* Posts by Bill Buchan

27 publicly visible posts • joined 26 Mar 2007

Brit airport pulls flight info system offline after attack by 'online crims'

Bill Buchan

Oddly enough...

I was travelling through there on Thursday and tweeted a dodgy looking screen to BrizzolAirport.


The airport isn't that bad. Its the SINGLE TRACK road you have to use to get to it (avoiding the hellish car park that is Bristol).

---* Bill

Slack re-invents the extranet and shared Notes databases with cross-company teams

Bill Buchan

Okay. Lets imagine I had a distributed, replicated directory service with PKI (RSA no less) built right in, so you had an immediate, no-fuss PKI based replicated document store, with a simple set of application development tools which allowed you to build secure, authenticated apps in a few hours (Absolutely crappy looking, yes), deploy them across your environment, lock down the data (and optionally encrypt).. And they were business critical in a heartbeat. Oh and you could run all this on just about any damn server infrastructure you might have lying around, and on all the popular desktops (and even OS/2) of the day. Security is worked out at the document level - something that Sharepoint has failed to ever do.

Yup. We had that almost 20 years ago, kids. Before The Cloud ("Its just someone else's computer!").

Today, thats Mongo, some PKI infrastructure, Docker, React/Angular+Javascript, some pretty freaky Linux skills, and you still take 10+ days to build a simple application. Some Notes applications are still running (and still looking crappy) 20 years later. I challenge anyone to keep any Javascript app running more than two before NPM package decay causes stuff to become obsolete/removed or require serious work.

Colleagues of mine migrated to Sharepoint, and proudly say, after years of becoming expert in it - 'It only takes 2.5 times longer to do the same app in Sharepoint as it used to in Notes'. Progress.

Yes, pig ugly. Yes, IBM didn't know jack shit what they had (and continue to not know jack shit), and now, whilst still supported, is let out to die by the Websphere (remember that?) management at IBM. (Aside from one notable exception in South East Asia).

Does it work? Hell yeah. Is it easier/faster/more secure/more reliable? Hell yeah. And whilst the licenses actually cost money, it's not that expensive.

Hate it as much as you like, but no-one has came up with anything that can be installed and running in less than a day that even comes close.

I do mourn its passing, as it paid for a number of my houses...

(And yes, Damien Katz was hired to reverse engineer the @Formula language engine in the Notes/Domino 6.x release - did a magnificent job. Understood implicitly the power of functional programming, distributed and replicated document stores, platform independent and highly scalable languages, and of course PKI. And went out and self-funded the development of CouchDb. Legend. We all thought he was mad, of course ;) )

---* Bill


Sick of BT screwing up broadband? So were we. We did our own.

Networks in 2016: A full fibre diet for UK.gov

Bill Buchan

Some fun fibre-cabinet factoids.

1. Fibre cabinets are the only tool in BT Openreach's toolbox. Urban, Rural, who cares. The answer is fibre cabinets. (Well that sucks). Do you know that the total capacity into each box is rumoured to be 1gb/s. Think how many 80mb/s connections you need to consume that? (13?) How many G-Fast? (3?). Wouldn't it be fun to confirm that these magic fibre cabinets actually have the capacity to deliver all the connections that they're selling?

2. VDSL (80mb/s) has an even shorter working range than ASDL2 (24mb/s). Think line length of 1.5 miles. G-Fast ? 500 meters.

The point being, only faster speeds are available nearer the exchange or fibre cabinet. Rural people often aren't. Even townies might find that although their fibre cabinet is within 200mb, the cable route literally takes it round the houses for a kilometer or more (We have a line like this - promised 80mb, delivers 30mb/s, BT says 'it's within estimates, tough').

The estimates you get from the BT Wholesale ADSL checker are basically useless. Good luck wriggling out of that year contract.

3. You can do it yourself.

We did. Utter pain in the swannicles, but it works. See http://www.Marykirk.com. Lots of how-to's. Just go to http://www.msdist.co.uk.

4. It's all about the cost per meg per month.

So we run a WISP, and pay around 80p/mb/month for bandwidth, using 17 or so VDSL (80mb/s) lines. This is simply the cheapest option.

