Unfiltered


According to BT its parental controls are ‘completely customisable’ and apparently it is possible to add specific sites to allow or block which, unless you’re Claire Perry, is obviously essential. Even so I’ve experienced just how pointless internet filters are before, so I’m keen to avoid ‘porn’ filters on my home broadband connection for as long as possible.

CoffeeGeek-filter

I don’t know how filtering works on other ISPs but these are just a few of the problems with BT’s implementation which contributed to an upcoming switch to a completely unfiltered broadband provider:

  • Applies same filtering to every device… hopefully there aren’t actually any homes without adults around. Apparently they do allow you to schedule when the filter is active but that seems like a solution from the last century.
  • There’s no way for me to find out if a site would be blocked by the filter. There are sites I might want to make certain are blocked but I obviously wouldn’t want to have to visit them to find out!
  • There’s no way for site owners to find out if their own site would be blocked by the filter.
  • The standard filtering has a couple of glaring omissions which I would be interested in: I want to block adverts targeted at children, and I want to block any form of tracking.

There are more details of BT’s filtering in the Open Rights Group blog post, BT answers our questions about parental controls.

Photo © Mark (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Connecting…


It’s been a bit quiet here the last few months as we finally got to the end of the grand moving plan! We actually moved a couple of weeks ago but the new house came without telephone or broadband… or mobile signal or TV aerial!! Today our new found productivity looks set to come to an abrupt end with the installation of a shiny new internet connection. And this is not just broadband, this is fibre-to-a-green-box-just-400-meters-away-and-same-old-copper-wires-the-rest-of-the-way broadband.

That isn’t the internet I was looking for either: I had pretty much decided to go for fibre-optic-cable-provider broadband. That wasn’t the only last minute change of plan, so to ease back in to blogging, this is the first in a series about the companies supplying our new house. In most cases I’m reluctant to go as far as recommending companies because, as is often the case, your mileage may vary. It may help someone though, so it’s no coincidence that communication provider is first up…

By appointment to Jo and JT. Purveyors of telephone and broadband, BT.

BT did well to snatch this one from Virgin Media. I’ve been looking forward to a new phone company for longer than a new house, and judging by the increasing flood of post from Virgin Media, they’re pretty keen to get new customers. Adding to the temptation, the new house was already with Virgin. I phoned them to sign up. In contrast to their cheerful letters requesting the pleasure of my custom, I got through to someone who must have previously been a doctor surgery receptionist. Partly because of the price and partly because the overwhelming impression things would not go smoothly, I changed my mind.

Eventually, after trying several other companies, I ended up picking  BT Infinity. Only time will tell if that was a good idea or not, but they’ve been ok so far. It did take them a long time to actually connect us, and it would have been nice if they could prioritise customers with no service at all over upgrades, but what I liked is that they did what they said, when they said they would. @BTCare were also very responsive and helpful, and were able to provide BTOpenzone access to keep us ticking over, which was great.

I’m much more optimistic than I was with our previous supplier- TalkTalk even seem to be messing up closing our account, so they’ve managed to keep up their terrible customer service to the very end!

…and BT Openreach.

Take one router to connect to the internet? Now I just have two boxes to power! One quirk of BT Infinity is the separation of VDSL modem (owned by BT Openreach) and Homehub (provided by BT), which even means that the engineer brings one and the other gets posted separately. I can’t imagine there’s a technical reason not to have everything in one box, but Power over Ethernet might be nice to keep the tangle of power cords under control. I was wondering how they would cope with a master socket behind the front door with no power, but luckily the new (huge) master socket is behind the TV. (Must find the Current Cost IAM to see how much power the two boxes are using.)

Digital House Arrest


The Digital Economy Bill is exactly the kind of ill-considered law I have come to expect from the current government, however I am very disappointed in the apparent lack of opposition from the other parties.

Today I received a reply from my MP, Chris Huhne, following my email and letter to him about the bill, unfortunately I had already read the same response on the Liberal Democrat Voice before his letter arrived. I appreciate the time he took to reply but the LibDem team will only be getting half a cheer from me, and here’s why.

Chris begins his letter by largely supporting the Digital Economy Bill, stating that many aspects of the bill are vitally important to the UK’s creative industries. Having read the bill, I just don’t believe that. For a start, the bill has very little to do with a digital economy, containing a pick ‘n’ mix of barely related clauses (‘wide ranging’ in politician speak):

Tinkering with Television and Radio Broadcasting Bill

Chris is happy that the bill changes Channel 4’s remit, changes regional news on ITV and plans to make all my analog radios useless. Apart from buying new radios to listen to the same thing, will anyone notice? There’s also some stuff in there on radio licenses and it looks like the days of teletext are numbered.

Are you Really Old Enough to be Playing that Video Game Bill

Chris also supports classification of computer games. Well at least anyone who isn’t old enough will know which games to get hold of to impress their mates.

We are Aware There are Some Problems with Copyright Laws and This is the Best we Could Come up with Bill

The Liberal Democrats support the creative industries, so I’m puzzled that Chris doesn’t even mention the “Extension and regulation of licensing of copyright and performers’ rights” clause. Strangely, some current copyright holders don’t seem too keen to get this kind of support. I’m not surprised given how little respect some creative industries have for copyright already. Public lending also gets a spit and polish for audio books and e-books.

