A Cautionary Tale Of BT Internet…. (Or, Why not to buy internet from them)

For years I’ve been on Plusnet but had a BT TV subscription on the side, and in the interests of reducing my bill (it had been the same for years) and putting all my stuff in the same place, I decided to switch back to BT, after all they control the phone networks here in the UK so you might as well get as close as possible to the people who run the internet.

Before switching I had Fibre To The Cabinet internet provided by Plusnet, it wasn’t great, but it was better than the standard ADSL and because I work in IT at home a lot, it was better than nothing. When I switched back to BT I mistakenly thought I’d bought the same package, after all surely BT’s fastest package was the same as Plusnets fastest package, they have the same corporate overlords after all. How wrong could I be?

Once I finally got switched, my internet was so very slow, and it took days of begging people to dig deeper and an engineer come out for someone to finally realise there was a mistake in the setup and my internet, supposedly running 6mb/s down had been capped at 1mb/s, bonus. How it took 2 weeks to get that sorted I don’t know.

In the same onboarding process when I joined, my new internet got assigned to a new account number, which is supposed to get sent to you, it didn’t get sent to me, and for a decent while I didn’t have access to the control panel there either, the only way to get access is to get the Account Number mailed to you, winning. As I didn’t get access to the account I asked if I could get my old fibre connection restored, I mean, I had it before so surely they just switch it back on?

About a month later, many tweets, arguments and complaints later, it transpires that BT Wholesale wont supply my house because of the distance to the exchange, which is very weird because they supplied it perfectly happily before with Plusnet. Unsurprisingly I wasn’t very impressed with that response and asked if I could terminate my contract early and swap back to Plusnet, of course I had placed the order, but I would have thought given the amount of mistakes, calls, issues and problems encountered with the BT onboarding they would at least considering cutting me some slack and let me swap back to Plusnet(A BT company!) and waive the early termination fee. Apparently not.

pic

Having spoken to the folks at Plusnet they have told me with “200%” certainty I can get supplied FTTC internet by them to my house via exactly the same phone lines. What in gods name ¬†is going on?!!

pic2

Thanks BT, I shall be cancelling anyway, it’s a big shame that I cannot remove your phone line all together along with cancelling my Internet and TV contracts because it feels like whilst we’ve both made mistakes it’s rather unfair to then charge me to swap back to get a comparable service to what I was on before. I shall be warning people not to use BT’s services in future and if I ever find a way to ditch the phone line and go with another provider I shall do so, because whilst the staff at BT Care are excellent and I fully appreciate what they have done for me over the last few months, the onboarding service by BT and the lack of organisation for a company of their size, is nothing short of appalling.

 

My Name Is Tom And I Have A Neurodevelopmental Disorder…..

asperger-syndrome

I’ve known for years I was a bit different, not massively, but enough. Times when I should be emotional I wasn’t I was numb, times when I should slow down or stop, I didn’t I sped up. Something wasn’t quite right, but it wasn’t until a conversation with the Mrs when she said “I’m not 100% sure, but I think you have Autism” that something clicked. I mean, she should probably know, she worked with severely Autistic young adults for a number of years.

Initially my plan was just to accept her diagnosis and pretty much ignore it, I mean, what can you do? There’s no cure, no magic pill I can ask the Dr’s for. But it niggled at me for a day or two, until I though “stuff it, I will see what I can do”. Not liking having my scheduled disrupted(yeah I know, warning signs right?!), I decided to skip the NHS and infinite referrals and go private. So I checked out the National Autistic Society website and found a local private practice who do diagnosis for a few hundred quid. Not bad I thought and I can pick a time that suits me…

So last week me and the Mrs showed up at the Dr’s, I was asked to bring someone who knows you to offer up examples of when they think you’re a bit crazy. In fact my stories went on for so long we didn’t even get to the end of first list of stuff in the 2 hour slot we were given… in fact it went on 2 1/2 hours and we still didn’t get to the end. We discussed my weird fascination with the Apollo space flight era, Apollo 13 and all things space. My love of the vastness of the USA. My lack of emotion at my Dads funeral. My issues when is comes to talking with people I don’t know very well. The fact I fail to see the bigger picture sometimes at home which can cause friction. Why I get twitchy if I can’t follow a recipe to the letter (or maybe I’m just pedantic), on it went. That night I went home and digested it and forgot about it until today when I had to go back for my diagnosis and discussion about next steps.

