Monday 19 December 2005

ASDA Idiots

I’ve had it with ASDA. Too often what I want is not in stock, promise to call and explain but never do, and then they insult me at the checkouts.

I’ve explained previously what I think of ASDA but I was still under the illusion that being nearby was the same as convenient.

To often my nearby journey is frustrated and wasted because they don’t sell what I want. Here’s the latest run-in with the idiots that are ASDA.

…and when I call ASDA I don’t mean the staff (most of them) but the incompentence of the organisation and it’s inability to satisfy the customer who is trying to give them money.

In this case though, I specifically mean one of the checkout supervisors.

No milk today

I’m fed up of no milk from ASDA. No milk was always the customers perogative to the milkman, not from the milkman. Not so from ASDA, who no milk me too often.

I was trying to buy 24 pints of organic semi-skimmed milk in the form of 6 x 4 pint bottles at £1.41 each. They only have 6 x 2 pint bottles and 82p each (thats £1.64 per 4 pints, and only 12 pints).

I empty the shelf into my trolly with all 12 pints and my other shopping. I’ll try my usual trick which is to arrange to by 2 x 2 pint bottles at the 4 pint price; after all why should I pay extra just because ASDA can’t keep their shelves full? This usually works fine, but this time someone new was on the checkout and it was her first day, so she called over a checkout supervisor.

We ask the supervisor if I can buy 2 x 2 pints at the price of 1 x 4 pints. She says we can’t. (Strange) but the reason is even funnier. We can’t because 4 pints cost £1.41 and 2 x 2 pints costs £1.42 (I corrected her to £1.62 and the cashier corrected me to £1.64). So yes. We couldn’t buy 2 x 2 pints for the price of 1 x 4 pints because 2 x 2 pints cost more than 1 x 4 pints.

So she would let me buy them at that price if they cost that price. But then I wouldn’t have had to ask, would I?

So I explain that I don’t want to buy 2 pint bottles anyway, I really want to buy 4 pint bottles. I don’t even want just 12 pints, I want 24 pints in 4 pint bottles, but they don’t have it.

Why doesn’t she understand that it’s bad enough not to be able to buy the sizes I want, but making me pay extra for the inconvenience is an insult?

She calls up to a higher manager who lets me do it “this once, because it’s Christmas”. I try to explain that I do this regularly, but she’s stopped listening. The cashier can’t work out what the problem is, they sell 2×10 cigarrettes for the price of 1×20 cigarettes when they run out of twenty packs.

And whatever the checkout supervisor said, I would have got what I was asking. If I had to, I would have left my shopping unloaded on the checkout, tipped my head back and bellowed to the ceiling (Never bellow at the staff):

Why is it that you never have enough milk in stock? it’s bad enough that you don’t have the right size in stock, it’s bad enough that you waste my journey, but why are you trying to charge me extra for it? Whats the good of low low prices if you don’t stock it and try and sell me something that costs more instead?

So here’s what I’ll do, I’m not daft.

I’m off to Morrissons for my groceries, but I’ll go to ASDA for my cheap petrol and DVD’s when I’m passing. I don’t mind bleeding them dry with their loss leaders, I may even enjoy shopping at ASDA in those circumstances.

Oh, and S______ never did call back to explain why they stopped selling maternity towels like they promised.

Trying to buy from ebuyer

I’ve always had a dim view of ebuyer since I read around 100:1 bad press on google searches before I attended a job interview there.

But its hard to see how that preconception could be the cause of my experiences, which (see part 3) possibly will have a happy ending after all.

Part 1

As I said, I’m not inclinded to order from ebuyer, the consensus I discovered was that if you get what you ordered on time, then everything is fine, if not then you are doomed.

A colleague is fortunate to never have had the problem and suggested I order from ebuyer. We needed some company supplies… so ebuyer it was. Idiots.

Within seconds of me placing the order, ebuyer cancelled the order without reason. When the goods didn’t arrive I discovered this, and ordered again, this time with next day shipping. I figured I ought to get next day shipping free as ebuyer cancelled the order, but it would cost more in my time to get through on support that the free shipping was worth.

