Why I like svp.co.uk and Amazon

Some online stores seem to have “just got it right”. Svp and Amazon are a couple of those that I use and will continue to use.

Svp.co.uk are a great source of blank media and the only place I’ve found that will sell Duracell Procells to the public at sane prices. They are also friendly and responsive when contacted (including replying to a ticket I raised with them at 9:30pm within a few minutes!) and have taken the decision to not spend a fortune on advertising and to ask their customers to post about their views (good or bad!) instead. Consider it done.

Amazon aren’t quite in the same league as svp. In fact, they probably take more in a minute than svp do in a year and I’ve been using them for years (order history shows back to May 1999) and I still order stuff from them even if they aren’t the cheapest as they have become a kind of “safe bet” on the big evil intermahweb.

I ordered a load of books the yesterday. As some of them were for Christmas presents I didn’t want to take the risk of the free postage and as their premium service was only a quid dearer than normal 1st class I figured I may as well. As promised, less than 24hrs later I had a box of books. However, unlike most orders I’ve placed with Amazon, the books were just loose in the bottom of a box with a load of air bubble thingies (most of which had popped) to try to stop the books rattling around. Normally Amazon are wrapped in shrink wrap to a piece of card to stop them moving around in transit.

As this seemed a bit crap (a couple of the books had been bent a bit – nothing major) I dropped them an email pointing out that I wasn’t looking for a refund or wanting to return anything, just that their packaging seemed to have gone down hill somewhat.

9 mins later I get a reply that at first I thought was an auto response but no, it appears to be a real message apologizing and answering all of my points (it really doesn’t appear to be a standard response – it even has a word missing!).

Please accept our apologies for the condition in which your items arrived, and for any disappointment caused.
Normally, in such circumstances we would create a replacement order for a damaged or defective item right away, to be dispatched to you as soon as possible at no additional charge.

Since you are not planning to return these items and interested in keeping the damaged items, and based on the condition in which it arrived, we wish to offer you a refund of 20% of the purchase price of this item, equivalent to a discounted price of 13.00 GBP. If this is acceptable, please reply to this message and we will request a refund to your payment card as soon as we receive your response.

Wow. I’d explicitly told them I didn’t want to return or a refund and I really didn’t even expect a reply (beyond an auto response anyway). Impressive.

I replied this afternoon and this evening I get another email confirming the refund and telling me that I’ll get yet another email to check up that the money has appeared on my card ok and to check I’m still happy. Again, I’m impressed. This second email does however go a little far – almost to the point of being cringeworthy…In particular, the last bit is just a tad over done for my liking 🙂

I would like to thank you for your ongoing support and continual purchasing throughout the years. Your purchase history is outstanding and I would personally like to keep your patronage. You are certainly the type of customer that we would like to retain. We hope that you will allow us another opportunity to prove the quality of our service to you in the future.

Well done amazon, but please don’t try too hard – if you get to ASDA levels of “have a nice day” then I’ll be going elsewhere 🙂

Oh, and knock the price on the Amazon prime down a bit – 50 quid is just a bit too high. A bit lower and I’ll be seriously tempted. Mind you, one click unlimited next day delivery of books and cds would be a serious threat to the health of my wallet – maybe it’s best it stays expensive 🙂

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Bouverie place (finally)

After much will-it, won’t-it the new shopping centre in Folkestone has finally opened. Bouverie Place isn’t exactly the biggest or poshest shopping centre around but it’s certainly made the town centre a bit less depressing (ok, it couldn’t really get any worse!).

I popped into town at lunch and had a quick look around – typically for Folkestone the shop with the biggest queue appeared to be Poundland! I would post a list of the stores but amazingly, they bouverie Place doesn’t appear to have a website! In fact, when I discovered this this morning I went to register the domain bouverieplace.com only to find that Jibbler had beaten me to it. Flickr produces a pathetic range of photos, in fact, apart from one site the biggest change to Folkestone town centre in many years has passed by without comment.

Oh well, hopefully the Asda will have a pizza making counter like the Ashford one (didn’t bother going in at lunchtime – place appeared to be *heaving* with chavs…somethings never change :-))

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The Day The Routers Died…

Absolutely excellent! 🙂

Thanks to Ben for the link…

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Proud to be English

So after all the hype in the press of the last few days, England has come out doing what it does best – losing.

First the Football, then the Rugby and finally the important one, the F1 Championship.

Still, at least Alonso didn’t get it. I wonder who he will be driving for next year – can’t see him being with Dennis 🙂

Ferrari FTW 🙂

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That’s it, I’m quitting and taking a new job

With an offer like this how can I refuse?? It must be legit, he seems to be emailing me repeatedly for the last few days and he has such a cool name as well 🙂

From: Sandy Castle
Reply-To: sandycastle111@yahoo.com
Subject: Job Offer..