When I got there we ran through a few more questions and then discussed my diagnosis. The Dr believes I have Aspergers for those of you who don’t know it is, it is a disorder that inhibits social interaction and we have a love of patterns and weird behavioural traits. The good thing about having Aspergers means I have a weird ability to remember stuff and an endless desire to learn new things, which is great for an IT world that is endlessly developing at a huge rate of knots. The other useful thing with me working for NASA means I won’t have to hack it looking for UFO’s, I’ll just ask someone ūüėČ

I don’t believe I have got any worse in my condition, if the Mrs hadn’t suggested I might have a problem I would never have got it referred, but its a relief to know I can put a name to my weirdness. Of course as with all these mental illnesses, there is a sliding scale, interestingly I was told that a number of people who rate lower on the scale come in with more severe issues, so it shows you how lucky some of us are. I don’t think I have many issues that affect my daily life, others might argue differently. Also it has been brought to my attention by a few people that¬†divulging the fact I have Aspergers may affect my employability and recruitability, along with the way people who I work with daily or friends interact with me, it doesn’t bother me particularly. If people don’t want to employ me because of my condition, fair enough, I’ll find someone who does. If people who I know don’t want to speak to me any more, I probably picked the wrong person to talk to in the first place. To all my other friends and colleagues, it is a pleasure knowing and working with you and long may it continue!

So why have I written this blog post? Not because I want sympathy, far from it, personally it will have no effect on my day-to-day life. But I do want to raise awareness because it is important that people who are undiagnosed can get help and also that people without it can understand why some of us are a little odd. If you feel like you have mental health issues, get them checked out, don’t live in the dark. If you come into contact with people like me who have mental health issues, just understand we might be a bit weird, might have issues communicating or saying things maybe we shouldn’t, but it’s not because we’re mean or nasty, it’s just because we are human.

So here are a bunch of links:

* http://www.autism.org.uk/ National Autistic Society
* http://mindchecker.channel4.com/test-autism.html Online Autism Test (if it makes anyone any happier, I score around 70, 32 or above indicates possible Autism….)
* http://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/asperger.aspx Aspergers information

Snappy Packaging – Don’t ignore the hype!

This week I was lucky enough to be invited along as a guest to a Canonical sprint in Heidelberg, Germany, to topic of which is the Snappy packaging system(http://snapcraft.io), pioneered by the folks here at Canonical.

I like to think I keep up with current events pretty well in the Linux world and it hadn’t escaped my attention over the previous couple of months that there had been a lot of negative press surrounding the Snappy packaging format quoting a lot of ¬†Redhat based distros. As with Juju, I turned up to an event not fully understanding the project, not fully understanding its purpose, or for that matter, ¬†why I’d been invited!

The thing that struck me on the first day was the diverse group of people here at the sprint. Of course the majority were Canonical employees, but there were people here from a number of different Linux distributions and a number of big Linux based open source projects and of course people like me. Canonical had really excelled in making sure people from across the Linux world had been invited to attend and it really showed.

Day 1 was like a who’s who of people who I’ve known virtually for many years in the Linux community but never seen in the flesh, so once I’d picked my jaw back up off of the floor and got to work, it was very interesting sitting in a number of discussions where very clever people who understand how the Linux systems all inter-operate , figure out how to make snappy work across the whole Linux ecosystem.

So I guess at this point it’s worth mentioning what Snaps are. ¬†Originally developed by Canonical for their phones and mobile devices, ¬†Snaps allow programs to be run in a confined ¬†environment wherever the snap daemon runs. So you can run the same code on Ubuntu Classic or Core, ¬†Arch, Redhat etc without any modifications. How can this be assured? ¬†Snaps allow developers to bundle all the dependencies they require in a single package, they can also delegate certain dependencies back to the underlying system. To ensure data security and enhanced platform security, Snaps are also sandboxed and their file system access tightly controlled. For application developers, this is great because it allows them to build once, run everywhere. For end users it also allows them to roll back should they mess up an upgrade. Not only that but they will also be able to restore all the old configuration data at the same time!

Back to the sprint, day 2 I wanted to try some stuff, it’s all well and good sitting in planning meetings but I still didn’t understand how it all worked. So I started “snapping” a couple of Java applications to see how hard it was… it wasn’t, which is great. But I was also aware that to get people using Snaps there needs to be a simple way for them to be able to build and integrate Snaps into their build chain. They don’t want to have to learn lots of new stuff because open source developers generally have enough on their plate. I’m a Java developer, so I wanted a way for me to be able to leverage my existing Java builds but package up the finished artifacts into something that I can deploy instantly. To fit that requirement I started work on my first Maven plugin:¬†https://github.com/buggtb/snappy-maven-plugin . This is very much work in progress but it means I can now build snaps for all my Java apps, hopefully more build tools for different build systems will appear like this to help onboard developers with minimum disruption to what they already do.

