Bloody Virgin Media

Virgin Media logo

I’ve been with Virgin Media since they took over NTL in 2010, and to be fair I haven’t had many problems with them – and certainly not ones you could turn against them for. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve needed to call them.

I’ve had hubs break, which they send out replacements for, of course. And there was the problem with POP mail servers a while back. But apart from the time a prick of a boy racer took his mum’s car without permission one morning and spun it out into the main local hub on my estate (it took a week to rebuild, and my only complaint about VM is that they wouldn’t give me his address), no major outages.

VM gets a lot of negative press because its call centre is in India, and as we know, absolutely no one in the UK is racist – it’s just that they just don’t like foreigners, especially if they have dark skin, and are prepared to burn them if they get themselves worked up enough about it. But they’re not racist, of course.

I don’t care that the call centre is in India, and enjoy a chat with them about the weather. My gripe is that it is a call centre in the first place – and that’s because I used to work in one (for a while, when I was training to be an ADI), and know full well how they operate. That gripe was given wings a few days ago.

I started to have connection issues. Not a complete loss of service at that point, but niggly little things, including my Birdcam stream playing up. I rebooted my router, and that didn’t fix it. Then I rebooted the Superhub (which I have set to modem mode), and that broke it completely. The hub was now flashing a blue ring light after each attempt to negotiate a connection. This is where the fun began, because it was necessary to call tech support.

I got through almost immediately – after the usual laboriously slow ‘two letters from your password’ thing, which never works, and didn’t work this time, either. Then they asked me my security questions, one of which was the amount of my last bill. I explained (without giving in to the temptation to swear) that I couldn’t get online to check, so could they ask a different question? But they couldn’t. Fortunately, my last bill was the same as the one before, which I could check in my inbox in Outlook (I’d have been well screwed if I used online email). It was the right answer, so the tech support part of the call commenced.

No, there isn’t a fault with the network (oh, really?) Yes, I’ve rebooted my computer, my modem (I explained my configuration), and my router. And yes, it was still not connecting. No, there is nothing else connected to the hub apart from the router (I explained my configuration again, and emphasised that the VM hub was not connecting to the VM-supplied internet feed, and that my local network on the other side of the chain was working fine), but I disconnected the router, and yes, after rebooting the hub yet again it was still not connecting. They ‘sent out a signal’ at least four times, and I rebooted the Superhub as many times. Yes, we have exactly the same problem.

Finally, they had me press the factory reset button on the Superhub, and then told me it could take up to an hour for the thing to come back online if it was fixed. So that’s where the call ended. She asked if there was anything else she could help me with today, and I laughed and said ‘I know you have to ask that, but I don’t think you really can do anything else until my connection is back up’. She thought that was funny, too. We had a quick chat about Mumbai, then the call ended (it lasted 59 minutes).

An hour later and everything was still down. But as a result of the withdrawal symptoms I was experiencing, I had set my phone up as a hotspot and was hammering my mobile data allowance using my laptop. The first thing I did was head on over to Downdetector, where it immediately became clear that user reports of no internet had gone through the roof at exactly the time I had first encountered problems. It was so severe that the national media reported on it the next day. Next morning, the hub was glowing a healthy… white (it had been green previously). Judging by the various emails I get from my security software, the problem started around 4pm (when I noticed it), and was fixed at 6.20am next day.

But the call centre didn’t know about it!

After a bit of messing about repairing the damage caused by doing the factory reset (Superhub back in Superhub mode (that’s why it was white instead of green), password reset to factory default, IP address ‘wrong’ as a result (so the camera stream RTSP was wrong), and so on), I got my Birdcam streaming again and we were back up – other than for the fact that whatever the problem was, it still keeps coming back (as in this afternoon, where I was having problems getting on to websites, and noted an increase in reports on Downdetector again).

The problem with VM isn’t that its call centre is in India. The problem is that it is a huge company which has appalling communication, and regular readers will know that I experienced that for many years when I was in the rat race. Oh, the call centre is part of the problem, to be sure – but only because it is a call centre, which as I mentioned, I have plenty of experience of.

Any real problems I have ever experienced with VM have always ultimately turned out to be problems at VM’s end, though they never admit to it in the call centre. That’s because they aren’t allowed to unless it is a transient one – they absolutely will not admit to hardware or network faults. Only Head Office will do that. But the call centre always proceeds as if the fault is at my end.

The one I worked in wasn’t quite as bad, but it wasn’t far off in many cases. Agents were ordered to go through all the simple routine things before proceeding to anything bigger, and that could easily mean customers being asked to run disk defragmentations on computers they’d bought that morning, or stupid ‘resets’ even though they called in about a bang, a flash, and then smoke – especially if the agent they had come through to was inexperienced and a stickler for the rules.