Dear Sir/Madam,
I represent Leather Planet International Co. Ltd based in the US. My company exports finished leather products and other goods/services for world trade. Would you like to work online from home and get paid weekly? Leather Planet International needs a Book-Keeper in the United Kingdom,Canada,South America, Asia, Mexico, Australia and parts of Europe.

So I want to know if you will like to work from home and getting paid for the services being rendered without leaving or affecting your present Job. We are recruiting individuals to work for the company as a Representative/Book Keeper in the countries listed above. We have customers we supply weekly in these countries and our customers make payments for our supplies every week in form of Money Orders, Bankers Draft and Cashier’s checks.Checks which are not readily cashable outside the United Kingdom.So we need Someone in the above regions listed above to work as our representative and assist us in processing the payments from our customers and Leather Planet International is offering 10% of the payment received which will be your ercentage/pay on every payment processed.

If you are intrested in this Job Offer, more informations would be provided to you and you would also have to fill an application form that would be documented down on our data base.

Yours Sincerely,
Mr.Sandy Castle.

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Wot no shed?

For years, we have had a rather knackered shed/workshop at the bottom of the garden. We’ve never really used it (largely due to it being full of shit from the previous owner) and last winter the roof collapsed in. Finally, it had to go as we should have a man coming real-soon-now(tm) to put a fence up.

Last week the bottom of our back garden looked like:
a shed

following a long day of smashing it up and something like 14 car loads of crap to the tip it now looks like:
no shed!

Can you spot the difference? I think I owe Trev, Mrs Trev and Jam a few sportsmans. Ta, couldn’t have done it myself (I’d still be out there!)

In other news, I’m off to London tomorrow to visit HP and see what they have to offer us for a SAN upgrade. Having been to Hitachi a few weeks back it will be interesting to see the differences. Obviously, after comparing SLAs, performance, quality of the software and the cost of ownership we will be selecting one to buy based on the most important criteria (how many bl00 leds they have and how good the free lunch is – HDS were excellent on th lunch but sadly lacking in bl00 goodness)

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Grrrrr…..bloody Microsoft

We run Sun LDAP server (Directory server 5.2) and we use idsync (or SUNWisw, or “Sun identity syncronisation for windows” or whatever they are calling it this week) to enable passwords in our Microsoft AD domain to be kept in sync with the passwords in LDAP. This has worked brilliantly for a couple of years.

A couple of months ago we upgraded our Window 2000 domain to Windows 2003. We tested idsync in a dev environment and thought it was all working fine. However, since then, we’ve been getting reports of users changing their passwords on windows but LDAP only accepting their old passwords. The idsync logs showed that it all appeared to be working perfectly, the windows logs showed, well, showed bugger all really (don’t they always?). Finally today while a few of us were chatting over a coffee the penny dropped…

As AD doesn’t make passwords available (or hashes of) the LDAP server has no way of obtaining the passwords directly. What it has to do is to monitor the AD changelog (point at PDC emulator role – odd things happen otherwise with replication delays in AD) to detect when a users password changes. When it does, it flags the user as having a password that needs syncing by setting the attribute dspswvalidate to true. Then, when the user next binds to the ldap server (via mod_auth_ldap in apache, UWC, msging express, whatever) the idsync plugin to DS takes the password that it has been given and attempts a bind against the AD domain controller. If it works it knows the password is correct and squirrels it away in LDAP (at least, a hash of it) and allows the bind to succeed. Clever, and reliable until Windows 2003 SP1 when for some reason I can’t fathom Microsoft changed the behavior. Now, for 1 hour after changing a password in AD a user can still use their old password for 1 hour. Sounds a trivial change but if you have users who have their (old) password stored in email clients etc then it’s a race to see which password is synced first. If the user happens to use their *new* AD password then idsync sends that to the DC and gets it validated, stuffs it into LDAP and huzzah, the world is sweet. If however the user (or more likely, a client they have running with a saved password) uses their old password first then idsync again sends this to the AD DC which since SP1 now returns a success for the old password! Of course, idsync the stuffs that into ldap and never bothers syncing it again – why should it, it has the new password doesn’t it?

Arggggghhhh

Of course, it’s not all Microsoft being shit. We have had a call logged with sun for this for several weeks now (case ID 37917017 if anyone reading can look it up). They haven’t managed to come up with a reason why this is happening despite in v6 of DS it’s actually a documented issue on suns site (see http://docs.sun.com/app/docs/doc/820-2487/isw-bugs-known ). For version 2005Q4 Sp1 which is the version that supports 2003 it isn’t mentioned at all :-/ I’ll suggest a doc update tomorrow when I get into work. In the meantime, hopefully I’ve scattered enough of the relevant keywords through this post that others suffering the same odd behavior will find it.

