Doctors 2.0

Yesterday I gave in to the masses, who had been giving me a hard time for not going to the doctor with my “Vampire Eye“.

So I woke up yesterday, got dressed up in my Ninja Gi, loaded up with all the weapons and tools of the Ninja, and prepared for the dangerous, and arduous task that is trying to book an appointment at my medical centre. And was I in for a surprise.

I get ready with the house phone, my mobile, & a scripted PBX to attempt the impossible first step, actually getting hold of someone. I dial and……. I get an automated welcome message, welcoming me to the medical centre, informing me my call may be recorded for training purposes and telling me i shall have options to pick from.  WOW. My Doctors place has got themselves a decent phone system that’s not some old woman sat at a desk moving wires about.

I then get to the menu system of the phone call. “Press one for…..” there then followed a huge list of all the possible reasons you may press option one. Then SILENCE, I waited, and waited, but still there was silence. “OK? so the first part of the menu is press 1 or press 1” I pressed 1, and the phone started ringing and I got a real person.  Yes their automated phone messaging system goes. Press 1 and get person. They have managed to add a pointless step in the process of PHONE-RINGS->ANSWER-PHONE.

I get my appointment and dutifully turn up at the surgery on time. Only its all different, its bigger, better, and different. In fact its like they had built a huge new building next to the original, then knocked down the original to make additional car parking spaces. Well the old place had been there for dozens of years, and was a bit small and dingy.

I enter the posh new building to be greeted by a large wall mounted flat screen TV with the word “Welcome” on it in a button like box. I then touched the button on the screen like you do, it changed to two buttons [Male] & [Female] “Wow, they really gone to town on making the patients feel comfortable while waiting, they even supply company for you“. I quickly pressed the [Female] button, it now asked for a D.O.B. “wow. I wonder if they ask for my preferred hair colour and such?”  I hit a few random options for a birth date, and waited for my order to arrive.

The screen in front of me said “Welcome Mrs ***** ****** ******, please take a seat in the waiting area.” *SHIT* its a login system, not a online ordering thing. I hit reset, and put my details in, and made my way to sit innocently in the waiting room. Where there was an even bigger flat screen TV informing me that “smoking is bad” “unsafe sex is bad” “yada yada yada” and occasional beeping and telling someone they should go to room **.  Modern technology is great, instead of the old yellowing posters telling me everything fun is bad for me, they now get to do it in wide screen, high definition.

After all that, the Doc told me nothing I didn’t already know, and I was in with him for about 3 minutes. This is why I never bother going to see the Doctor.

Just when I thought they couldn’t possibly be any dumber…

…..they go and do something like this… and totally redeem themselves!!

I am a true believer of the phrase “Customers are Idiots“, but sometimes they seem to go out of their way to prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that this phrase is true.

Recently one of our customers RedBack* ceased trading, and a load of their customers were emailed suggesting they move their hosting & emails over to the Insane Asylum. I was given the pleasure of helping a load across to us. Now some came across with little or no problems, where as others caused a variety of problems. And then there was Zoolander*.

So I copy their website and database from the RedBack server that’s shutting down over to one of ours, I change connection strings and paths accordingly and get it up and running. I recreate email accounts on our system and send them all the details with the instructions to change the nameservers over to ours and they will be up and running.

So a couple of weeks go past and I get a phone call from Zoolander that goes a bit like this.

Z:We’ve changed the nameserver things like you said and now our email has stopped working!

CN:Yes, it will since you moved over to us. you need to use the new email details I previosly sent you.

Z:I don’t understand, its all technically, can’t you just do it for me?

CN: Well you need to change the setting in whatever email client you use on your computers, but if you need our guys can connect to your machine and do it for you.

Z:I dont do email on my computer, just my phone. I just go to the webpage and do mail.

CN: You only use webmail? Then you just need to use the webmail address I sent you and you’ll be fine

Z:what? so my webpages address will change? it wont be on www.zoolander.com* any more?

CN:NO. just the address of the webmail you used has changed.

The following morning I get into the Asylum to find an email from one of the Zoolander’s Directors home gmail account, all urgent and shouty like. I could tell this as it was all written in CAPS! The basic gist of the email was that they had tried logging into the new webmail address i gave them, and their old username/passwords were not working. So I politely resend them the details I sent before the move with the NEW usernames/passwords and point out the NEW system required NEW details.

Two hours later the phone rings. And its Zoolander.