Well… I placed 2 more orders with ebuyer for the same things; each one cancelled without reason.

2 or 3 support calls and numerous etickets later my order was re-instated and shipped.

This experience was too hard. I knew I should have gone with CPC.

part 2

Well, this time I had a bigger order, nearly £200, and my colleague suggested ebuyer again. Well… we have an online account, so why not!

But within seconds of my order it has been cancelled - again without reason!

I’ve been here before, so I’m straight on the phone. The call handler suggests that it is some kind of security screening! Since when did screening cancel an order without warning? Without giving me a chance to sort it out? Will it ever come out of “screening”? And how do I cancel a cancelled order to stop it coming out of screening if I decide to get it elsewhere? Why isn’t it called screening? I think she’s talking rubbish so I call back again.

The seconds call handler puts me on hold twice to consult someone else and suggests that some element of our billing data is on their fraud list, but can’t tell me any more. She offers to have someone in accounts phone me before 5.00pm. As I ordered next day delivery this doesn’t impress me much, so I say that if they can call in the next half an hour we’ll try it, but if not I’ll be ordering from somewhere else.

I meant CPC of course who charge decent prices and and a decent returns policy and lots of special offers.

Part 3

Hey! Someone at ebuyer phone back! It turns out that our address is on their negative list for no good reason. The negative list is a clever piece of process (i imagine) that involves annoying customer by deleting their orders without explaining why. My most excellent call handler (who is new to ebuyer) will attempt to resurrect my order (apart from 6 belink cat5e cable economizers that I since orderd from CPC). If she manages this, then she earns a top class complimentary email as feedback that she can show to her boss. 3 cheers for I____ who is new to ebuyer and lets hope she doesn’t get tainted.

Monday 5 December 2005

Your own idiot savant

I’ve been reading cnet on Spear-Phishing which confirms something I’ve been telling friends for a long time. You computer is an idiot savant and can’t be trusted. Yes, it does some cool things, but you don’t know half of it. And you won’t either! And this is why you can’t delegate the decision of trust to your computer; should you trust your computer when it tells you that something is trusted?

The current computer model of files, and processes sharing a common space is dieing and passing on our closest secrets with each gasp; but what secure model can replace it?

I’d like to suggest something FORTH based; as a self-hosting system the inner core can be a few hundred bytes - small enough to verify manually (plus the bit that can verify everything else). It can then verify and boot up from verified text FORTH libraries to a trusted system (assuming if the hardware is not tampered with). I now have a machine that I can trust. Forth is prone to it’s own problems of careless programmers (who are a big part of the problem) so it’s not a no-brainer solution - in any case it requires someone degree-capable in computing to verify it- most people want a computer whose trust they can take for granted. Is there one?

A tune by any other name

It’s hard to create anything new without being affected by the old that has already been created. Copyright and derivative works claims seem to indicate that the relationship between the old and the new must not be obvious… However I can’t help recognize similarities between these popular music items; I list them here as I come across them, there are many more which won’t come to mind as I hear them, so check back…

The introduction to Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles and A Town with no name by Madness.

Wrapped Around your Finger The Police and Lemon Tree Fools Garden.

Rock This Town Stray Cats and Good Hat, Good Dog, Good Boat Them Eastport Oyster Boys

Super Freak Rick James and U Can’t Touch This MC Hammer

The introduction to Where the streets have no name U2 and Survivors Phil Collins

Here Comes The Hotstepper Ini Kamoze and See Me Melanie Blatt (written for the film Robots but somehow didn’t make the soundtrack album even though it plays in the closing credits)
The main verse lyrics of Hotstepper

No no we don`t die
Yes we mul-ti-ply
Anyone test will hear the fat lady sing
Act like you know, Rico
I know what Bo don`t know
Touch them up and go, uh-oh!
Ch-ch-chang chang

Has darn similar tune to this part of See Me

I’m gonna look to fly
I’m gonna touch the sky
I will not compromise
Don’t want to hide all my life

HP Printer Hacking

Looking at I saw a cool .net hack for displaying custom messages on an HP printer LCD.

