Less than a week ago I signed us up for broadband with plusnet. They beat the deal my existing provider was offering by £5. No contest.

The last time I switched broadband provider it was a certified palava so I was quite cynical this time round.

After signing up the first step was to get the MAC code from my current provider BT. I did that via live chat and although I had to ask for it three times, they did finally concede that I was lost to them and said they’d email it to me. It came a bit later. I called plusnet the next day to give them the code.

Then I got an email late last week saying that we would be swapped over on Thursday 21st March and they attempted to deliver the new router Friday. We picked that up from the post office yesterday.

This is rivetting, eh?

Anyway, I wake up this AM and our broadband from old supplier is disconnected. I don’t have time to check it out so I head out to work. Got an email early this evening to say that our new bb was up and running. Two days early. So, I return home this evening with some trepidation at setting up a new router.

We received a TG582n – not sure it matters because they are all made by Thompson anyway – and it’s a great liltte box, very speedy, extremely intuitive. It poops on the BT Homehub already.

Luckily it was already set-up to use the same IP range as we currently used so I basically plugged it in, changed the SSID and the key to be the same as the old router and… that was that.

I’ll have to do some port forwarding at some point but that looks simple enough. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

There was one negative in this whole thing: when I opened the router box up I noticed that it has WPS. You may not know but Wireless Protected Setup is a fucking stupid idea that lets anyone connect to your router in a “secure way”. It’s easy to exploit to gain access to someone else’s network without permission and it’s not so much a back door as a gaping window with a “swag here” neon sign above it.

I had a quick Google to see if it could be disabled. That yield this page. I was delighted to find this for two reasons. Firstly, it points straight to a fix and, secondly, it has responses from plusnet staff that don’t just say “we’ll look into this” but show that they are proactively investigating. All good news.

The fix is here and it took about 30 seconds to apply.

So, why is this sad AND epic? Well, this is how it should be. I have been home an hour and my switch to another broadband supplier has been completely stress free. I now have some time to relax. That’s the epic part.

What’s sad is that this experience so greatly exceeded my expectations that I felt compelled to spend 15 minutes writing a blog post about it that no one will ever read.

It’s something I have been planning to do for a very long time but this weekend I finally got round to a little electonic house-keeping. As a hoarder I have a modest collection of old components that “might come in handy.” I’ve got two 56.6k PCMCIA cards. Top that.

Inevitably some of this junk is hard drives and, obviously, I have no idea what is on them, so they had to be wiped before disposal. That’s one thing I did. One of them made a noise like a dentist drill. It was not pretty.

Also, I have an old Dell laptop that served me well for many years until it was laid low by a broken hinge. To my surprise it still boots and I was somewhat delighted to discovered it was like an Arch Linux time capsule. Last login? Circa 2007. I’ve got a lot of photos which I’ll post later.

Needless to say the drive on this old favourite is partitioned to within an inch of its life. I think it might even be triple boot. So, i had to have a hunt through there for anything that could be move to our NAS or just deleted.

Generally that meant scouring some FAT32 partitions for media files but my /home directory is a gold mine. I don’t want to do just back that up in bulk, I’d rather pick through and move things I want to keep over to my desktop. The best way to do that is scp but some home network “restrictions” meant that was going to be a headache.

We live in a town house, which is lovely, but the router is on the ground floor so wireless signal in the top floor office is poor. It shouldn’t be that bad but it is. As a result I have my desktop connected directly to the router via some “ethernet over AC” adapters, which works quite nicely. However, for some time I have wanted to add an extra box upstairs and boost the wireless for (what is becoming) my wife’s laptop.

While I am certain I had a Netgear wireless router laying around I have not been able to find it since we moved house. That router would solve all my problems, including transfering my old home dir from the old laptop to the desktop. So, what to do? Dive on eBay and try and find one?

Well, I decided to give freecycle a go and quickly found a brand new boxed Netgear 15 minutes up the road. Since we were heading that way yesterday anyway I arranged to pick it up and spent a few hours setting it up last night.

Now I am all set to finish cleaning up and retire that laptop for good. I’ll also be able to give my occasional server box a permenant home.

I’m running a report on our database using Crystal Reports. Sadly some chimp on the vendor side has got the data type wrong on a field and I can’t do the join I need. Obviously I’m not in a position to change that data type myself.

So, after some searching I have this:
SELECT
eval_id,
bvpi_id,
type,
status,
awarded_date,
CAST(awarded_by AS INTEGER) AS awarded_id FROM BVPI_EVALS

I’ve never used CAST before but here I’ve used it to convert a STRING to an INTEGER. I’ve used this in the Add Command section of the Database Expert screen.

I’ve then removed BVPI_EVALS from the query and used the table created by the Command to do the joins.

It’s super slow, though. I think I might need to parameterize the query too.

Right, so, I just want to chuck something out there with regard to privacy.

People are generally pretty hot on protecting their privacy online but who’s got a loyalty card for a store?

Let’s pick on Tesco. So, if you have a Tesco Clubcard, what do they find out about you?

What you buy.

That’s it, right? If you ask anyone what Tesco’s find out from your clubcard they’ll say that.

Obviously there’s much more to it than that. For example, they also know:

Where you live
How old you are (probably)
The time you bought it
The date you bought it
The store you bought it in

That’s for each individual product you buy.

So they know if you only buy toilet roll once a month when you go to the big super store. They know you mainly buy milk from smaller stores.

Or maybe you don’t buy much milk at Tesco. In that case, based on where you live, and other places you have shopped, they’ll identify other places you might be getting your milk.

And you wondered why Tesco was popping up everywhere?