Thursday, August 08, 2019

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

  1. Email their data controller at 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 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.
Description=Start Firefox



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.
And fit the drive.
Since every picometre counts screw the drive on to the bottom of the mount, not the side.
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.
You still need an extra couple of mm and I found that nuts from a meccano set were perfect.
Carefully place your spacers over the screw holes, put the base plate back in place and screw the screws back in.
As you'd expect the case doesn't quite go back together perfectly but it seems stable enough.
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: 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.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Camera Repair Quote from Sendean Cameras

Since Yelp appear to hide bad reviews I thought I'd also post my review of Sendean here.

I dropped off a camera at Sendean for a repair quote. The camera would switch on but the lens wouldn't extend fully. The quote I got back was as much as the camera would have been worth in mint condition. When I declined they reduced the quote by a third, but I still didn't think it was worth it so I went to pick the camera up. The first time I arrived at the shop I was told that the camera was still in bits and that I'd have to come back the next day, which I did. However once I had got the camera home it wouldn't turn on any more at all (a strap lug was also missing). I called Sendean to discuss this and the guy's attitude was terrible. He first claimed that they hadn't even disassembled the camera. When I pointed out that I'd been told the camera was in bits the first time I'd come to collect it his attitude got even worse and he said "you started with a broken camera, and you've still got a broken camera." Unbelievable.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Flickr Auto-Uploader for Windows Phone

Flickr Auto-Uploader for Windows Phone will automatically upload pictures and videos from your Windows Phone device to Flickr. You can choose the privacy setting and tags of the uploaded files, any of your phone albums to upload from and one of your Flickr albums to upload to. If you have a Lumia 1020 it can upload the high resolution images for you.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Flickr authorisation URL doesn't work on certain browser components

Writing a Flickr app for Windows Phone I was confused as to why the authorisation URL was forwarding the user to instead of the authorisation page after they logged in and I had to detect that and forward them to the authentication URL again. After a while even this stopped working, despite the fact that copying the URL into IE worked as expected, ie, after the user logged in they were forwarded to the authorisation page. For a while I was convinced Flickr must be discriminating by user agent string. The answer was staring me in the face, which was pointed to by an SO answer. Scripts weren't running on the browser in the app, they are disabled by default, you have to enable scripts in the Windows Phone WebBrowser component with IsScriptEnabld.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Manually Fixing Multiple Screens with Different DPIs in Linux

Step 1:

Set the system wide DPI to a comfortable level for your highest resolution screen, using X Resources. There is a DPI calculator here.

Step 2:

With the DPI set in step 1, work out what scaling is comfortable on your secondary screen. You can do this by adjusting the layout.css.devPixelsPerPx Firefox setting or with xrandr, eg:

xrandr --output HDMI1 --scale 1.3x1.3

Step 3:

Update 11-Nov-2016: It appears that you no longer need supply the --fb parameter, iirc the previous symptom was only being able to access a certain area of the lower DPI screen.

Calculate the total screen size for the xrandr --fb parameter. To do this multiply the x and y resolution values of your secondary screen by the scaling factor, and then add the primary value, depending on whether you have your screens left/right or above/below. In my case both my monitors are 1920x1080, my secondary monitor is scaled at 1.3 and I have my primary monitor below my secondary monitor, so my total screen size is 1920 * 1.3 x 1080 * 1.3 + 1080, or 2496x2484.

Step 4:

Update 11-Nov-2016: There is a script here which will do these calculations for you. Obviously you may want to change the scale factor of 2.

Calculate the position of your two monitors. My primary monitor is centred below my secondary monitor. So my secondary monitor is at 0x0 and my primary monitor is at (1920 * 1.3 - 1920) / 2 x 1080 * 1.3 or 285x1404. 

Step 5:

Put the above values into xrandr:

xrandr --output HDMI1 --scale 1.3x1.3 --mode 1920x1080 --fb 2496x2484 --pos 0x0
xrandr --output eDP1 --scale 1x1 --pos 285x1404

With thanks to this SE post.

Udate 09-Aug-2017

Step 6:

Out of the blue I started getting:

xrandr: screen cannot be larger than 8192x8192 (desired size 12800x2880)

To fix this I created:


Section "Screen"
        Identifier      "Default Screen"                                       
        DefaultDepth    24                                                     
        SubSection "Display"
              Virtual 12800 12800

This didn't work when it was ordered after the monitor section.

Monday, September 29, 2014

How not to Transfer Your Domains Between Registrars

UPDATE IV - Dec 2018 - Four years on from my original debacle I've given Gandi another shot. The main reason being that I've bought a pair of FIDO u2f keys and have managed to drop all TOTP sites. Gandi is one of the few registrars to offer u2f support and I was really unimpressed with Hover support's reply when I asked about it. Gandi also seems to be very well respected amongst people that I respect.

