Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Delay Delay Delay Repay

It's often literally not worth my time claiming the pittance you get for late trains with delay repay, but it's the only way you can punish them for being late, so I try to do it out of principal, but boy they don't make it easy. The number of times I've had to clarify my claim or correct the response, but this really takes the biscuit. I was delayed on a journey that had three legs and I didn't realise it mattered which train company I claimed from, so I started, in December 2019, with West Midlands who passed my claim on to Southern who passed my claim on to South Western who I realised recently had never got back to me, but when they did initially tried to pass me back to West Midlands and had three different reasons for not paying up, and by this time I could barely remember what had happened.
Dear Mr Kitson

Thank you for contacting us.

I have checked your claim which was sent into us from Southern Railway on 23 January 2020.

Our claim reference XXX. According to the notes, you have already claimed with West Midland Railway as they were the original delay in your journey, this caused you to miss your connection at Harrow & Wealdstone which in turn made you miss the Clapham Junction to Winnersh Triangle leg.

As this is the case, the delay repay claim for the entire journey would be the responsibility of West Midland Railway.

I am sorry that this information was not passed onto you when the decision was made. An email should have been sent explaining the rejection decision.

Kind regards
Hi,

My memory is that it was the final leg of the journey that was delayed and that I didn't miss any connections. I know this because I met friends on the final leg and we all got the same train. West Midlands rejected my claim and passed it on to Southern who forwarded it on to you.

Jamie Kitson
Dear Mr Kitson,

Thank you for your recent correspondence.

With regards to your query, I have checked the logs for the 07.58 service from Clapham Junction to Winnersh Triangle and it is showing this service was delayed by 12 minutes. Therefore, on this occasion, as you were delayed less than 15 minutes there is no compensation due.

I am sorry this is not the answer you were hoping for.

Kind regards,
Hi,

The train was late so it didn't stop at Winnersh Triangle. We had to go to the end of the line stay on the train and go back. We were more than 30 minutes late.

Jamie Kitson
Dear Mr Kitson,

Thank you for your recent correspondence.

With regards to your Delay Repay, I am sorry the previous information I supplied was incorrect. Upon further investigation I can see the service did not stop at Winnersh Triangle and you were delayed for 50 minutes. Therefore, you are entitled to 50% of the single ticket fare.

Could you please confirm how you would like to receive this payment of £14.00. Your options are:

National Rail Vouchers (valid for 12 months and will be received within 5-7 working days)

Cheque (will be received within 20 working days)

Once again, please accept my renewed apologies and I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,
A cheque please.

How do I make a complaint about this?

Thanks, Jamie Kitson

Dear Mr Kitson,

Thank you for your email.

Your query has been escalated to me and I am keen to resolve it for you. I am sorry to hear that you have experienced disruption whilst travelling with us and for the confusion whilst claiming for this delay, through our Delay Repay compensation scheme. I have investigated your query further and retrieved your claim on our Delay Repay records, and I understand that this claim was rejected due to the time we received the claim from the other train company, which was over the 28 days after your journey. However, as a gesture of goodwill, I am happy to send you a cheque for £28.00, that is the full cost of your ticket, due to the delay and confusion in resolving your query.

Please allow up to 21 working days for the cheque to arrive in the post.

Once again, I am sorry for the inconvenience and any upset caused. Please do not hesitate to contact us, if you have any further queries regarding the above,

Kind regards,

Hi,

Thanks for your response. That's the third reason I've heard for my claim being denied. The biggest issue though was that I wasn't informed that my claim had been denied. If I'd been contacted I would have been able to explain that it was late because I hadn't known that it mattered which company I claimed through so initially I contacted West Midland within the 28 days who then forwarded my claim to Southern who then forwarded it to you. The incident would also have been fresher in my memory so I would have been surer about which leg of the journey was delayed and the fact that it was the train not stopping at our station which had made us more than thirty minutes late.

Cheers, Jamie

In response to this last email I received a duplicate of their last email.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Nikon Z6 Mini Review

Good - Image quality

Jpegs out of the Z6 are generally incredible IMHO. I know it's a cliche but there's something quite filmic about them. Everyone raves about Fuji jpegs, but I prefer the jpegs out of the Z6 even more than the X100s. I used to shoot jpeg + raw, but I've switched to just jpeg now, although that's at least as much a comment on the lack of time/skill I have to process raw files.