I'd love three 1gb connections, but at £20,000 each PER YEAR - it doesn't work commercially. If I wanted a Gig line within the M25 - £75/month. Ruralshire (And I mean outside of a major city) - £16,666/month. 20 times more expensive.

I'd love a 10gb dark fibre circuit wired directly to the Edinburgh Internet Exchange. But no-one will sell an non-ISP that sort of bandwidth for less than 'HOW MUCH?JEYZSYS!' sorts of money. I've tried.

Pity my mate in Pitlochry, paying £1,000/month for a 100mb/line. Yes. £10/meg/month. Ouch.

It's all sown up and gamed heavily to benefit BT. No doubt about it.

5. How do we fix this?

Perhaps that needs to change. And soon. Pity OFCOM only care about the 85% of people in urban environments, and not a jot about us ruralshire folks.

Lets stop talking about sweating the copper. G-Fast wont work - it's a joke.

Lets get fibre to the premises available to all properties in the UK as it should be. Unlike the present situation where it's only available in 30 exchanges in Scotland - all in Urban areas. Because BT thinks FTTP is just there to compete with Virgin Broadband.

---* Bill

Openreach boss Clive Selley wants Ofcom to wrap it up already

Bill Buchan

FTTC doesn't work in rural shire..

OpenReach just has one solution - the fibre cabinet - and that was designed for urban areas. OpenReach can't even get that right (Exchange only lines, for instance).

Ruralshire suffers a lot more - more than 1.5 miles from the cabinet, and its game over. G-Fast will be even worse. Clearly something different needs to be done in ruralshire and OpenReach just aren't doing it.

What they are doing is dumping fibre cabinets as quickly as they can to scoop up all that lovely taxpayers money we're giving them. The planning for the locations is appalling -the fibre cabinet for Luthermuir, for instance, was dumped 2.2 miles from the village. Only 8 houses get any sort of performance from that fibre cabinet. The 80+ houses in the village - nada. And will never get any better.

Look on the bright side - you can always ask for 'Fibre on Demand' - so you'll pay a shedload of dosh for your own fibre line. Oh - but not in Scotland, where only 30 exchanges are enabled for it. Making the only non-horrendously expensive solution FTTC. So much for the 'On Demand' bit. Gee. Thanks.

Hence the reason we ended up setting up our own WISP.

---* Bill


UK.gov can't get farmers onto its Verify service – even to claim subsidies

Bill Buchan

Yeah. Rural Broandband. Its just amazing how many farmers are inconveniently located in rural areas.

I'd possibly dispute the 'low level of technical..' comment above about farmers. Your modern tractor/combine has more GPS than a stealth bomber did have 10 years ago, and these guys are rather more tech-savvy than most people realise. They just can't connect at any meaningful speed.

Pity the fibre cabinets being rolled out are absolutely useless in rural areas where telephone-line lengths usually exceed 2 miles. We should follow the Dutch model and run fibre to every home.

---* Bill


Future imperfect: A UK broadband retrospective

Bill Buchan

Look on the bright side. Premier Inn are rolling out a new countrywide internet...

With a maximum speed of....


And yes, its 2015.


---* Bill


Gov.uk's broadband boast: Superfast fibre piped to 1 million Brits

Bill Buchan

Odd the assumption that us rural chappies don't need fast internet and that somehow only 2mb will work. Most of my customers are farmers, with more bloody computing power and GPS rigs in their tractors than most of *us* have in their houses. Farming, surprisingly, is now a high tech business, and they need fast broadband.

BT of course, even after getting hundreds of millions from the Scottish Government, still haven't actually released concrete plans and dates - even after the six month planning phase.

So a bunch of us down the pub said 'soddit' and 'lets fix it ourselves'. Which we did.

http://www.Marykirk.com. The tech shopping list is on the web page. It boils down to:

1. Find someone within 30km, line of sight, with fibre broadband. Hint: Google Earth allows you to draw a line between two points, right click, 'show elevation profile'...