The good news is that Gandi appears to have seen sense and has overhauled their system to allow an account to use a different email address to the domains that it manages. Having said that I wasn't taking any risks this time and made sure all the owner info matched up with the Gandi account.

The small hitch with the transfer this time seemed to be at the Hover/Tucow end as I only received their Transfer Away email after manually prompting their support and then I found the email to be rather misleadingly worded. Reading the description below would you expect to be able to confirm the transfer to proceed immediately at the linked page?

Original post:

TL;DR: i) Before transferring your domains to a new registrar make sure every single piece of contact information on them is EXACTLY the same. ii) I can't recommend

I own several domains, one of which I use for my primary email address. A while ago I read Naoki Hiroshima's account of being held to ransom due to someone taking over the domain he used for his primary email address. At the time I contacted my registrars to ask what security measures they had in place to make sure this wouldn't happen to me (not that I think I have much of value to steal). Their replies didn't fill me with confidence. More recently I read of a registrar that can enforce two step authentication on accounts, I decided to take the plunge and initiated the transfer of my two domains (free), three .com domains (£8.63 each) and one .it domain (£9.20) to

The domains transferred very quickly, apparently without issue, however I noticed that the "owners" of the two domains were two different accounts to the one I was currently logged in as. Upon contacting Gandi they told me that because my details were slightly different for each of the two domains and for the administrative/technical contacts three accounts had been created. I could have used the two owner accounts and ditched the admin/tech account, but that was the account that I had also requested the .it and .com domains be transferred to. Gandi told me that to transfer the domains between accounts I would effectively be changing the owner of the domain. So I initiated the process to transfer the two domains to my main account, which would apparently cost me £4.60 per domain, not too expensive, and hopefully they'd be renewed in the process. But after following their instructions I was further notified that I would need to initiate the transfer with Nominet and pay them a further fee of £12 per domain. Considering I wasn't even transferring the domains between people I felt this was getting a bit ridiculous and gave up.

After three days I was notified that there had been an error transferring the .it domain. Gandi's wiki said that the error message meant that my previous registrar had blocked the transfer, so I contacted Livetodot. Livetodot said that the domain had been successfully transferred away from them and pointed out that the whois record even specifically said so. So I went back to Gandi. Another day later I got an email confirmation from Gandi saying that the domain transfer was complete, but gave no explanation as to what had gone wrong. During this period DNS had been failing on my domain for at least three days. It was at this point that I realised how stupid it was to use my primary email address on the domain that my primary email address uses, and I started to get nervous. While the .it transfer had now been successful, the domain owner apparently didn't exactly match any of my three Gandi accounts and so a fourth account had been created and marked as owner.

Luckily my three .com domains, including my primary email domain, eventually transferred without incident, and with the original Gandi account as the owner. I can now use this account as a central account to administer all of my domains as it is at least the technical contact for all my accounts. However I now have another issue besides the four accounts. As I said above I think it's stupid to have the contact email address of a domain using that same domain, so I would like to change the email address on just that domain. However Gandi's system doesn't seem to allow for that, only allowing one account to have one email address, so to change the email address for one of my .com domains I have to change it for all the domains owned by that account.

All in all I don't think I can recommend Their system seems to be based on the incorrect assumption that each account is a different entity and each entity will only have one email address. I also wonder if other registrars (and why Gandi doesn't) just recognise an email address as a unique identifier and not worry if other details are slightly different.

Having done a bit more research there are other registrars that can do two step authentication, including Hover and EuroDNS. Reading Naoki Hiroshima's post again I notice that the hacker actually recommended NameCheap and eNom as secure registrars, although that information is a bit dated now and besides, I'm not sure if we should trust a hacker.

UPDATE: When I was initially thinking of going through with transferring the domains to a single account I created an account with Nominet and I seem to remember being able to see both of my domains, but now I can only see one. Nominet and Gandi both say that this is because the two domains have different email addresses on the owner contact, but in the Gandi control panel they both look the same to me.

UPDATE II: After getting pretty much nowhere with their support I emailed their batline, nobullshit(at) Coincidentally or not the very same day their support agreed to transfer my domains to my central account if I were to change my email address at Nominet. Nominet let you change your email address without any sort of confirmation with the old email address or the new email address, something that I pointed out to them was likely to get domains lost or stolen. A week later my domains still haven't been transferred. I also got a direct reply from Gandi's COO and "Chief Evangelist". Unfortunately this email confirms that their "no bullshit" tag line is just that, bullshit.

UPDATE III - Sept 2015 - A year on my renewals have come up again and I decided to put my money where my mouth is and join Hover. So far the move has been a joy by comparison and the transfer has worked the way that I would expect, you create one account and transfer your domains to that account. The one gotcha being that they don't automatically update your domains to use their DNS servers.