Scoot Silhouette Little Bear

Bad - No compact primes

I don't like zooms and I don't like big lenses. Where are the compact primes Nikon? I've resorted to a TechArt Sony adapter and feel stupid for not considering an Alpha a7 before buying the Z6. I am pretty happy with the Sony 35mm f/2.8 and 28mm f/2 (and 21mm converter), although of course you don't get any auto lens correction. Focusing isn't perfect, especially for video, and forgot about pin area and eye detection, but my main concern is the total lack of sealing, water gets between the camera, adapter and lens quite easily, and who knows whether the adapter has any water resistance itself.

Small things

Good

  • USB charging.
  • Very good wireless smartphone integration.
  • MF aids.
  • EVF is so good that I don't even think about it. 
  • Silent focusing. I'd already forgotten how loud even the AF-S lenses are when I bought an 85mm AF-S. Although Nikon did bring out the quiet AF-P lenses recently.

Bad

  • XQD card (single slot doesn't really bother me). SD cards are cheap and SD card readers exist on every laptop.
  • Wearing glasses I cannot view the whole of the screen all at once through the EVF.
  • The EVF auto-switch sensor gets fooled quite a lot. My solution to this, which I am happy with, is to configure the display switch to only switch between auto and monitor and I use that when auto is annoying me.
  • Lag in zoom for MF is a bit annoying.
  • Can't zoom for MF in video.
  • I do notice the startup/wake up time compared to a DSLR.
  • Buggy

Friday, August 21, 2020

Google and Amazon Photos Uploaders

This is kind of a mini review of my frustrations with the Amazon and Google photo uploaders for PC. I have a large (~3TB) library of photos. Ideally I'd like a CLI Linux uploader to periodically upload files at will, there are many flexible uploaders for Flickr that do this well, and many of them have useful features such as tagging the hash of the file so as to avoid uploading duplicate files. However both Google and Amazon have chosen to hobble their third party API keys. Amazon appear to have disabled third party Photos API keys altogether, while Google do not allow uploading to their free High Quality tier and I don't want to pay Google's fees, which for 3TB+ are quite pricey.

The TL;DR is that it quickly becomes clear that these two companies are not desktop development houses and both apps are fairly bad in a UI sense and fairly bad for uploading large numbers of photos. The Amazon app is quite a bit less bad than the Google app.

As an aside I also prefer the Amazon Photos web UI and its facial recognition seems better too.

Neither app lets you filter by file extension. This is a problem if you don't want to upload raw files that are stored with your jpegs

Neither app presents progress by file size, both do it by file count.

Amazon

  • The Amazon app offers to not upload duplicates, however it does this by file name(!) rather than a hash of the file or image likeness. So this feature is useless unless you have filenames as date/times.
  • When you ask the Amazon app to refresh a directory listing there is absolutely no feedback that this is being done, on massive directories this can take some time.
  • I have had to force close and reopen the app, however...

Google 

  • I have had to re-install the Google app to get it to start up. I've just noticed that reinstalling is the *second* item in their troubleshooting guide.
  • Google does not seem to like Windows UI norms and the app never appears on the taskbar or in the alt-tab windows list. What a great UX!
  • The Google app takes a *long* time to scan a directory.
  • I think the Google app takes at least double the time to upload images as the Amazon app. This could be it converting jpegs to WebP, but you'd hope it would do this in parallel to the actual uploading.
  • The Google app will not backup a directory unless it has write access!  Annotation 2020-08-21 2231451
  • It looks like the Google app does check for duplicates, I assume by file hash. Annotation 2020-08-22 205214

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Changing the Oil Filter on a 2017 Ford Grand C-Max TDCi 1.5

Changing the oil on our Ford Grand C-Max TDCi 1.5 was straightforward enough. Remove the bottom cover with a torx driver and then undo the sump bolt with a 21/22 mm spanner.
Changing the filter was simple enough once I knew what I was doing and had the right tools to hand, but I had difficulty getting that information.
IMG_20200731_113838
The filter housing is black plastic dome with a plastic bolt head moulded on top, hidden behind a large pipe.
IMG_20200731_111100
First use a screwdriver to loosen the collars and remove the pipe covering the filter.
IMG_20200731_113355
Once the pipe is removed you have better access to the filter housing.
Stuff some rag under the oil filter to catch any oil that spills out.
IMG_20200731_113305
Use a 27mm hexagonal socket and some sort of spacer to undo the filter housing. You want a hexagonal socket rather than a star so as not to strip the plastic head, and you need some sort of spacer in order to fit the wrench in. I used a universal joint, which was a bit too long, but worked ok since it was a universal joint and I could turn the wrench.
IMG_20200731_111953
The filter takes some pulling to get it out of the housing.
Remember to replace the seal.
IMG_20200731_112000
The filters have a notch which fits very snugly into the engine, towards the bottom.
IMG_20200731_112145
It's as hard getting the new filter into the housing as it is to get the old one out. I made the decision to fit the notch into the engine and struggle screwing the housing back in rather than fitting the filter into the housing and struggle to get the notch into the right place.
Video below is useful, but not great quality.