2. Install a Zen fibre connection. Zen are fantastic.

3. Stick up some Ubiquiti Nanobeams for the long runs, nanostation (and nanostation locos) for the short runs - all between £50- £80+VAT each

4. Stick in a really fast Mikrotik router - £350 would cover it.

5. Stick in a £30 Mikrotik 951 router in each customer site, and stick a ubiquiti on the outside of the building.

Ta-da. You now have a wireless internet service provider.

So what you all waiting for?

---* Bill

Broadband bumpkin BONANZA: 8 altnets shortlisted for £10m UK.gov subsidy

Bill Buchan

Oh - not heard of that.

Any time I've tried to get some wifi stuff on a Church up here in Scotland, its taken 6 months for a reply from the Church of Scotland. And usually the answer 'no'.

---* Bill


Rubbish broadband drives Scottish people out of the Highlands

Bill Buchan

Or tell BT to get stuffed and do it yourself...

We did:


Now, if only BT would take less than a MONTH to install an ADSL connection in the nearest town.

---* Bill

MPs slam bumpkin fibre rollout, demand halt to further £250m cash spaff

Bill Buchan

We gave up on BT. Useless sods. Despite getting ANOTHER £130 MEEEELION from the Scottish government, us rural chaps can expect the square root of bugger all.

I finally cracked and set up a wireless internet service provider: http://www.marykirk.com.

All the tech, suppliers, is listed there.

So find somewhere with fast internet, and use these ubiqiti nanostation M5' s to establish 300MB/s, 20 Mile, line of sight links...

---* Bill

Reg hack battles Margaret Thatcher's ghost to bring broadband to the Highlands

Bill Buchan
Black Helicopters

+1 for Ubiquiti kit

We here in rural jockoland - land of whisky, etc (thanks for the stereotypes) have got slightly more ambitious plans. A complete village or two.

To that end we set up http://www.marykirk.com and have two or three long range links working just fine. We're using the Ubiquiti Nanostation M5's and are getting hundreds of meg of link across 10+ miles. Dead reliable too, until someone decides to let their dog chew a cable or turn off power to redo their kitchen.

Just about to install a full ISP credible AAA package using Mikrotik routing kit - lovely stuff. Bonding, authorisation, authentication and accounting, with PPPoE thrown in.

Its not that difficult, and since BT have basically given up with us in this area, much in demand.

Given that BT get around £30-£45 per household for a shockingly bad phone and internet service and the Ubiquiti and Mikrotik stuff is practically disposable - its not hard for the numbers to stack up.

---* Bill

Is this possibly the worst broadband in the world?

Bill Buchan

Look on the bright side. BT will NEVER upgrade this exchange.

I just went through an exercise of complaining to the head of BT Scotland about our similar ADSL+ exchange in NorthwaterBridge. Which is less than 15 meters from the Edinburgh-Aberdeen terrabit fibre backbone.

BT are NEVER going to upgrade our exchange. Ever.

http://www.billbuchan.com/rural-broadband/ (Start at the bottom - lots of good ammunition in there)

Good luck.

---* Bill

O2 grovels for London network failure

Bill Buchan
Paris Hilton

Complete rubbish

They're claiming that us premium rate customers are clogging their network. Diddums. Oddly enough, according to MacOSKen, AT+T have stopped selling iPhones in New York (their own personal network black hole).

And no - new base stations wont help the existing sites where they have insufficient bandwidth.

55 or so of us in Southwark Street have been complaining since June and I've copied all the eMail exchanges to http://www.billbuchan.com/o2/ if anyone else wants to use some of the stuff I've uncovered.

You know, it'd be interesting to consider a class action against O2 for this. Because then we could get discovery - and actually find out who was in charge of the 'take the money, don't provide the network' policy...

Paris - well, because she sucks better than O2..

---* Bill

O2 takes a Christmas break

Bill Buchan
Paris Hilton

O2 - complaint blog

55 of us signed a petition and complained to O2, MP's, Oftel, the whole 9 yards. Its all online and can be found here: http://www.billbuchan.com/o2/

What I've found is that no-one at O2 knows whats going on. Even the chairmans office cant get the network team to give dates for fixes, etc.

In the end the particular base station we were complaining about - Southwark Street in London - magically burst into life.