The trick to getting around VM’s ridiculous tech support issues is to write to their Head Office. They told me that they have to follow up any such communications, and things get sorted out much quicker using UK-based technical staff. You used to be able to email Head Office, but they’ve closed that off now (the last time I did it, I emailed Richard Branson and that did the trick – they admitted there was an ongoing issue with the POP email servers and also gave me a timeline for the fix. The tech support line was still blaming me – and so were the VM support forum ‘experts’).

Edit 10/05/2023: It happened again for most of the morning until mid-afternoon. However, after an hour or so, the camera stopped streaming properly again, even though it is still technically online at my US-based streaming provider (they tell me clearly when it is offline).

Edit 11/05/2023: It’s happening again this morning (camera stream not working correctly). It cleared up for a couple of hours, then it started again just before 2pm. That was for a short time, and it has now started again around 3.20pm.

BirdCam Live Page

Camera reboots twice daily, at 00:00 and 12:00 GMT – 60 seconds duration. Note that I said GMT – most readers are from the UK, so that means plus 1 hour in the Summer.

Apologies for any corrupted feeds – I’m trying to get to the bottom of it when it happens.

It looks like we’ve missed out this year (2023). We’ve had around four or five visitors, who have checked out the box during late March and April, but by now (late April) I think we’ve missed the boat and they will have gone elsewhere.

Last year, of course, we hit pay dirt the first time around. But this is nature. They’re obviously looking, but those who looked this year decided not to.

Que sera.

As I mentioned when I first published this, I am using a much better streaming host – Brownrice – whose service is excellent, covers the resolution of my camera without repeated buffering, and whose support staff are immediately available for any issues (bearing in mind the 7-hour time difference which, oddly enough, actually works for me).

I’ve just had to put another camera in the box. The first one was wi-fi, and after a lot of extra bits and pieces to be able to get a signal at the end of the garden, the bird who took up initial residence last year broke the antenna off. The second, which was hard wired, stopped working after last year’s sad events had played out, and the third stopped a few weeks ago. I’m using a different brand now, so let’s see how that goes. Right now, the only resident is a spider.

Last year, we had a roosting Great Tit. She turned out to be female, and in early Spring she built a nest. She then laid nine eggs over a ten-day period, and all of them hatched. She and the male bird fed them regularly and they grew and developed all their feathers. They must have only been a short way from fledging when both parents stopped coming. I incorrectly assumed they were trying to get them outside, but the chicks weren’t old enough.

One by one, they died. The last night was awful, as there were still five chicks jumping around, then as night fell they all settled down and just died.

My other CCTV cameras show that there are at least three cats which prowl our garden at night. One of them – which I think belongs to neighbours at the bottom of the garden – is a cute and friendly little black and white thing, but it regularly goes for birds in our garden. I’ve seen it after our resident Blackbird, which my mother virtually handfeeds, along with two Robins. Since our garden has a lot of trees and bushes and is well maintained, we attract (and have feeders for) wildlife.

I’d never hurt the cat, as I am a cat lover, but I want to deter it, because there’s a high probability it was responsible for the disappearance of the chicks’ parents last year. So I bought my mother a Spyra water gun and she is surprisingly good with it.

Johnny Fean Dies at 71

I heard the sad news over the weekend that Johnny Fean – one of the most underrated guitarists of all time, with one of the most underrated bands of all time – died last week at the age of 71.

As I have said elsewhere on the blog (and Horslips’ website is linked to in my links section), they were the first band I ever saw live. But I listen to them still, and even went to see them back in 2011 in Glasgow when they reformed after more than 30 years).

I always think of my idols as being ageless, but this year is really knocking that idea sideways right now.

RIP, Johnny. Thanks for everything.

Clucking Bat: 11 April 2023

SV59 NLY – Grey Clio Expression

This one was in heavy rain.

The Clio had changed lanes left-to-right at the last minute. It then stopped dead, short at green traffic lights – I had to get involved and stop my pupil. Initially, it seemed like they had broken down or something was in front of them, so I instructed my pupil to go round whilst I was watching the traffic behind trying to do the same. As she indicated, the clucking bat moved off again – initially with their hazard lights on, then indicating left whilst moving into the right hand lane, then indicating right to turn right.

The police told me this one was ‘below the prosecution threshold’.

Clucking Bat: 21 April 2023

SJ67 YGV – Grey Land Rover Sport

On a lesson with a pupil, dealing with a roundabout, and this clucking bat decided to get past no matter what. Obviously, it scared the shit out of the pupil.