Monday, February 10, 2020

VMMEM.EXE High CPU Useage with Hyper-V

If you're using Hyper-V and finding that VMMEM is using a lot of CPU on your host you might want to swich scheduler type from root to core or classic. To find out what you're currently using run the following in power shell:
Get-WinEvent -FilterHashTable @{ProviderName="Microsoft-Windows-Hyper-V-Hypervisor"; ID=2} -MaxEvents 1

1 = Classic scheduler, SMT disabled
2 = Classic scheduler
3 = Core scheduler
4 = Root scheduler
To switch run the following in an elevated command prompt:
bcdedit /set hypervisorschedulertype type
Where type is one of:
Classic
Core
Root
It seems classic is probably best for most of us.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

How to get AirBnB to (really) delete your account (really).

  1. Email their data controller at dpo@airbnb.com asking them to delete your account attaching a scanned copy of some ID (I know, right!). If you are an EU citizen 😢 they are obligated to delete your data under the GDPR's right to erasure.
  2. Er, that's it.
Deleting Your AirBnB Account - A Flow Chart

Sunday, May 26, 2019

systemd unit to start a browser/user process on network up

It took me far too long to get this script right. The gottchas:
  1. User units cannot reference or interact with system units.
  2. On my system at least I needed to specifically enable systemd-networkd-wait-online.service to have network-online.target work.
  3. To enable pulse audio from a system process you need to
    1. set XDG_RUNTIME_DIR, which
    2. needs uid, not user name.
[Unit]
Description=Start Firefox
Wants=network-online.target
After=network-online.target

[Service]
User=[USER]
Environment="DISPLAY=:0"
Environment="XAUTHORITY=/home/[USER]/.Xauthority"
Environment="XDG_RUNTIME_DIR=/run/user/[UID]"
ExecStart=/usr/bin/firefox

[Install]
WantedBy=multi-user.target



I haven't looked into using this unit as a template as I'm not sure how to translate the user name into uid for the XDG_RUNTIME_DIR variable. It's a real shame we can't run it as a user process else we'd be able to use %u and %U.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Fitting a 15mm High Drive into a Gigabyte BRIX GB-BXBT-1900

You can just about squeeze a 15mm high hard drive into a Gigabyte BRIX BXBT case. I did it with the GB-BXBT-1900, but all the BXBT cases look to be the same.

The first thing I did was break off the U bend/clips at the end of the hard drive caddy.
Caddy
And fit the drive.
IMAG0168
Since every picometre counts screw the drive on to the bottom of the mount, not the side.
IMAG0169
The highest component in the case is the pair of USB sockets, but if you turn the base plate through 180° the drive will miss this and hit the slightly lower ethernet port.
IMAG0171
You still need an extra couple of mm and I found that nuts from a meccano set were perfect.
DSCF4203
Carefully place your spacers over the screw holes, put the base plate back in place and screw the screws back in.
IMAG0166
As you'd expect the case doesn't quite go back together perfectly but it seems stable enough.
IMAG0176
I checked the distance by dabbing a bit of paint on the top of the ethernet port. It's extremely close but not touching. I've had it running for a few days now without issue.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

That time a BT rep. recommended I use "something like Password123"

There are loads and loads of sites out there with ridiculous password rules, but BT gets a special shout-out for their special, multiple, password policies. In case it's not obvious no one has any business capping the length of a password or disallowing certain characters. A hash will always end up the same length and you can hash any character. Besides, once the password is hashed you don't know what characters it's made up of anyway. If nothing else BT is a technology company so really should know better.

We are moving, BT has a sale on, my wallet beat my morals and I decided to go back to BT from Andrews & Arnold.

So I got past the BT ordering page and onto the account setup page. I generated my random 20 character password as usual and pasted it into the password field, but up came a big red banner, saying "Passwords must be 8 characters long, contain only letters & numbers and need to start with a letter." (I've only just noticed that it says "be 8 characters long", at the time I read it as "at least 8 characters long".)



Note how the text is helpfully truncated. I thought this was pretty dumb but changed my password generator to use only letters and numbers, start with a letter and set the length to 40 characters. That password was accepted by the JavaScript on the page, but then I went to paste the password into the confirmation field and nothing happened. Yep, JavaScript was now preventing me from pasting my generated password into the password confirmation field. (I'm not sure if a proper password manager would have managed to do this automatically.) No problem, I fired up the browser dev tools and removed the anti-paste code.