Wednesday night was a show and tell night and there was lots of cool stuff on display, I ended up being the last talk of the night and presented “Don’t forget the end users” (https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1UdKSsuXpYSy25V9HuxnqgzQRmlC1DEtLJUgEY-5PDoc/edit?usp=sharing), I took a bit of a risk and trolled Mark slightly whilst he was in the room, I hope he see’s the funny side otherwise I’m not being invited back to another Canonical event! But I think the message was important, when you’re going and building all this cool new stuff, don’t forget, to make them a success you need the buy in and support of a diverse community of developers. If you just inflict new build tools and standards upon them, they will push back, you need to engage and work with them to make sure they understand why the new platform is going to be of benefit to them!

One interesting take away we had from chatting on Wednesday night, and I think Juju suffers from the same affliction, is the naming.

  • Snaps
  • Snappy
  • Snapcraft
  • Snapstore

  • Juju
  • Juju Charms
  • Charming
  • Charmers

and so on. Canonical need to do more  to make it easier for both developers and end users to find and ingest the information they need.

Snaps could easily be the future of packaging on the Linux platform, but there is competition from Flatpak and others. Engaging the communities and proving its worth is key and they are off to a good start. Similarly ease of usage and access for both developers and end users is very important.

Finally, I’d like to thank Mark, Claire, Dustin for inviting me to the event, I’d also like to thank everyone I engaged with over the last week in understanding and helping me realise how useful snaps are going to be.

Destroying all LXC containers in one command

I run LXC/LXD for Juju development and needed a way to ¬†destroy a bunch of stale images without doing it all one at a time. So for future reference and posterity here’s how its done.

Thanks to Odd_Bloke on #juju IRC we came up with the following one liner:

lxc delete –force $(lxc list –format json | ¬†jq -r ‘.[] | .name’)

Dear Jeff Bezos…..

Hi Jeff,

I emailed you on September 3rd regarding your companies use of Saiku Analytics, but it would appear you’ve been busy launching rockets! I like that, I’m a rocket fan myself, not on the same scale as you but when I can afford it I like to fly model rockets in the fields behind my house, here’s a video for you:

Anyway, back to my point. I spoke to a few of your employees over the last few months, one of them was very helpful, he said they’d been running a Saiku Analytics proof of concept internally, but selected Tableau because they had no in house Mondrian skills. That response, whilst sad, isn’t the first time we’ve heard it and was very nice to hear the feedback from someone in your company.

I also made contact with someone else in another department within Amazon who use Saiku, and raised the prospect of having a chat about sponsoring Saiku or paying for licenses etc. Now, I know they got my mail, and I also know they use Saiku because here was the response I got:

Should I talk to this guy?

Besides us just buying EE Edition other possible scenarios are us contributing some development effort to the project or getting the features we want prioritized if we pay for EE edition.

This is comparison of Community and Enterprise editions: http://www.meteorite.bi/saiku-product-comparison

Rita

Now, I assumed that had been sent to me in error because, lets face it, I’m the vendor so it would be weird asking if I should talk to myself. So, I replied to Rita, and suggested they sent that mail to the correct person and that we should certainly have a chat. But then the line went dead, and I’ve followed up on that email 7 or 8 times without response. So I can only assume either Rita was a little embarrassed by the mistake, or their boss decided it wasn’t worth the effort. I suspect it was probably #2.

Now Jeff, Amazon earns a lot of money, and we are an open source software company, and unsurprisingly we don’t compete with Amazon in terms of revenue, so to help we are running a small kickstarter to fund Saiku and allow us to build Saiku Reporting, we have 5 days left and still need another ¬£8000. To keep building open source software, vendors like us need the support of companies who use the software, because we have to be able to pay our bills and feed our families, and I won’t lie, that’s a struggle because the bean counters see the “free” sign, and take that literally.

In case you were afraid you couldn’t afford it, or might annoy your share holders with their lack of return, I’ve created a quick report in the tool we’re trying to build to demonstrate how much time it would take you to generate enough revenue to pay for the kickstarter in its entirety:

Untitled

As you can see its less than 8 seconds.

You can see the report proper here.

We have 5 days Jeff, just spend a minute considering what companies like yours do, you like supporting open source projects when they are in your customer facing tools and part of the “common good” or when you get some nice PR, but when its for internal reporting and use, the Amazon’s, Samsung’s, HP’s of this world, all like to take and not give back.