What they try and do is claim that because I'm in an area with unforseen demand, they don't have to actually provide network coverage. In our case, the base station was less than 400 feet away - my fillings were picking up the signal - but the bandwidth available to the base station was underspecced.

We're now trying to press them for some sort of compensation - which of course they're refusing.

One comment on this page needs further explanation though:


"In 2008, Ofcom warned O2 that if it didn't pull its finger out and improve its 3G coverage, it would take back its 3G licence early."

The O2 blog is the usual corporate-lies marketing rubbish but some of the comments are hilarious: http://blog.o2.co.uk/home/2009/11/two-years-on-ten-facts-about-o2-and-iphone.html

And finally: Top Tips while calling O2 customer service:

- Settle down for a long wait - 30 mins on average. Dont try and do this with a weak bladder. Warn co-workers in case they want to listen and laugh.

- Always get the operators full name and ask them for a number to get back to them should the call accidentally drop. Oddly enough 1 in 3 calls to O2 mysteriously get dumped, but not if you ask em for their name and make clear that if the call gets 'dumped', you'll get right back to em

- Get a reference number for the call. Even the O2 chairmans office don't know how many support calls are actually answered, nor when you called in to complain. If the operator doest allocate a reference number, its not logged. You might as well have been howling at the moon.

- Keep a written log or blog, and dont be scared to escalate to the chairmans office. The complaints escalation team are a joke and have never got back to me.

- Dont believe anyone who claims that the network team will call back. I've been promised this dozens of times. Never happened. Its as if the 'network team' dont actually exist. Perhaps they were outsourced first ?

Paris ? Because she's the only thing I know that sucks more than O2.

---* Bill

Has IBM grown a new Lotus?

Bill Buchan

In fairness...

This 'IBM don't market brands' issue has been going on for a long long time. IBM claim that it doesn't market product and doesn't market brands.

This appears to have been turned around (after only 10 years or so - which is light-speed to IBM) and a new Marketing VP has been beavering away, and is about to inflict a new campaign on us. (My toes are still curled up from the last attempt at 'viral' marketing)

As a (very) long (suffering) Lotus Business Partner, this is something we've been screaming at IBM for - oh - the last 10 years. I hasten to add that the (remaining) local Lotus/IBM folks are not the issue here.

So yes. You don't need Notes to do amazing things with Sametime, QuickR (the old 'quickplace' on steroids), Lotus Connections and a few other bits and pieces.

if you are an MS shop, and you hated Notes before - thats no reason (aside from the negative brand issues) NOT to check out Sametime, Connections, etc.

---* Bill

(Hand Grenade ? For the short-sighted IBM beancounters)

Lotus flowers with Apple app

Bill Buchan
Thumb Up

Ooooh. The flames start.

Chaps - I can understand if you hated notes 10 or so years ago. Not anymore. Check out the screenshots of iNotes on my blog here:


( But hey - dont bother actually checking to see if anything has changed - such as Notes winning a design award and now is eclipse-based, runs on linux and mac as well as windoze - in the last five years before spouting off.. ;-) )

iNotes is just a web app, and its actually quite usable, even over GPRS. So yeah, Kudos to IBM for actually delivering what they promised. And yes, its available on the current 802 domino release. Today.

---* Bill

Boeing raygunship fires first blasts in ground testing

Bill Buchan
Black Helicopters

Forgive my ignorance

But would just putting a reflective coating on the target defeat this exercise ?

It'd be like 'Saturday night fever' - all those mirrored surfaces..

---* Bill

BAA boots Vulture from T5 frequent flyer club

Bill Buchan
Black Helicopters

Bloody Heathrow.

Ah. The Heathrow Two Bags problem.

Solution: Head to a check-in desk, ask to get some tape, and tape the two bags together. And, it works. Proof here:


Myself, it'll be a cold day in hell before I go near T5. Give those useless f**kers my fingerprints ? I dont think so!

---* Bill

Microsoft cuts Vista price

Bill Buchan
Gates Horns


I did two months of hell on Vista. As a self-employed consulant/developer, I couldnt afford to have much downtime.

And so - after it had deleted my user area AGAIN, I switched to OS/X. And run XP in Parallels, and win2k3 test servers in VMWare. The old laptops now have Ubuntu and are quite happy.

