About Me

I was born in Luton, known for hat making, Vauxhall cars, London Luton Airport and a great football team who once beat Arsenal at Wembley in a Cup Final, currently languishing in non-league football for the 4th season. I moved to Edinburgh in 1990 and now live in Leith, Edinburgh's 'waterfront'.

Married for 24 years to Louise (who is on day release from Fife), I have 4 children: Holly (aged 28) who's studying medicine at Dundee University, William (aged 26) at the Army Foundation College, Harrogate, Alice (aged 23) and Maddie (aged 16).

We live in a 226 year old Georgian house which we are slowly renovating. We once had a note from an artist posted through the letterbox asking if our semi-derelict house was available to rent as studio space. Things have improved lately; the stonework has been repaired and we have shiny new railings. Just the inside to do now then.

Current CNPS score: 999

Header Image: Richard Bloomfield

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    Hacked off

    How was your Christmas? Hope you had a good time.

    Me, I’ve been at war since Boxing Day. And I’m not talking Playstation game, this is real life electronic warfare against an enemy I can’t even see. If you thought hosting websites was an easy business, think again.

    One of my servers was hacked on Christmas Day, then used in a DDOS attack on Google on Boxing Day, resulting in the dreaded phone call from my suppliers in Texas: “Your server’s been unplugged for violation of AUP. We’re sorry this has happened to you but we’ve taken this action to protect you and other customers on our network.” Dozens of client’s websites vanish without trace.

    We managed to clean the offending worm from the server and I got it reconnected on Monday morning, only to be reinfected and unplugged again by Tuesday morning. They don’t reconnect twice: the only course of action now is a restore (nice clean hard drive). But they do connect up your old drive for 48 hours as a slave for you to get any data off. Dozens of client’s websites. Gigabytes of files to copy over to a new server (I always have a spare waiting in the wings).

    This has taught me a big lesson. The reason this has happened is that I was a bit slack in upgrading and patching the server. It’s a constant battle. Relax for one minute and the hackers are in, wreaking their virtual vandalism.

    And you thought comment spam was a nuisance?

    Broadband aid

    Wahey! This is surfin’ dude.

    For months my ‘high-speed’ internet connection has been slowly grinding to a halt, the internet equivalent of the M25. The cable TV has also been getting temperamental, refusing to give out programme information or let me book movies on Front Row. Those of you who are Telewest customers will know that heart-sinking feeling: I was going to have to call customer services.

    Yesterday I decided to bite the bullet. I had a light lunch, made sure I’d been to the toilet (number 1’s & number 2’s), made a flask of coffee, arranged child care, settled down into my chair with the phone and dialed 150. I maneuvered skillfully through the maze of robotic announcements and button pressing aptitude tests to complete the first level: I’d reached a human being. Now for the interrogation. Could I get through this section without cracking and bellowing at the condescending, script-reading half-wit and slamming the phone down in failure?

    How many lights can you see on the front of the modem sir?“. “Have you tried rebooting your PC?“. “Have you paid your electricity bill?“. The trick here is to keep your cool. Even when they attempt the first move designed to halt you dead in your tracks: “I’m sorry sir, but your PC is full of spyware, that’s what’s causing the problem“. What an underhanded trick. How many helpless customers have they sent scurrying to their local PC doctor with this one.

    Well, not yours truly. I stood my ground. Gave him my best speech about SpyBot and AdAware, Bandwidth and lost packets. That phased him. He crumpled with the first counter attack. “I’ll have an engineer with you first thing in the morning sir, between 8am and 12 noon. He’ll fix your upstream signal level“. And you know what? He turned up, fixed my upstream signal level and gave me a new telly box.

    This connection is blazing. It must be Christmas.

    Money, money, money

    We received two cheques yesterday so there’s no need to send us food parcels after all. Unfortunately, the plastic tree has also arrived, although it has yet to be removed from its box and assembled. This will no doubt happen at the weekend when the house is brimming with children desperate to practice their bauble hanging skills. I can’t wait to see it standing there in all its fakeness.

    What I need here is a cunning plan. I’ve thought about rigging the tree lights so they overheat and set light to the bloody thing but this has the obvious risk of burning the house down. And I’ve started decorating the hall, so I don’t want that to happen. Or perhaps I could accidentally on purpose use it to clean the toilet. It does, after all, look just like a bog brush sculpture.

    The swelling of the household coffers also means that we’ll not be suffering Bernard Matthews for Christmas dinner as feared. Unlike school children who are forced to eat the muck pictured on the left.

    This delightful product, known as turkey Twizzlers, is dripping with a whopping 21.2% fat when cooked: it makes MacDonalds look like health food. And we’re letting them feed it to our children. I can only think that the government is tackling the long term pension problem at source.

    Fake fir

    Far too busy to write anything much here at the moment: Leith FM is back on air until 24th December (and I’m supposed to be station manager), the pile of paperwork I’ve been trying to clear for 3 years isn’t shifting, we’ve a half-demolished flat to finish renovating and Louise’s bump looms large on the family horizon. Christmas? Don’t talk to me about Christmas.

    We are a bit skint at the moment (well, very skint actually) waiting on clients to get round to paying us some money, so it’s difficult to get into the Christmas thing. The tree was discussed for the first time on the school run this morning and it seems we’re to inherit a plastic one with fibre-optic bits. Is this what I’m reduced to? A fake tree for the first time in my life because my plastic isn’t elastic enough to afford a real one? What next? Bernard Matthews turkey burgers for Christmas dinner?

    I’m sorry, but plastic trees are just ridiculous. Like non-alcoholic beer. And vegetarian haggis. And caffeine-free coffee. And smoke-free cigarettes (I know, they haven’t actually invented them yet but just you wait). What is the point? If you don’t eat meat, don’t eat bloody haggis, it’s full of the stuff. If you don’t want to get pissed, have a soft drink. And if you don’t want the ‘mess’ of a real tree, or baulk at paying the rip-off merchants £30 every year, don’t bother with one. It’s okay, you don’t have to pretend.