Happy Christmas Jeff, I hope you have a good one.

Tom

Dear Samsung (once more)……

Dear Samsung,

I thought I’d write you another letter. A few months back you’ll recall I wrote you a letter asking about your use of Saiku CE within your organisation. Very nicely, a couple of your developers in Vancouver got on a call with me where we discussed the use of Saiku within Samsung and I got the chance to demonstrate Saiku EE. It was a very enjoyable call and enlightening as well. I had assumed that Saiku was used occasionally as part of a Pentaho BI server or similar, on the call I learnt that Saiku Server 2.5 is actually quite a big part of the report distribution for the team, and judging by the analytics we receive from google, is certainly used by the Kies group and others for report distribution.

Anyway all that aside, after my demo we sadly ran out of time to talk about the bigger picture and I can’t help but feel from the follow up emails the people in charge of the Saiku Server project largely missed the point of our call, which is possibly my fault, who knows, which wasn’t EE upgrade or license sales, but just contributing to the project as a whole. It would be great if Samsung bought an EE license, hell, our most expensive license only costs $35,000 and would be a nice contribution to the platform which you have used for a year or two now, you don’t have to use it, it would just be a nice way to acknowledge its use. But your developers cited a number of issues preventing the upgrade to 3.x and that is fine, I understand and accept that. What I don’t really understand is why when we followed up asking politely if they wanted to sponsor development, fund the project or commit some resource, we were sent a reply suddenly diminishing the role Saiku played and told that we’d hear from you if anything required building but otherwise you were fine. I find it a shame a company that reported $305bn in revenue in 2014, can’t find the time or funds to support an open source project they have used for a good length of time. As ever, I like to bring up Mozilla’s recent commitment to open source with their fund, I think its a great platform and demonstrates the importance open source software plays in businesses in the 21st century.

Of course Samsung, you have an open source group, which I think is great, but I can’t help but feel that the projects you support on there are projects that are included in your end user apps, and not projects that make your life easier and more productive within the business. Don’t get me wrong, I love Samsung brands, I’ve had most of the Galaxy phones, a Galaxy tab and the monitor I’m writing this on is a Samsung flat screen, so I understand why supporting open source software is important to you, but I think you also need to see the bigger picture and realise that it’s not just the end user tools you should be supporting.

So here it is Samsung, you use Saiku, and I know from the call we had, there was some interest on your end regarding Saiku Reporting. We are running a kickstarter to allow us to release Saiku Reporting under the apache license. Or, send some developers our way and start contributing to the platform with resource! We only require £15,000 but we are short with 6 days to go.

Just in case you were worried you might not be able to afford it, I have created a report, in a similar format to what we plan to supply with Saiku Reporting, detailing the revenue you guys generate vs what we are asking:

samsung

You can even have a play around with it live, because you aren’t the only ones, Amazon, HP and others all pull the same trick.

So if you have some petty cash stuck down the back of one of your sofa’s, feel free to help support a project you make use of daily within your organisation and help keep Saiku open source.

Thanks

Tom

Programmatically administering users in Apache Karaf

So this is one of those bookmark type blog posts I’m just putting out there because I couldn’t find an example anywhere else and it took some figuring out.

I wanted to administer the users in Karaf programatically instead (or alongside) people logging into the console and typing stuff in, so I wanted to know how to get access to the Backin Engine that powers the user management within Karaf. This is how I did it(along with a bit of help from jbonofre on the #karaf IRC channel.

In my utility class I add:

private BackingEngine getEngine(){
  for (AppConfigurationEntry entry : realm.getEntries()) {
      String moduleClass = (String) entry.getOptions().get(ProxyLoginModule.PROPERTY_MODULE);
      if (moduleClass != null) {
        return backingEngineService.getEngineFactories().get(1).build(entry.getOptions());
      }
    }
  return null;
}

With that done I can then add a couple of setters and get the services via blueprint like:

<!-- JAAS Realm for user management -->
<reference id="realm" interface="org.apache.karaf.jaas.config.JaasRealm"/>

<!-- Backing Engine Service -->
<bean id="engineService" class="org.apache.karaf.jaas.modules.BackingEngineService">
    <property name="engineFactories" ref="engineFactories"/>
</bean>

<!-- Backing Engine Factories -->
<reference-list id="engineFactories" interface="org.apache.karaf.jaas.modules.BackingEngineFactory" availability="optional"/>

With that done I can now edit users, clearly the get(1) needs adjusting to be dynamic but the premise works.

Hope it helps anyone in the same situation!