zahodno od vrha gore Pen-y-fan, je gospa Hammer naenkrat zakričala od groze. Malo stran ob poti, kjer je hodila, je namreč ležalo trupelce izgubljenega petletnega dečka Tommya Jonesa.

Pen-y-fan je najvišja točka gorovja imenovanega Brecon Beacons ki pokriva večji del južnega dela Walesa in skupaj z malo nižjim dvojčkom z imenom Corn Du tvorita čudovit razgled, ki bolj spominja na površino lune, kot pa na zeleno valežansko hribovje. Malo ob poti na vrh Brecon Beacons boste našli manjši obelisk, ki so ga postavili po končani iskalni akciji izginulega dečka Tommya.

4. avgusta daljnega leta 1900 se je oče, po poklicu rudar, odpravil skupaj s svojim petletnim sinom Johnnyem na obisk sorodnikov na kmetijo nekaj kilometrov južno od mesteca Brecon. V Brecon sta prispela z vlakom okoli šestih zvečer, do kmetije pa ju je vodila šest in pol kilometra dolga pešpot. Okoli osmih zvečer sta prispela v danes podrto vasico Login, kjer je bila v tistem času nastanjena vojska, ki je imela višje v dolini strelske vaje.

Zgodba se zdi močno oddaljena in življenja takratnih prebivalcev so že dolgo pozabljena. Prav tako se zdi, da na večer 110. obletnice Tommyevega izginotja njegovemu obelisku delajo le dežne kaplje in ovce na paši.

Bila sta namenjena v še danes obstoječo majhno kmetijo z imenom Cwm-llwch. Od Logina do kmetije je bilo le okoli pol kilometra rahle hoje navkreber. Kljub temu, sta oče in sin za nekaj časa postala z vojaki in se okrepčala. Čisto po naključju, pa sta takrat v Login prispela še Tommyev dedek in 13-letni bratranec Willie John. Willija so poslali nazaj domov v Cwm llwch, da družino obvesti o skorajšnjem prihodu sorodnikov, za njim pa je stekel tudi mladi Tommy. Pot je bila za Tommya kar strašljiva, saj sta morala prečkati dve brvi postavljeni med gosto pozidanimi stavbami. Ena od brvi ni imela ograje in vse skupaj je bilo preveč za Tommya, ki je planil v jok. Želel je iti nazaj k očetu v Login. Dečka sta se zato ločila: Willie John navkreber po dolini proti kmetiji, Tommy pa nazaj navzdol v Login. Willie je v kmetijo prispel okoli petnajst minut potem, ko je zapustil strica in dedka, mladi Tommy pa v Login nikoli ni prispel.

Sam sem bil v tej dolini v mesecu, ko je Tommy izginil in v večernih urah, okoli osme zvečer. Dan v Walesu traja precej dolgo in ob osmih je svetlobe še veliko, se pa sonce hitro spusti za zahodnim grebenom Pen Milan in stemni se precej hitro.

Ko sta oče in dedek tudi sama končno prispela na kmetijo in ugotovila, da je Tommy izginil, sta ga začela takoj iskati. Po kakih dvajsetih minutah so se iskanju pridružili še vojaki iz Logina. Iskanje so prekinili ob polnoči, a ga že tri ure kasneje nadaljevali. Iskanju so se ta dan potem še pridružili še policija in sovaščani. Tommya nikakor niso našli in tako se je nadaljevalo iz tedna v teden.

Vsak dan so sistematično preiskali dolino in okoliške travnike, porezali grmovja, in prečesali gozdove. Porodila se je celo ideja, da bi preiskali tudi dno jezera Cwm llwch, vendar je prevladalo mnenje, da petletni deček zagotovo ni uspel priti tako visoko v dolini. Predvidevali so, da se je ob poskusu vrnitve v Login izgubil in šel predaleč v dolino ali pa je celo ob prečkanju brvi padel v vodo. Iskanje so zato osredotočili na dolino in celo do mesta Brecon. Ker dečka še vedno niso našli, so se porodile ideje, da so ga ugrabili – to je bilo za svojce tudi zadnji up, da bi Tommy še našli živega. V tistih časih so bil glavni osumljenec za taka dejanja okoliško Romsko prebivalstvo. Tudi preiskave njihovih naselbin niso obrodila sadov.