Z:Hello, We’ve tried using the new details, only we can’t work out what goes where, so could ou talk us through it?

CN:no problems, what problem are you having?

Z:Well we need to know what to put in the box that says username, and what goes in the one called password?

CN: What did you have in the email I sent you?

Z: email address followed by my email address, then username followed by a username, then password followed by password. I just don’t know which ones I’m supposed to use.

CN:OK. where it asks for your username, type in your username. and put your password in the one asking for password.”

Z:That seems to have worked. thanks

CN: *Unplugs phone for rest of the day*

I know there is a stereotype belief that people in the fashion modelling industry are not known for playing with a full set of cards. But at least try people…..

* As normal Names changed to protect me from lawsuits… err I mean to protect the innocent.

Vampire Eye

I am suffering from the medical condition “Vampire Eyes” again. “What is Vampire Eye?“you ask, Well you should read some of the earlier blog posts where its mentioned in detail.  OK! I’m nice, I’ll  give a quick re-cap for the newer readers.

VAMPIRE EYES:

A weird eye infection that causes the eye infected to glow red, be extremely sensitive to sunlight, spend all day trying to close, and all night trying to open.

So if you’re wondering where I have been recently, I’m hiding in the dark avoiding all sources of light, like for example monitors.

Missing: General Common Sense.

There are times when I really despair for the Human Race. When I see acts of such stupidity, or people not using the most basic of common sense, and I have to ask myself “Can we survive as the dominant species here on earth” This morning, on my normal commute to the Insane Asylum was one such moment. Let me share with you dear reader.

Part of my route is currently impeded by traffic light controlled road works.  They have been there for a few months now, slowly working their way along.  It was scary for a while as the light was just behind a speed camera, so when you saw the lights turn AMBER and you were tempted to speed up a bit to catch them before they turned RED you would be speeding into a speed trap. Anyway it currently cover’s a large stretch of road, the length of which is down to single lane.

So driving along and I get stuck behind several cars waiting at the red light, while traffic coming from the other direction get to go. After a while the traffic flow stops, and the lights change to GREEN, so we then proceed to continue our trip. Only half way through the traffic controlled area we are forced to stop by the Bin Wagon parked in front of us blocking the road as bin men load up the bins.

behind the bin wagon are all the other cars that had driven through the GREEN light and had got stuck when the wagon stopped. And now you had another long train of vehicles stopped in front of the wagon.  So the single lane of traffic was now blocked by dozens of vehicles trying to dive opposite ways.

Ah.. I know what you are all thinking, and what that guy there is actually saying loudly at the computer screen. Yes YOU. I can see and hear you, Nope, theres no use looking for the hidden camera, you’ll never find it.  You are thinking. “But its their job to collect the bins, there’s not much they could do about it?

I would agree in principle with you apart from an extra fact I have not imparted to you yet, and that is the bus stop lay-by that was a hundred yards behind the wagon. If they had any common sense and thought, “the lights will change soon and traffic will start coming from the other direction and we will all get stuck!” then they would have pulled their wagon off the road into the bus stop area, letting the cars behind them past, and then the oncoming traffic past until they had collected the bins, and traffic was agin flowing in their direction and they could join it without hassle.

But NO. instead they caused chaos. and dozens of drivers had to play the worlds largest game of tetris with their vehicles, and the binmen had to drive onto the roadworks. It was chaos and people were stuck for a lot longer than they needed to be, all for the sake of some common sense.

P.S. This is not a dig at bin men & women, they do a fantastic job and do not get the thanks they deserve, its a dig at the stupidity of people in general.

Sherlock – Bringing the classic into the Modern age

Originally Posted at http://rockthelan.com

The BBC have just finished showing a new three part mini-series call “Sherlock” which brings the Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes detective stories into the modern day, with modern technology. You have Holmas armed with smartphones, the Internet, modern forensic labs and all the benefits of modern technology. While Watson who’s just back from serving in Afghanistan no longer writes in leather bound journal, but instead has an online blog. Even the famous phrases from the books have been updated, Holmes’s statement when struggling with a hard problem of “This is a three pipe problem” now calmly states “This is a three patch problem” London is mostly no-smoking these days.