BTW, the fix it alledgedly described in http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=906305 although we’ve yet to confirm this – fiddling with the registry on live domain controllers during signup week isn’t something we can just do without thinking carefully… Also, that doc seems to suggest that it’s NTLM auth that is effected – it’s certainly LDAP and we’ve also confirmed it’s an issue with radius auth (windows desktops work properly and reject the old password immediately – convenient).

Finally, is it just me who finds the end of that document rather laughable?

Note This behavior does not cause a security weakness. As long as only one user knows both passwords, the user is still securely authenticated by using either password.

If a user’s password is known to be compromised, the administrator should reset the password for that user. The administrator should ask the user to change the password at the next logon to invalidate the old password as soon as possible.

Ask the user to change their password as soon as possible when you know it’s been compromised???? ARGGGHHHHHHH

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What is it with our WRC champs? :-(

A few years back, I remember Richard Burns death being announced and Colin McRae giving interview after interview about how although rivals they had been the best of friends in many ways. Then, on Saturday evening rumours started that McRae had been involved in a helicopter crash – with no survivors :-/

Seems this is now all confirmed and is somehow even more chilling as both McRae and his 6 yr old son (along with another child and a family friend) were also killed in the accident.

I’ve not really followed WRC much in the last few years (wife and kids put paid to that sort of hobby :)) but having met McRae once several years ago at Brands he came across as a really nice guy. A massively talented and uber rich guy sure but still willing to chat to fans (unlike mr twat MainSail himself or I’msoupmyselfAlonso). Friends who have met his more recently at Goodwood have said the same. Sad sad sad 🙁

In a final twist, it seems that David Richards (Head of prodrive who McRae drove for) left the Belgium GP early after the news and flew home only to also be involved in a helicopter crash. Luckily, they escaped however.

Still, as it says on every motorsport ticket – “Motorsport is dangerous”. Never thought it would be this dangerous :-/

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Wow!

Wow. FIA have balls after all. Not sure I agree entirely but wow.

Of course, McLaren will no doubt appeal (they are waiting till after the weekend apparantly).

Wow. Still, could result in a British champ and a prancing horse winner of the constructors – perfick 🙂

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999

Driving home last week I noticed a sign warning that Old Dover Road was going to be closed on Saturday for a “999 Open Day”. Not really having a clue what this was (and finding bugger all info on the intermahweb) we decided to pop over and have a look. Glad we did, the kids loved it! Although they got locked in the cells we couldn’t persuade the police to keep them unfortunately so we had to bring them home again 🙂

Lots for the kids to play with and look around – I didn’t take a decent camera so only have some crappy cameraphone shots 🙁

Jake and Becca both got to have a play on a police motorbike – Becca loved it even though she couldn’t actually reach the handlebars

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Then we headed inside to have a look around the cells (the locals had been shipped off to Margate nick for the night apparantly) and then we had a play with the 999 call logging system. Type in a postcode and house number or a phone number and instantly get a map of our house. Impressive details – layout of th gardens, where sheds are etc etc. Also all alleyways gates are marked with widths so they can instantly tell if they can fit a police car down them etc. The latest version also allows them to overlay google maps onto it for satellite photos. This is all available in a load of the police vehicles as well. neat.

Kids then got arrested and went to have their fingerprints taken. For some slightly worrying reason, becca loved this…

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Back outside to have a look around the Coastguard displays where Jake got kitted out to be a winch guy for the helicoptors. I think he might have to grow a bit first

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Surprisingly, the police then opened up one of their armed response units and let the kids play with the guns! Jake rather liked the sub machine gun best. Becca struggled to pick it up 🙂

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Over to the fire station and Becca spotted the huge ladder thing that is usually parked next to her nursury – she was rather excited to be allowed to climb into the drivers seat!

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Finally, the kids got to play in an *enormous* fire truck that carries containers of emergency equipment around. It had recently returned from the Hotel fire in Newquay apparantly and was full of scary looking hydraulic kit and uber clever cameras on sticks 🙂 The truck itself was seriously clever and massively computer controlled. Becca pretended to drive while Jake pressed as many buttons as he could find on the computers (and there were *a lot* of buttons!) I wanted to have a play with this one 🙂

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I was impressed – dunno why they don’t advertise it at all! And best of all, it was free (which was just as well as we got home and found the strimmer blew up when I tried to cut the grass and the printer died that evening. There goes my pay rise this month then!)

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