I’m a bit of a .net fan from a distances, which is to say I’m an ex-delphi afficionado, having done some cool hacks like 16 bit multithreading and form inheritance in Delphi, and I’m waiting for .net to be the cross platform “delphi” that Kylix never became (if only they used wxWidgets, but who was to know then, eh?)

Well anyway, .net seemed a bit of overkill for HP printer LCD hacking so I replaced it with a small shell script instead

#! /bin/sh


message() {
printf "x1B%%-12345X@PJL RDYMSG DISPLAY = "%s"rnx1B%%-12345Xrn" "$*"

# try to use bash tcp redirection if enabled
if exec 9> "/dev/tcp/$printer/9100"
then message "$@" >&9
else message "$@" | netcat -q 2 "$printer" 9100 >/dev/null

Invoke thus:

./hpmsg hello joe wassup

of course, this is hardly just a small shell script as it relies on all of bash, and possibly netcat. (My ubuntu bash doesn’t seem to have build-in tcp redirection, boo!)

Saturday 3 December 2005

When ASDA don’t stock

ASDA have been really annoying lately being out of stock of various items; mainly organic milk which costs about 5p more per 6 pints and tastes smoother and less harsh, and perhaps less dodgy hormones in it (here’s hoping).

They seem to have sorted out the Organic Milk problem by changing the colours of the bottle tops from blue or green, to white - which presumably stops them from getting mixed up in the warehouse, thus they can always find it and deliver it; so far so good. I’ll forgive then from being short of suet 2 consecutive visits because it is Christmas pudding season.

This time it was maternity towels. I don’t know why ASDA stopped selling maternity towels, but a nice man named S____ is going to find out and phone me back on Monday or Tuesday.

The point is; and I made this very clear; if I have to go to Morrisons to get maternity towels, I may as well get all my shopping there; “..don’t you think?” I asked S_____. He wisely refrained from answering. I suggested that I might even prefer Morrissons if I tried it; but S_____ would not be drawn.

Maternity towels aren’t something a person needs very often, and it looks like someone at ASDA foolishly thinks thats the point. The point is this: they had better be darned sure I’m not going to prefer Morrissons before driving me in that direction.

I may never come back; and as maternity towels indicate a new family member thats a lifetime of shopping they could be missing out on.

On small moments…

Tuesday 29 November 2005

Mile high : Mile deep menus

MACOS GUI sucks.

MAC fans think it looks nice, and thats a nice opinion but it doesn’t compare to windows for usability.

The only good thing I have heard said about the MAC GUI is the famed Mile High Menu. And thats a good thing if you don’t plan on learning to use a mouse well.

Does anybody seriously claim that all these MAC users can’t position a mouse in 16 pixels vertically but can position it in 16 pixels horizontally? How do they ever manage to click on buttons, or hyperlinks? How do they manage to drag their clipart about?

When you have one mile high menu, you gain something tiny for those who can’t use a mouse. What do you lose? You lose the mile-deep menu.

With GNOME or windows I can see the menu bars multiple windows at the same time, and even click directly on the menu bar of a non-focused window! MAC uses would have to first select the NOT-mile-high title bar and then move to the mile high menu bar. I get just one click.

Maybe MAC GUI has something to recommend it besides the dubiously and only slightly helpful mile high menu?

Monday 28 November 2005

do { break; } while (0);

I just came up with this C construc, using break to jump out of a block;

do {
  if (! seems_suitable(a,b)) break;
  if (! c) break;
  } while (0);


I was adding a code block before an existing block whose purpose was to filter out certain conditions to handle especially, and trying to avoid lots of nested if/else blocks. Without this foul trick the code would read:

if (seems_suitable(a,b)) {
  if (c) {


it works for me anyway .

Friday 25 November 2005

Stem cell hoo-hah

Based on The Register’s report I don’t understand why Professor Hwang Woo-Suk resigned.

As I read it two students donated ova under and assumed name without his knowledge and not in breach of contemporary law or ethical guidelines.

So what's the real reason he had to resign?