Zgodba je seveda prišla v medije in časopis The Daily Mail je ponudil nagrado, njihov predstavnik pa je tudi aktivno sodeloval v iskalnih akcijah. Po tednih iskanja je bil Tommyev oče primoran zapustiti dolino in se vrniti domov v Maerdy, vendar se je uspel kmalu vrniti in sodelovati v nadaljnjih iskanjih. Bil je tudi eden redkih, ki so se pri iskanju povzpeli na vrh Pen-y-fan.

Ravno približno v tem času pa je imela gospa Hamer svoje razsvetljujoče sanje, kjer je v njih videla mesto, kjer leži Tommy. In tako se je okoli mesec po izginotju – 2. septembra še z nekaterimi drugimi svojci podala na iskanje visoko v dolino Cwm llwch in na greben nad njim.

Trupelce mladega dečka so še isti dan prenesli v dolino.

Obelisk, ki je bil postavljen na mestu, kjer so našli Truplo Tommya Jonesa kaže kako zelo blizu so morali biti iskalci, ko so prečesavali greben. Leži skoraj čisto na poti do vrha Corn Du in Tommyev oče je bil verjetno le nekaj metrov stran, ko ga je iskal. Iskalci so verjetno videli le nekaj podobno skali v visoki travi.

Sledil je sodni postopek, kjer je bilo kmalu potrjeno, da je deček umrl zaradi izčrpanosti in podhladitve. Nihče pa ni mogel jasno razložiti, kako naj bi tako majhen deček uspel priti tako visoko, ko pa je bil namenjen dol v dolino. Trupelce je bilo najdeno na nadmorski višini 700m, ker je pomenilo 400m višinske razlike z vasico Login, okoli tri in pol kilometra hoje čez strm in težko dostopen teren in to v precejšnji slabi vidljivosti. Najverjetneje se je Tommy potem, ko sta se ločila z Willie Johnom, izgubil, ko je prečkal prvo brv nato pa namesto, da bi prečkal drugo brv skrenil na levo in se potem “zahodil” v zahodni greben Pen Milan misleč, da se dejansko vrača priti kmetiji. Dečka je povrh še najverjetneje zajela panika in skupaj z vedno slabšo vidljivostjo je nadaljeval pot proti grebenu Cwm llwch. Danes žal vidimo, kako dolgo je zdržal in kako daleč je uspel priti.

Dečkova družina je več let hranila črtasto obleko, ki jo je takrat nosil skupaj s piščalko, ki jo je imel na sebi in bi mu verjetno rešila življenje, če bi jo bil uporabil preden je omagal od izčrpanosti.

Porote so v tistih časih dobile nezanemarljivo denarno nadomestilo za svoje delo in porota, ki je sodelovala pri preiskavi Tommyeve smrti se je plačilu odrekla. Denar, skupaj z drugimi prispevki okoliških prebivalcev (ga. Hamer se je prav tako odrekla precejšnjemu delu nagrade, ki jo je ponudil The daily Mail) je šel v postavitev obeliska, ki so ga postavili julija naslednje leto – 1901. Obelisk so morali zvleči gor s posebnimi sanmi in konjsko vprego.

Od takrat je obelisk spomnil na tisoče planincev na dečka, ki je v rokah hribovja Brecon Beacons podlegel izčrpanosti in podhladitvi.

Obelisk z dolino Cwm llwch pod njim

Napis na obelisku:

This obelisk marks the spot where the body of Tommy Jones aged 5 was found. He lost his way between Cwmllwch Farm and the Login on the night of August 4th 1900. After an anxious search of 29 days his body was found on September 2nd.

Vir:

  1. Victim of the Beacons
  2. Wikipedia