Further down, he was changing lanes with no signals whatsoever. Ironically, apart from other clucking bats switching lanes because they don’t know which to use in the first place, all he succeeded in doing was getting in front of us instead of being behind.

These prats gain nothing – other than showing themselves up.

Clucking Bat: 1 April 2023

I’ve mentioned many times before, but I submit dashcam footage to Nottinghamshire Police if someone behaves like a twat. The police take action in 90% or more of cases I have submitted, to date.

L444 NEH – Black Vauxhall Corsa

One thing I have discovered is that they are as frustrated as me in some cases when the action reported is unlikely to gain a conviction. This video is an example of such action.

I was on a lesson with a pupil. She was turning right on a roundabout, and as she came to exit, this stupid cow pulled out – just look how late. I had to pull us into the right hand lane to avoid a collision.

The police point out that the prat in question would argue that there are two lanes, and so they would not get a conviction. They did say, however, that she shouldn’t have pulled out like that, and that they would have a word with the stupid cow.

For anyone who is wondering, the title I will be using from now on in any such posts involves ‘Clucking Bat’ – it rhymes with ‘f**king twat’, which is what all of these people are.

Nottingham Forest Supporters – Reverse Evolution

I was on my way home from a lesson this afternoon. I thought I’d timed my home journey well enough to avoid the usual problems on Trent Bridge when Forest supporters leave a match.

Then this happened. I can only assume that the prat was using a Mobility scooter because his f–cking brain didn’t work properly (which is almost a given if he supports Forest). How is he allowed out unsupervised behaving like this?

This man should be in secure accommodation for his own safety

You can see from the expressions of the other apes who’d been to the match that they were aware of what he was doing and though it funny. The idiot could have been killed.

His scooter has no registration plates and is not a road-going vehicle. He was riding the wrong way down what is effectively a dual carriageway in the outside lane. He has no mirrors, and was purposely not looking at any traffic (he’s a Forest supporter, so has an attitude problem to start with). He is a criminal – as any car driver would be if they did that. More worrying is that his mental state has not been recognised and the scooter taken away from him. He is clearly incapable of using it safely.

What annoys me is that the Police don’t do anything about these retards. The Council put up those stupid barriers after that thing in London close to a decade ago, but Forest supporters just walk either side of them, and completely ignore crossings and traffic lights.

A Digital Pound?

I’ve bumped this to the top, because I’ve just seen that the plans have been dropped. The original article – from February (less than a month ago) – follows.

Cryptocurrency does nothing for me. Fair enough, many years ago when I first heard about mining and how much people had apparently ‘made’, I toyed with the idea.

But what turned me off was that back then, bitcoin was held almost wholly by people from the less salubrious parts of society, and it’s not that different now. It all boils down to a massive scheme where you’ve either got a million in bitcoin one day, half a million the next, or buying stuff you shouldn’t be from dark sites. There is absolutely no reason for a normal person who wants to buy some fish and potatoes from Asda to use bitcoin.

And the fact that Elon Musk got involved in it turned me off even more, because he’s not of this Earth when it comes to most things. I mean, back in 2021, he caused the value of bitcoin to fall from $70,000 to $25,000 with a single Tweet.

Now, with that risk in mind, it seems that the Treasury and Bank of England (BoE) are planning on setting up a UK Digital Pound before the end of the decade. And to further emphasise those risks, there would be a limit to how much ‘GBCoin’ (I’ll call it that) an individual could hold.

Right now, there is absolutely no point to GBCoin. It would do – and is only intended to do – everything you can already do now using bank transfers, debit cards, phone zappers, and so on. It would only have any real purpose if actual money (something you could hold in your hand) were done away with, and that isn’t likely for.. well, for the rest of my lifetime, and probably at least two more beyond that.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’d have no concerns if paper money became obsolete. I avoid taking it for lesson payments as much as I can, and much prefer card payment or bank transfer. But GBCoin is not the same at all once you go under the hood.

When you used it, every single aspect of what you used it for would potentially be available for people somewhere to see. In the case of Bitcoin and the other nefarious ones, they were all designed specifically to be anonymous, and all the data are deliberately obfuscated (although the blockchain can be tracked and many users are unaware of this). A state-owned one’s data would be neatly boxed for someone to open if deemed it necessary (they even admit the data would be purposely not looked at, implying it is there if they wanted to). It would take less than a month before someone used it in such a way that the authorities gave access to the police to check that person’s transactions. GBCoin makes no pretence at anonymity – it just pretty much says they won’t look while you undress, but that they can check the CCTV later if necessary.