Perhaps I’ve missed something but that's how it reads to me.

Thursday 24 November 2005

Flash hangs in firefox

Since upgrading from Hoary, firefox hangs badly on pages that contain flash.

Google reveals that lots of users are having this trouble; many of them relate it to sound access.

Well, I think I pinned it down to an ALSA problem.

Strangely sending a SIGSTOP and SIGCONT recovers it briefly. Hope fully I submitted enough debugging for it to be fixed now.

Apart from the above bug, I do wish Ubuntu would do ASLA device sharing out of the box and configure everything to use ALSA, and do ESD sharing out of the box and configure everything else to use ESD, and ESD to use ALSA.

Here is my config to do that:

/etc/asound.conf - this lets multiple ALSA clients use the audio device at once

# Example /etc/asound.conf or ~/.asoundrc file showing how
# to configure ALSA so that a dmix plugin is used by default
# The writing of alsa-lib configuration files is explained in
# /usr/share/doc/libasound2-doc/html/index.html, provided by the
# libasound2-doc package.
# Make ALSA apps default to using dmix plugin instead of hw plugin
# (Exclamation point is needed in order to override the assignment to
# pcm.default in /usr/share/alsa/alsa.conf.)

pcm.!default {
  type plug
  slave.pcm "dmix"

# Make OSS apps default to using dmix plugin too

pcm.dsp0 {
  type plug
  slave.pcm "dmix"


ctl.mixer0 {
  type hw
  card 0

/etc/esound/esd.conf - (I use libesd-alsa0)

I use tcp mode because my family have multiple console logins at the same time, and that way they can each use each-others esd if it is running, or start one if needed.

spawn_options=-terminate -nobeeps -as 1

# default options are used in spawned and non-spawned mode
default_options=-as 5 -tcp

Installing SUN Java on Ununtu

One of the uses of a blog is to make notes for myself to follow later. I often ending up doing the job multiple times and forgetting how I did it.

From these notes I install SUN Java on Ubuntu Breezy Badger.

sudo apt-get install fakeroot java-package java-common

fakeroot make-jpkg --full-name "My Name" --email "" jdk-1_5_0_05-linux-i586.bin

sudo dpkg -i sun-j2sdk1.5_1.5.0+update05_i386.deb

sudo update-alternatives --config java

One good thing

Specialisation is something that troubles me; it makes it easy to have one good thing, but not two!

ToplogiLinux reminded me of this. I used to freak Mepis so that I could boot native or run it with a coLinux under windows (before I made the switch total).

I tried this with Ubuntu recently but had to freak about with a runlevel 4 which I set up to miss out a load of AGP and PCI stuff that crashed the thing.

It looks like TopilogiLinux is going to make that sort of stuff easier - but it means not having Ubuntu (linux for human beings). What if I want both? I can make Ubuntu work under coLinux but that means ignoring TopilogiLinux… can’t have both…


ulog-acctd seems pretty nifty for aggregating network flow statistics.

I’ve submitted some patches so it can build as a redhat package, and also dump the stats when it receives a signal. it’s nice for a stats processor to be able to signal to ulog-acctd to dump the stats now! type of thing.

No much seems to be going with the mailing list apart from eastern spam.

Secrets in GNOME file dialogs

Thanks for to ebassi who answered my rant about the GNOME file dialogs.

ctrl+L is the answer. While thanking you I can’t help wondering why it is so obscure. The Mac GUI may have no shortcut keys and I had mistaken GNOME successful hiding as the same deficiency.

I had noticed that when I typed a real letter, a floating edit box (no title) appeared for quick-jumping to a file in the current view, and would not accept full paths. Interesting if I ctrl+V into the file dialog nothing happens until I press a real letter too, upon which the floating edit box appears complete with the real letter and pasted text.

I wonder why ctrl+L and this other mechanism are both needed, they seem to duplicate each other, and where just typing is sort of intuitive, why is ctrl+L intuitive?