Episode 1: “A Study in Pink”
The first episode in any series (even a mini-series) is basically all about introducing the characters, and setting everything up. This can occasionally lead to a slightly slower “starter”. This was not the case with Sherlock, Yes they introduced the characters of Holmes & Watson, and showed their meeting for the first time, and moving into 221b Baker Street. While that was going on they also had time to show shadowy groups, secret criminal masterminds, and one of the best games of Russians roulette you could imagine. (With strong leanings to the princess bride)

Episode 2: “The Blind Banker”
Another brilliant episode that’s starts simply with Watson making Holmes take a simple case (They need the money) from Holmes’ old school friend. A simple “how did someone break into a secure room” case. It’s not long before the case expands into hidden codes, Chinese Triad assassins, Ancient Artifacts, Murder & Romance. With a very tense ending. Theres no relaxing in the middle episode.

Episode 3: “The Great Game”
WOW. What can I say about the season finally that will not give away any spoilers? It starts with a double case, Mycroft Holmes requests help investigating a suspicious suicide and some missing top top secret plans. Meanwhile after a suspected gas explosion across from Holmes flat a locked strong box is found with a letter addressed to Holmes inside. This leads Holmes on a series of challenges set by some mysterious person. Holmes gets less and less time to solve cases before some innocent gets  blown up.  This all leads to a climatic meeting in a swimming pool, and the most annoying “I NEED to see how it ends” endings you could hate to witness.

Basically this show is one of the best things I’ve seen on BBC for a long time, and the way they have brought such a classic character into the modern day is amazing. And I am now waiting for a Second and longer series to begin filming.

GN

Originally Posted at http://rockthelan.com

Formspring: Best Question Ever!

I was recently asked on Formspring a question that I thought was the best question I have ever been asked. I was so impressed with the random question I thought I would share it with you.

If an unstoppable force comes to an immovable object, what is the result?

WOW! Quick I need @dontrythis, 5lbs of C4, & a ton of Thermite STAT!. We’re going to do SCIENCE!!!!

Well to have an immovable object, you have to accept that no force in the Verse can move it. No nukes, no exploding suns, no black holes, no BIG BANGS, nothing. This would imply that the object exists in a slightly different phase/vibration/dimension to the physical world that we live in.

The unstoppable force would then pass directly through the immovable object without interacting with it, since they must by definition exists in different planes. so my answer is… They pass without interacting with each other.

Best Question Ever!

GN

Britain’s Got Computer Talent.

On Monday the 26th July 2010 the UK Minister for Security Declares Cyber Security Challenge UK Open.

The Cyber Security Challenge is a series of national online games and competitions that will test the cyber security abilities of individuals and teams from every walk of life. It is designed to excite and inspire anyone considering a career in the cyber security industry.

The Challenge will identify talented individuals capable of becoming part of the UK’s cyber security profession now and in the future.

Why should I participate?

Participation in the Challenge offers three fantastic opportunities:

  1. The Challenge will award more than 30 superb prizes. These will include:
    • Places on the Detica Academy
    • Funded or part-funded places for masters-level university security courses
    • Funded security courses provided by SANS Institute.
    • Memberships of trade bodies and professional associations
    • Professional mentoring sessions
    • Time on the CREST penetration test rig
    • Delegate passes to industry conferences
    • An internship at one of the UK’s premier security companies
    • Prizes will be allocated based on individuals’ ambitions and the stage they are at in their career.
  2. The Challenge will provide participants with the opportunity to use world-class technology and facilities that would otherwise be inaccessible.
  3. It will also provide a way for individuals to meet with, work with, and learn from some of the UK’s most prominent organisations in cyber security, education and politics.
    Those who demonstrate excellent levels of skill and talent will be exposed to potential employers who will look favourably on anyone who can perform well throughout the Challenge.
  4. The Challenge offers an opportunity for all participants to publicly demonstrate their cyber security skills and build their reputation with peers and potential employers as the UK’s most talented security experts.

The first challenge to get yourself started with is up here

Get playing!.

And Now for Something Completely Different

Time seems to be flowing a lot faster than normal these days, I swear I only have to blink and several days have flown past. For example I was considering writing this post Monday, I blinked, made myself a cup of Coffee and its now Thursday Friday? Anyway, here goes the actual post :-

Its been a few years now since I have done a “what I did the Weekend” style post. And I’m feeling nostalgic for reasons you will discover by the time you finish reading this post, so here goes for old time sake.

What I did The Weekend.