It goes deeper than this, though. Anyone using GBCoin would need somewhere to deposit their geld – a wallet – and those are provided by third parties. Some would want access to data (likely resulting in floods of ads from toothbrush manufacturers if you bought a toothbrush using GBCoin), whereas others would promote some degree of pseudo-anonymity. And as we all know, ‘opting out’ of anything is always only partial at best – if you opt out of ads, for example, you just get general ones. But if you opt in, you get targeted ones.

Right now, there is absolutely no need for GBCoin. There won’t be for many decades. By the time it is a necessity, I’ll be long gone – and probably anyone reading this (and their kids) will be gone, too.

Dilbert – Reborn

Quite recently, I wrote about Dilbert being cancelled by ‘woke‘. At the time, the cartoon strip was being cancelled in some American newspapers because it was lampooning ‘wokeness’ – by having a black character who ‘identified’ as white, and who was subsequently asked by management to also identify as ‘gay’ to balance out the numbers in his company.

It only involved a handful of strips over several months, but as everyone knows, in this day and age, even coming close to the ‘wokeness’ line is enough to get you ‘cancelled’.

But then, something else happened.

I’m in the UK, and I can’t get the fine detail of the hijacked timeline on all this, but it started with a Rasmussen poll in the US which asked:

  • Do you agree or disagree with this statement:  “It’s OK to be white.”
  • Do you agree or disagree with this statement:  “Black people can be racist, too.”
Rasmussen poll questions

For f*cks sake, we all live on the same planet, and we’re all far from perfect, so the correct answers are ‘yes’ and ‘yes’. There is no valid argument against that. It is perfectly OK to be black or white, and people on either side can be racist. It’s an absolute. There was no need to ask the f*cking questions, except to stir up sh*t by using poor wording devoid of any context.

So, since we do have racists (and others of limited thought processes) among us, the results of the poll came out saying that half of black people are not OK with people being white.

The result was immediately hijacked by far right groups – and since America is substantially to right in the first place, that means a very long way to the right. You know – get some guns, kill all blacks… that kind of stuff. So the whole affair became extremely political overnight, and the poll result ended up having multiple meanings depending on where you were on the Swingometer, but with the added confusion that even if you were on the good side, some of the bad rubbed off on you if you got involved.

You see, the problem with ‘woke’ is that it is binary – it only accepts wholehearted support for its view, and everything else is wrong.

Scott Adams then put his head above a parapet and declared that those who claimed it wasn’t OK to be white were more like terrorists, and you should stay the hell away from them. And naturally, the Woke Brigade saw that as wholehearted opposition and ‘racism’.

Now, Scott Adams has a flaw. He is a brilliant cartoonist in the sense he had a popular strip which told a lot of truths. Each strip is succinct, and to the point. But when he talks, or writes prose, then cracks often appear.

The very first Dilbert book I bought was The Dilbert Principle (TDP) back in the late 1990s. That had a lot of words in it, which his later books do not (maybe that was deliberate), and I have to say that it does not read very well. Adams’ anecdotes and analogies tend to ramble, and lack structure. Not always, but quite a lot. And this is especially true when he involves politics.

TDP was funny (and highly accurate, which was the reason I liked it so much), but it could have been a lot funnier with less (and better chosen) words. Adams often keeps going when others would stop, having made their point. Subsequently, his point sometimes becomes less clear as he makes it in several different ways. And I feel that this is what caught him out in this poll situation.

He was referring directly to the poll, and the half of black people who said being white wasn’t OK. He said that that half was effectively a ‘hate’ group, and white people should stay away from them. He should have left it at that, as it is a reasonable observation and comment. But he didn’t. And it was what he then went on to say which damaged his original and very valid statement. He was trying to make a point, but he did it in a clumsy manner which was never going to achieve what he intended.

The whole affair was also further skewed by the fact that ‘it’s not OK to be white’ was now a right wing weapon of choice, and he had unwittingly aligned himself with that whether he liked it or not. He was walking through a woke minefield even before the interview began, and the mines were so close together that it was inevitable he’d step on one. Or several.

The original Dilbert website is now gone, and the only way to see any new strips is to pay an annual membership at its new home. In all honesty, if the cartoons had been free, and subscription or donation were an option, I would seriously have considered partaking once I’d validated the overall content. I say that, because the stuff that isn’t behind the paywall is distinctly political (and US political, at that), and the stuff that is teases at supporting Trump (even though Adams is officially not aligned with any party).

But the bottom line is this: It is OK to be white. It is also OK to be black. It definitely isn’t OK to for either to argue that the other isn’t OK.