Last couple of customer on-site jobs - they were quite happy with me imaging the shonky old laptop they *wanted* me to use. They now sit on the Mac, and give me remote access, etc.

Daughters boyfriend - VistaBoy - is a HUGE vista fan. Well, he was till Vista ate his hard drive.

I cant think of ever letting an MS operating system actually get to the hardware anymore, such is my lack of faith in them.

Given that Ballmer is still there (even after the $13b fine from EU), I cant see it getting any better...

---* Bill

Fight malware by upgrading to Vista, urges MS

Bill Buchan


Who needs virii and malware when Vista deletes, hides or locks your files so you cant get em ? (Dont get me started on the DRM..)

I suffered that POS for two months, downgraded to XP after it started deciding to delete my home folder, and then bought a Mac. In fact, three (whole family) and am now rampaging through my test infrastructure, removing MS Win2k3 and replacing it with Linux.

I'm aiming to not be reliant on an MS operating system by the end of the year. Sure I'll have test machines, but nothing my business relies on. As befits Windows *legacy* status.

If you want to avoid Malware, just avoid MS.

--* Bill

Microsoft shouts 'Long Live XP'

Bill Buchan

Vista. Euck.

I've been an IT professional since 1985, and lived and breathed windows since it came out. But Vista, on a screaming Dell XPS Gen-2 laptop - even with a respectable speed score of 4.0 - sucked.

I tried it for two whole painful months, on my main machine. Lived and breathed it - put up with the "are you sure", "are you really sure" "still not doing it..." prompts. And finally reverted back to XP. Thank god.

Recently in the market for a new laptop- and I chose a MacBook Pro. XP lives (for those ever decreasing number of applications that require it) in a parallels window. Took a few hours, but it cleaned everything off the old machine. Nice. And XP in Parallels seems more reliable, responsive.

Liked it so much I bought a further two macbooks for the wife and daughter.

It was easier moving to the Mac than it was moving to Vista. Dont believe me ? Try it.

(This from the guy with Solaris, AIX (x2), Linux (x2) and win2k3 in his test lab).

And now, I feel like I own the laptop - it doesnt own me. Simple things - like hibernate - work perfectly. Speed isnt an issue, neither is spyware (MS and otherwise), virii, reliability is great.

Things just work. Skype just picked up the built in webcam, and does proper microphone/speaker distinction. No more headsets. One in a long line of nice surprises.

Vista ? Its an evolutionary DRM-ridden dead end. And the sooner that MS realise that they're lost influence in both OS and Office (Lotus Symphony/OpenOffice/NeoOffice anyone?) the better. They might realise that they're in an "IBM in the eighties" rut, and sack their current management.

Me ? I'm doing everything I can to create an MS-free zone around me.

I'm far happier.

---* Bill


Sky hails broadband explosion

Bill Buchan

Ho ho

As an ex Sky TV employee from a long time ago (I understand their idea of "customer support") I was greatly amused when a friends brother reported a 8-week delay in even getting them to start broadband service, and a similar delay in getting the line moved to anyone else. The amusing bit came when the support person admitted to friends brother that no-one in the support center used Sky Broadband - even though they'd get it for free - as it was "crap".


Sky ? I'd rather sandpaper me genitals and bathe in dettol. Choose life.

---* Bill

Oracle sends bloke cardboard laptop

Bill Buchan

Come come.. Surely we can come up with a way of making this cost Oracle more..

Such as:

Put it in a wooden box, just big enough to fit into a letter box, preferribly full of heavy bits of metal. No stamps, of course. Marked "urgent". See if you can get some of that "biohazard" tape that the post office sells too. That usually gets attention.

And then address it to the head of Oracle Marketing UK.

But of course. Write the letter of complaint on paper, and shred it.

See how long it takes for them to get back to you ?

Its a thought.

Course the old fashioned thing to do would be to collect EVERY old telephone book and yellow pages you can scrounge, and post em all (freepost or no stamps of course) to the same marketing dweeb at Oracle. Ten or so a day for a month and they might start getting the message.

Call it recycling.

In fact. Sod it.

Give us the details, and we can *all* join in!


