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Daily Mail corrects incorrect facts, but not the biggest ones

The BEA released a briefing about the loss of Air France flight 447 today. The flight involved a descent of 3 minutes 30 seconds, during which the aircraft was stalled. All 228 on board lost their lives. The briefing specifically says

the engines were operating and always responded to crew commands.

Earlier in the day, the Daily Mail published an article with the headline “Terrifying final moments of doomed Air France flight revealed: Passengers endured three-minute plunge before crash”, and the sub-headlines include “…engines began to fail…” and “…engines stalled…”, so it’s downright incorrect.

Screenshot of Daily Mail story
The early version of the story (thanks to istyosty.com)

Don’t worry though, because they’ve corrected it. The headline now says “FOUR MINUTE plunge”. Rounding up is better than rounding down, after all, and the use of capitals emphasises the difference. The sub-headlines mentioning engine failure are still there though. I wonder if it will ever be corrected.

Screenshot of Daily Mail story
The updated version of the story
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To the Daily Mail – people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones

The Daily Mail try to have a laugh at the expense of The Independent in this article.

The article points out that on The Independent’s site you can alter the URL as long as you retain the article number. Of course, The Independent “were embarrassed”. Ho ho, we’re The Daily Mail, other newspapers aren’t as good as us and all that…

I wonder if the journalist who wrote the article (it’s not even credited to Daily Mail Reporter) thought to try it on the Mail’s website.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1378504/This-paper-is-written-by-a-bunch-of-twunts.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1378504/We-will-find-any-excuse-to-tag-a-story-with-kate-middleton.html

Well would you believe it?

As long as you retain the original URL up to the final “/”, and the “.html” at the end, you can put almost anything in between them (no spaces, no apostrophes) and you’ll be redirected to the original article.

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Grumpy Old Men

I’ve long been a fan of BBC’s Grumpy Old Men. Almost everything that is complained about is something you can sympathise with. However, tonight, for the first time I noticed that they class Grumpy Old Men as being from 35 to 54 years old. Given that I’ve only got two years until I fall into this bracket, I’m not sure whether I should be offended by this, or actually feel a little bit proud.

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Frustrating companies – Cisco

Cisco make plenty of networking hardware, ranging from the small stuff for small business (let’s ignore the Linksys stuff badges as Cisco for now), to the really big stuff, suitable for the busiest networks. Within each product type (routers, switches etc) there are many products. Each product can then have many different models, with differing hardware capabilities. Each model can then have several software levels, each unlocking differing levels of functionality. Each product can also have many accessories, such as interface cards for connection to different network types. In short, there’s a lot of choice, which gives a lot of flexibility, which is obviously a good thing. However, there’s almost no useful help for the uninitiated on Cisco’s website. If you have a simple requirement (e.g. wanting a router for small business with an ADSL interface suitable for the UK, which has both VPN and IDS capabilities), then there’s virtually nothing to help you. If you try to work it out on your own, you’ll need to spend a lot of time reading the product specifications a documentation on the Cisco website. Sadly all this information is scattered all over the website in what seems like a shotgun approach.
So if you’re a small business, and you’re time is too precious to spend doing all this research, then surely Cisco will have a range of partners who will be able to answer the question for you. Well yes, they have authorised partners, but you get the distinct impression that these are partners for people who want to implement a substantial network infrastructure, and are happy to spend five or six, or maybe even seven figure sums doing so. At least in the UK.
Cisco also seem to be missing a trick with Smartnet, their support service. Some companies push their support services from the moment you start looking at their products, which Canberra annoying if you don’t the additional support. With Cisco it’s almost the opposite. Their support offering does appear to be good (it has a reputation for being superb), although unsurprisingly it’s not the cheapest. However it barely gets a mention, and you virtually have to hunt for it on the website. Additionally, some products support a “call home” feature, where Cisco will proactively alert you to problems. If you don’t stumble across this by accident, then you probably never find out about it.
Finally, you know when you buy a Cisco product that it won’t be cheap, but £60 for a router rackmount kit, which consists of two pieces of bent steel and eight small screws really is taking the piss!

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Joomla! is dead! Long live WordPress!

Joomla! is no more here. For a bit of a change I’ve decided to move to WordPress. Why?

  • Easier to keep up-to-date
  • Seems more friendly on mobile devices (both front end and back end)
  • Comments built in
  • A change is as good as a rest

I’ll get round to moving the content over from Joomla! “soon”. Your idea of what “soon” is is as good as mine.