(more…)

Hackers 1 : Network Admin 0

I forget exactly when this incident happened. I do remember it was towards the end of the University season (either the year end, or midway). It was in my second to last year in University, and everyone was rushing about trying to finish papers, coursework and get everything handed in on time.

Of course the Lords of Chaos were out in force, and the Universities Network was down, and had been for about a week, people were seriously starting to panic.  The network at the time was Windows 95 running of a Novell network. Now somehow (no info was ever posted) the windows image had become corrupted.  You could log onto the network, and it would copy the global copy of windows to your workstation ok, only winsock, and several other network important files/libs were corrupt meaning windows could not talk to the network.  This had a knock-on problem of all the program files & user data were stored on network drives.  Basically you were left with a corrupt and damaged version of windows that was of no use to anyone.

Now some of the computer labs had computers that also had local copies of windows on them, for specific software/applications. Unfortunately these were not set up to use the network, or the internet, in fact they had been set up specifically to be unable to use the network. (for security and to help prevent the pirating of specialised software)

After a few days of no net-access a friend and myself got fed up and decided to do something about it. We found one of the small labs with local copy windows machines, and using some of the libraries off the corrupt net-work versions, plus manually rewriting sever config files we were able to get two machines fully running on the uni’s network, and hence the internet. So there we were happily using the internet to plan the weekends fun when a Lecturer wandered into the lab.

“What are you guys doing in here?”

“err, just finishing some coursework to email in”

“What, do you think I’m stupid? The network is down”

I pointed at my screen and invited her to come look, pointing at a couple of websites to show it was working, and pointed out since we were desperate to finish our coursework we “fixed” the two machines we were using. She looked thoughtful for a while, then asked could we do the same to all the others in the lab, since she had an important lesson that afternoon that she had already put off once due to the broken network.

It was another week and a half before they fixed the network and all the universities computers were usable. But for that week and a half there was one small computer lab that was fully functional, and its location was spread about like a secret. After all, if everyone knew about it, you’d never get a free computer.

I like to think we helped a few people be a little less stressed in the run up to exams.

Reclaiming the word Hacker

As The Next HOPE draws near I figured now would be an appropriate time for me to say a few words about the misappropriation of the term “Hacker“. To quote Randal from Clerks II. “I’m taking it back

How often do you seen mention these days like :-

  • “Hacker steals hundreds of credit card details” (Hello, that’s not Hacking its credit card fraud).
  • “Hacker defaces ****’s website” (Try Vandalism not Hacking.)
  • “Hacker steals companies data to sell” (Try Industrial Espionage)

Yes there are people out there that do illegal things, a lot of them can be described as Skript Kiddies, crackers, thieves, vandal, humans. Yes there are Hackers that do illegal things, but that does not mean all Hackers do. There was a case in the UK a few years ago of a doctor who killed hundreds of his patients, does that make all doctors mass murderers?

Wikipedia describes the origin of the term Hack as thus :-

The term “hack” was first used by US university computing centre staff in the mid-1960s. The context determined whether the complimentary or derogatory meanings were implied. Phrases such as “ugly hack” or “quick hack” generally referred to the latter meaning; phrases such as “cool hack” or “neat hack”, to the former. In modern computer programming, a “hack” can refer to a solution or method which functions correctly but which is “ugly” in its concept, which works outside the accepted structures and norms of the environment, or which is not easily extendible or maintainable. The programmer keeps beating on it until a solution is found.

In a similar vein, a “hack” may refer to works outside of computer programming. For example, a math hack means a clever solution to a mathematical problem. The GNU General Public License has been described as a copyright hack because it cleverly uses the copyright laws for a purpose the lawmakers did not foresee. All of these uses now also seem to be spreading beyond MIT as well.

The term should be kept as it was originally intended, to describe those people who are curious about how things work, whether it be computers, networks, phones, electronics, maths, whatever. People who find ways to use things in ways that was not in the original specification. We used to cherish these people as innovators, explorers, etc. (Well apart from the early days when the church would burn them as heretics). We should go back to using “Hacker” as a positive description, and just call criminals “Criminals”.  So Media People pay attention, I’m taking the word Hackers back.

To aid in the takeback, I will be posting a series of old Hacks, & examples of Hacking. None of them Illegal, none that caused Harm, Injury, disfigurement. There may have been some upset caused by some, but only in a “How come he can do that? why cant I? It’s not Fair”. They are all just examples of someone being curious, someone using things for more than they were designed for, someone helping others thanks to his playing.