---* Bill

Sucky software? So add a virgin

Bill Buchan

Leo - Notes has moved on. A long time ago.

So why dont you ?

Hell we're at Notes version 8 very soon now. I'm guessing you've last seen it before version 6 ? Version 6 got usability prizes three years ago..

Version 8 is now blended into an eclipse front-end for J2EE portal-like application behaviour - at the desktop. Fancy doing a mashup involving a JSR168/JSR170 Portlet and some notes stuff ? On the desktop ? No worries. Windows or Linux client ? No worries. (Mac client - coming Real Soon Now)

The difficulty with Notes is that it just keeps going and going. So poor users get stuck with very old versions because their IT department isnt forced to keep it up to date.

Case in point. One of the largest insurance companies in the UK still have *some* users on OS/2 and Notes v4.5 [out of support in 1998?] - because its still not broken. Granted - they have to run OS/2 within MS Virtual PC (now there's some irony in *that*) and of course they can run these clients against the latest servers.

To put this in context, this is the same as running Outlook from *1997* against an Exchange 2007 server... And complaining that outlook sucks because the UI is dated.

And please remember - Notes isnt just a sodding mail system. Any numptie can do that.

Its a secure, open-source public/private key based platform-agnostic replicated application infrastructure - something that MS is still struggling to sort itself out with. Add in Sametime and you have IM and meeting capability. (You get the IM for free, BTW)

Want it on Windows ? Intel Linux ? xBox ? No worries.

What about more reliable/scalable tin: Solaris ? pSeries ? AS/400 ? zSeries ? Windows ? No worries.

For example - a content management and eMail system in MS land - 5+ servers (Sharepoint, Exchange, SQL, AD, IIS..).

In Notes/Domino land. One. Want it completely clustered, etc? Make that two Domino servers. How many MS ones ? 10 ? 15 ?

And remember. You get the source code for the mail client. Want to add new stuff ? Do it yourself. Or go to openNtf.org and use theirs. Try extending Outlook without writing DLLs and install kits...

Perhaps what you wanted to say in the first place was: "Sharepoint/Exchange might be a pile of insecure and unreliable poo, but hell, look at that pair of nice icons. Phwar!"

---* Bill

(P.S. If your having to use Notes v5 or before at your place of work - shout at your IT department... Or get in touch, and I'll shout at your IT department.. )

No end in sight for Vista's Long Goodbye

Bill Buchan


I just love being categorised as "gay" or "useless" or "inexperienced" for expressing the opinion that "My next laptop will be a mac".

Why ? Is it MS Bashing?

No. After some 22 years in IT, and over 15 years beating my head against windows (and other related MS crap) that the computers job is to do what I tell it.

Its not my job to rebuild the sodding thing every six months, download patches every night (and pray they dont lock my machine up - as XP did this week), etc, etc.

I want a solid machine I can depend on (*again, as I used to depend on XP till a year ago), that doesnt actually need 2+ hours a week care and maintenance.

So a mac - since its built on BSD or some other fairly secure kernel, fits the bill perfectly. Or perhaps Unbunto/Debian/Fedora/Suse. Whatever.

No doubt I'll curse and swear at it on occasion, and no doubt I'll write shonky code that kills it. Fine. I can live with that. I can live with the consequences of what *I* do.

What gets on my t*ts is the MS sycophants claiming that;

1. Its not a problem.

2. Every other platform is *gay*, indexperienced, etc

3. We're the market leader - get over it.

4. There's no choice.

Well, there is a choice. I choose life. I choose moving off windows for my core work, and will tirelessly point out to the blinkered CIO's out there who seem to live on Gartners/Forresters tit that its their job to provide reliable and secure infrastrucuture.

And that aint windows anymore, is it ?

---* Bill

Bill Buchan

Yup. Saw this..

And many other exciting bugs. I endured Vista for just over 2 months before switching back to XP.


My next laptop will be a Mac.

---* Bill

US lifts lid on world's largest toilet

Bill Buchan

Its actually the Orlando Heliport...

I took a helicopter flight out of there in January - but didnt spot the obvious toilet reference..

Video of the helicopter taking off from there is:


And a photo whilst landing of the building itself is:


---* Bill