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Headphones

When I bought my iMac, a year ago, I also bought a new iPod Nano with it. The Nano comes with headphones, but they are really uncomfortable in your ear. So new headphones were required.

I have a pair of Sony MDREX71s. I had the MDREX70s before, and was happy with them, but the wire came loose making one headphone crackly, so I got the 71s as a present, thinking they’d be better. They’re not. The sound is muddy, and the mini plug on the wire is at a really annoying length (too short to go in your pocket, and with it out of your pocket the weight pulls the headphone out of your ear if your ear is sweaty and at an odd angle (you’ve never had your iPod on when washing your car on a hot day?). On the plus side the 71s are comfy.

I also have a pair of Grado SR60 headphones that I got a few years ago. Sound quality blows the Sonys away, and they’re very comfy to wear. The cord is made for listening to home hifi though, as it’s about 6 feet long. They also make you look like a WW2 radio operator. Since I moved house (a year ago) I haven’t got round to connecting up my CD player and amp, but every time I switch from the Sonys to the SR60s, it reminds me that I should, as the SR60s let you hear every bit of noise from a less-than-perfect MP3.

6 weeks ago I bought a pair of Grado iGrado headphones, as a compromise between the two. They look really cheap and horrible, with nasty shiny black plastic, and a really thin, weak looking cable, but the sound quality (and clarity) is almost as good as the SR60s. There’s a bit less bass though, and they don’t look as good as you’d think from the pictures. The cable length is just right to have the iPod in your pocket. The biggest downside is that they squeeze your head fairly tightly, and if you wear glasses, the headphones might interfere with them more than normal. After an hour or two’s listening you want to take them off to stop your head being squeezed. As far as the fit is concerned, it’s pretty good, but there’s no adjustment at all, so your mileage may vary.

Now, who wants to buy me a pair of GS1000s to review?

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What makes banana chips healthy?

Seen on BBC Breakfast this morning in an interview about the government’s 5-a-day campaign:

Q: “What’s in banana chips that makes them healthy?”
A: “Banana”

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Barclays test patience

Having a mortgage with Barclays was a result of a discussion with a mortgage advisor when I bought I first house. They worked out the cheapest over three years, so it seemed a logical choice.

Roll forward three years, and I’ve moved house, but due to starting the moving process while in my tie-in period, I’ve remained with Barclays. In retrospect this may not have been a bad deal, as we have a deal that is fully flexible (we can overpay as much as we want and settle at any time), yet due to the changes in the mortgage market since the credit crunch it is more competitive than most other inflexible mortgage deals.

The biggest downside so far however seems to be that Barclays are somewhat disorganised. When we moved, we needed more money, so Barclays continued our existing mortgage, and added a second mortgage, (which appears on the paperwork as a home improvement loan) though both mortgages are treated as one. This means that when a mortgage payment is taken, they actually take two payments – one for each mortgage. In itself, that’s not a problem, until things go wrong.

When moving house, we also needed to change the account the mortgage payment was taken from. So Barclays send us a direct debit mandate, which we fill in with the new account details and send off. We hear nothing back. Mortgage payment date passes and no money is taken, so I get on the phone.

At this point I should mention that the menu structure on Barclays phone system is terrible, and it takes 2 minutes to get to the point where you can select to speak to a real person about a general enquiry. Then you go in a queue, where you generally wait for about 20 minutes, though my record so far is 50 minutes.

Once I speak to a person, I ask what’s happened to the payment, where I am told that in the month a payment change is made, they won’t try and take a payment, and you have to make it yourself. There had been no mention of this on the letter that came with the direct debit mandate. However I was able to pay over the phone (two separate payments – one for each mortgage).

One month later, and again no payment is taken. This time we get a letter from Barclays saying that the payment was refused, with the reason “No instruction”. So I go through the rigmarole of phoning them up, going through the frustrating menus and joining the queue. The person I end up speaking to tells me that the payment ws declined. I knew that from the letter. Did they get the direct debit mandate I ask? He has a dig around on the system, confirms that they did, and verifies the account number with me. His suggestion is to take the two payments manually for now, and wait and see what hapens next month. I remain doubtful.

One month later, and we get a letter saying the payment was refused for the reason “No instruction”. Phone, frustrating menu, queue. This time the person who answers asks me if the letter came with a direct debit mandate. “Yes it did” I reply, “but you’ve already had one”. Her reply amazes me. “I wouldn’t send it to us. I’d just take it to your bank”. It sounds like Barclays staff don’t trust Barclays to do the right thing with paperwork. So we start to take the payments to pay the mortgage manually for this month. Again this needs to be done twice – once for each mortgage. However, as soon as the first payment is finished, the line goes dead. This means phoning, and menus and queuing again.