What I would like is for the path button bar to behave like a button bar AND an edit box. The button bar is nice because it shows the path I have descended to even if I pop up a level, sort of like expanding out the forward button of a web browser. But I would also like to be able to type in it. Perhaps like overlaying transparent buttons over a real edit box and moving the boundaries of the buttons to the positions of the slashes. I also want it to have a drop down list box to show recent full paths like firefox and windows explorer does. A selected path will then be displayed in the button/address-bar combination thingy.

A button/address-bar combo sounds like a dogs dinner; but what it were implemented in terms of the edit box custom drawn? Clicking on parts of the path change to that directory and render the old tail in dull grey so it can still be clicked on.

Tuesday 22 November 2005

Free Choice

A friend recently commented that free  agency is not free, because of the constraints of the consequences.

After consideration I considered that he was right and that the value in agency lies in the constraints that the consequences bring; if there were no constraints, the decision would hardly be worth making.

Consider: If you were not constrained by consequences because you could re-order them at will:
  • You would suffer no disadvantage whatever decisions you made.
  • There would be no need to consider decisions before making them as any error could be corrected later, and the disadvantageous consequences removed.
But what would you be? In avoiding the necessity to learn from experience and do better next time you would remain entirely incapable of re-ordering the consequences to any constructive or permanent advantage, having no proper understanding of the consequences or benefits thereof.

You would often be dissatisfied with the immediate present and never being sure what you would prefer.

You would be little more that a wish-machine in a closed environment unable to form relationships with anything external.

I consider that it is the constraints of free agency that liberate us from our ourselves.

Monday 21 November 2005

Stinkin’ GNOME file dialogs

AGGGH. The thing I like about Microsoft’s file dialogs is that they don’t get in the way and they let me do what I want.

The thing that makes be so angry with the GNOME dialogs and with quite a lot of GNOME things is that they make it so simple it becomes quite complicated to do things that are simple under windows.


Under windows I can paste a filename into a file open dialog and press ENTER - job done!

Under GNOME, I have to click through a bit at a time, waiting 10 seconds for the dialog to populate the file listing at some points, and then finally locate the file I need. I hate it. I hate GNOME when it makes me do that.


Saturday 19 November 2005

Whats with s/he all the time?

In the bad old days “she” referred to the wifie, or womankind and “he” referred to the mankind. This much we all think we know.

But mankind referred to man and woman.

What I’m trying to get at is that women are at it again. They have (had) a perfectly good term that described just them, and then they all go and pretend it describes just men and get all huffy about it and insist that anyone who doesn’t write s/he or say “chair-person” is being sexist! Pardon!?

I’ll use terms like mankind and chair-man and if you think it doesn’t mean women, then think again.

I tend to get out of it by saying their instead of his or hers but I draw the line at chairperson.

See the dictionary; if people (*cough* some women) want to take offence at their own ignorance, I’ll let them - to do otherwise would be patronising, and patronising women is an even greater crime!

When asked “didn’t I mean chairperson?” I say “no I didn’t; and rather than pander to the ignorant we should educate them. Chairman does not refer to gender but to authority; and the deference of men has restrained any complaint on their part, unlike their false accusers who claim offence when there is none either in fact or intent.”

The consequence of which, women now have to stand up on the buses or trains, unless they look pregnant. If any female readers have got this far and recollect a case where no man offered a seat to a pregnant passenger, realise that they were probably chewed out once too often by someone who merely looked pregnant.

See the usage note and ponder your own position.

This has recently come up on Groklaw. The main idea is “stop whining, did you really think I meant male when I said he?

Nagging does not work on an individual or mass scale, so stop nagging.

It’s time

It’s time I had somewhere to post my wisdom; not for the masses, but for myself. But let the masses overhear me who want to.

It’s also time for bed, so that sleep can knit up my ravelled sleeve of care and all that.

Why am I up betimes this Saturday Morning? I have been setting up Campsite CMS whose main features are those that a professional publisher would want; namely
  • full control over what his minions can do, restricting such things as
    • putting links in stories
    • changing text size
  • Full characterset support and story-translations!
  • Good workflow to stop minions publishing rot
  • A not-half-bad templating system, of course I prefer mine but it doesn’t yet work with Campsite.