I filled the rest of the form in and clicked "Continue". The same page loaded again, but this time with a big red warning saying "Please ensure all required information is complete."



I wasn't even sure that this was about the password, so I got onto their chat support:

Issy: Good morning Jamie
Issy: How may I assist you with your order today?
Jamie: Hi
Jamie: I am trying to create an account
Issy: I'll be happy to assist you with that
Jamie: but at the "Please complete your set up options." page
Jamie: where I choose a password etc
Jamie: it comes back with
Jamie: "Please ensure all required information is complete."
Jamie: no indication of what is wrong
Jamie: I have filled everything in
Jamie: also
Jamie: there are a number of other issues with the form
Jamie: the password rules are stupid
Jamie: and I can't paste into the password confirmation box
Issy: Please make sure your password isn't too long. Something linke Password123 should work
Jamie: HOLY FUCK
Jamie: are you joking?
Issy: Please don't use that one. It wouldn't be too safe
Jamie: can I download this chat transcript?
Issy: Please select the small envelope at the top of this chat to send a copy to yourself
Issy: You can also copy and paste
Jamie: so is twenty characters too long?
Issy: That's right
Jamie: your password policy doesn't allow special characters
Jamie: alpha numeric only
Jamie: and twenty characters is too long?
Jamie: so what's the maximum length then?
Issy: That's correct Jamie. It would need to be within 8-16 characters. I'm aware it doesn't show this on the page
Jamie: Wow.
So yes, a 16 character alpha-numeric password worked. But this isn't the end of the story. Once I had logged into the BT website I checked to see if I could change my password to a longer one, and yes, I could! In fact there didn't seem to be limit to the length, but it still didn't like special characters. But that still isn't the end of the story, while writing this blog post I wanted to see if you could create a BT account outside of the order process. You can, and on that page once you enter an invalid password there is actually a helpful description of which special characters are allowed: "Only use numbers, letters and these special characters :!@#$%^&*()_+-=[]{};':",./?". Using these I was finally able to generate a long random password with special characters.

Bonus lolz

Remember how I said I was moving? Well during the order process I ticked the box to say that I wasn't yet living at the property, but I wasn't asked for a current postal address, where they would be able to send the confirmation details.
Jamie: do you know when/where the confirmation letter will be sent?
Issy: This would be to the address your service is to be connected
Jamie: but I'm not living there at the moment
Jamie: the current owners are
Issy: You may want to make them aware to expect the letter.
Jamie: Brilliant.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Martian - The Swiss Cheese of Films

Just a few of my issues with The Martian. Spoilers, obviously.
  1. The version of the human race in the film has had the foresight, ingenuity and money to start a colony on Mars, but they couldn't tie a guide rope between the spaceship and the base, or between each other. You know, like climbers have been doing for centuries. It didn't have to be a low tech hemp rope, it could have been wound kevlar, but no, nothing. And so Matt Damon gets blown away...
  2. But not that far, and yet the rocket takes off and he doesn't get burnt to a crisp. In fact there is no evidence of the rocket taking off at all...
  3. But taken off it has, and then shoots off back to earth. No "Let's hang around for a bit in case he's not dead?" Or "Why don't we just press pause on the return to earth procedure in case we need to go back to Mars?"
  4. The version of the human race in the film has had the curiosity to start a colony on Mars, and yet they are not curious enough to have a look at what might be left behind on Mars, what damage might have been done during the storm, or if Matt Damon was really dead, you know, useful stuff.
  5. Eventually they do have a look, 51 days later. And what do you know? Matt Damon's not dead. It will take over a year to prepare a ship and get it to Mars, so they turn the spaceship around and get back to Mars in just 51 days... no wait, they don't, and so the film continues.
  6. So Matt Damon wants to communicate with Earth using Path Finder, great, lets use our modern radio systems and modern computers to... no wait, we have to *physically* go and find and boot up the old Path Finder machines.
  7. Using hex to communicate through Path Finder. This is *so* inefficient, you're using 16^2 possible combinations for a possible 26 characters.
  8. So eventually they do decide to send the ship back, but wait, it doesn't have enough fuel, everyone is scratching their heads until the stereotypical loner genius has an idea! The slingshot! This is the worst moment of the film. I honestly nearly stood up and screamed "Of course! The slingshot!" The slingshot has been done to cliched death in science fiction and was first used in real life by the Marina 10 probe in 1974. This is probably why no one mentioned it, they all thought it was a bit passée.
  9. There are some women characters, but they still get a lot of patronising mansplaining.
  10. The film ends and Sean Bean is still living.