When I get through (after only 10 minutes this time), the (different) person I speak to tells me that they have a problem with their phones, where they just drop calls at random! I explain that I need to make the second payment manually. He asks me if I’ve been told what happens in this case. “What do you mean?” I ask. I’ve done this for five payments now, and nobody’s said anything. He explains that rather than actually processing any payment there and then, what they actually do is write the payment details down, and at the end of the day these details get passed to a team leader, who processes the payments the next day. As a result I have to go through all the payment details again.

I should point out that the staff are always polite on the phone. Which is surprising. I’d hate to have their job…

(…which makes it more amusing that at the time of writing the ads on this page are for careers at Barclays)

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TiVo upgrade

I've been a TiVo owner since 2002, and I still think it's as fantastic a piece of hardware now as I did six years ago. It's incredibly easy to use, and has been 100% reliable. However, over Christmas I decided I'd record plenty of films, for later viewing. The only problem was that we couldn't watch them as fast as they were recorded, and some films were automatically deleted to make room for new films. I'd thought about upgrading the TiVo before, but since I bought the iMac I've had a spare 250GB drive lying around…

I'd read about upgrading the TiVo several times over the years, and the upgrader's bible has always been the Hinsdale howto. I also came across Steve Conrad's site, where he talks about his TiVo upgrade experiences, the best bit being that as he uses a UK TiVo he'd have the same options as me. Conveniently he also links to all the downloads you need, and he covers the kernel upgrade (to address more than 137GB of disk space).

The hardest part of the whole process is probably getting the disks you need ready. If you're a Windows user, you don't have a simple way of burning ISOs to a CD. Luckily the Mac does, so that wasn't difficult for me. What was difficult was finding a Windows machine with a floppy drive, to create a bootable disk with diskpart on it. As I had an old machine with parallel ATA connectors, a CD-ROM drive, and a floppy drive handy, I was ready to go.

Steve Conrad's guide covers backing up your TiVo drive to another drive, then restoring it to the new drive, but I didn't want to bother with that, preferring to copy direct from the TiVo drive to the new drive. Also I wanted to preserve my recordings.

First, I disconnected any hard drives already in the machine, and connected the CD-ROM drive as primary master. Then I removed the hard disk from the TiVo (which was really easy), and connected it as secondary master. Set the BIOS to boot from CD, let it boot, then scroll back to see how large the detected drive is. In my case it had been detected as 10MB, so it needed unlocking with diskpart.

Power off the system, and boot from floppy. Then run diskpart/PermUnlock 2. Answer yes to all the questions. Then power off the machine.

Connect the new drive as secondary slave (leaving the TiVo drive as secondary master), and boot from CD. Now I had to figure out what options to use to copy the data between drives, while retaining the recordings, and adjusting the amount of swap space too.

Steve Conrad's guide mentions that you should use the restore command rather than mfsrestore, so I investigated that, and found that restore appears to simply be a link to mfsrestore, so I don't think it matters which you use.

Both guides are unanimous that the TiVo should be backed up with mfsbackup -Tao – /dev/hdc which would read all the data from the drive and send it to stdout. I plumped for mfsrestore -r 4  -s 300 -xzpi – /dev/hdd for the restore, which would be read from stdin. The -r should remove a limitation that I don't actually need to worry about at 274GB, but I put it in anyway. The -s 300 should expand the swap to 300MB, to prevent memory issues when there are large amounts of recordings. This meant it was simply a case of connecting the commands together with a pipe, giving me:

mfsbackup -Tao – /dev/hdc | mfsrestore -r 4  -s 300 -xzpi – /dev/hdd

Then I left it to do its stuff. My estimates were that it would take around 3 hours, but I simply left it overnight. The copy completed successfully.

The next step was to upgrade the kernel. I didn't need to worry about taking a backup of the existing kerel, as I still had the original TiVo drive, so I simply ran copykern and selected option 1 for my type of TiVo.

Then power it all down, put the new hard drive in the TiVo, ad power it all up. Everything worked like a charm, and a check on the system information showed I now had 299 hours, 58 minutes of recording space. I think that should be enough! As an added bonus the new hard drive is quieter than the old drive.

If you have a TiVo and have thought about upgrading, just do it! It's easier than you might think.