So from my quick flick through, that’s all the vitally important parts of the bill (?) leaving…

Enforcing Copyright Yourself is Just Such a Bore Bill

Before going any further, I should make it absolutely clear that I am not fundamentally opposed to copyright law, and I actually work in an industry where copyright protection is important. That said, I personally think that copyright laws should be an incentive for the creative industries to, well, create new content. I have been concerned for a long time that neither the public nor creative individuals get a particularly fair deal from the current arrangements. As with the law in general, the odds are stacked in favour of people with the most money and this bill only makes matters worse.

Without any new legislation, the creative industries should already be able to take action against illegal downloading using the internet, in the same way they can take action regardless of how the illegal copyright material was obtained. Apparently that’s not good enough, so under the guise of a digital economy bill, they want new powers to protect the old economy.

There are plenty of things the creative industries could do to help themselves. I suggest that first on the list for them to try would be to stop treating their paying customers with such contempt. I hope they’ve already stopped installing dangerous software on my computer without my permission, but how about competing with the pirates to make watching a DVD more enjoyable, or allowing me to watch a DVD I’ve paid for where ever I want to, or not changing your mind after you sold me something? With this kind of behaviour I would expect any changes of the law to include more regulation for the creative industries, not more protection for them. It’s ironic that none of the quarter of a million creative people who’s jobs are allegedly at risk can come up with some better ideas, especially given that they really should have the most to gain from a digital economy.

Access to the internet may not be a fundamental right, but how can you seriously expect to have a digital economy if people are at risk of digital house arrest? As I told Chris Huhne, I don’t believe disconnection is a proportional response even if it did only effect one person, who was proved to have downloaded something illegally beyond reasonable doubt. Would you stop someone leaving their house if they came home from the market with counterfeit jeans? How can we have a digital economy when a single industry has a veto over whether any other industry can do business with their customers over the internet? Access to online government services? No. Online bank account? No. Paperless billing? Think again. Internet shopping? Not any more. Working at home? Time for a holiday. NHS Direct? Please phone… unless you’re using Skype of course. Smart metering? The lights are on but no-one’s home.

This is by no means a full discussion of the issues, but then I’m not in parliament where all of these issues and more should be getting some serious debate. Sadly there’s a chance no one will be able to have that debate in parliament. Oh well, good luck UK plc, you’re going to need it.

Update: A few related posts generated manually to go with the ones WordPress found. (28 March 2010)

Update: A couple of Guardian articles on the Digital Economy Bill (31 March 2010)

Update: A depressing day following the #debill debate, but a found a few more articles along the way. (6 April 2010)

After today’s idiotic debate in parliament, I wonder if more people might be tempted to stand for election to show politicians that they can’t just push whatever they like through parliament when no one is looking. The close of nominations is 4 pm on Tuesday 20 April 2010 and for a coordinated effort there’s a deadline of 12 April 2010 to register a new party. Just a thought.

Update: No big surprise that the bill went through the washup, demonstrating the poor state of the UK democracy along the way. (8 April 2010)

Let’s just hope that candidates get some tough questions on the subject when they’re out campaigning.

Update: The morning after… (9 April 2010)

And finally, someone who will be keeping my vote: TalkTalk!

Looking for a new house


Moving phone company turned out to be too confusing and difficult, so what we’ve decided to do instead is move house. Much simpler! Hmmm, I suspect Cerys might not agree, so this could be a bit of an adventure! Just had the first valuation today, which confirmed our theory on what to sell for, and financial adviser was at Hursley today anyway by some amazing coincidence, which confirmed our theory on what we can buy for. (So that’ll be a shed in Winchester and half an extra bedroom in Southampton!)

Two more estate agents coming round this week and then we have to decide… should we stay, or should we go? (Look out for us at house buyers anonymous if we do decide to go for it!)

As for phone companies… anyone would think that moving is a rare event judging how badly most companies cope with the whole process, so I fully expect a broadband blackout if we do move, in which case 3 PAYG broadband looks like a tempting offer… but that’s planning ahead just a little!

More broadband procrastination


Still undecided about a new phone company!

One of the early front runners, Orange, has done even worse than TalkTalk in a recent survey! BT seem to do well in various reviews, including a BBC survey, but the high connection charge still puts me off, and a colleague was recently cut off, along with numerous neighbors. for over a week! If I have to pay a high connection charge, I think I’m more likely to give Greenbee a go at £115. Sky keep putting leaflets through the door as well, and the deals do seem to be getting better- I may crack yet!

I’m still tempted to give Virgin a try though, to see if cable is any better… it’s been a while since they were NTL now!

Decisions decisions!

Looking for a new phone company


18 months of TalkTalk hell is almost over, so I’m looking for a new phone company. I have also been completely underwhelmed by Vodafone recently, so a package that includes, home phone, broadband and mobile phone could be the answer.

Of course, I don’t doubt that most companies are just as useless, so who to choose…

Not Pipex it would seem!

And, even if I did think about going back to BT, they don’t seem to want me back, with a comedy, “Installation fee just £124.99” (this is obviously a new use of the word ‘just’ indicating a complete rip off). Unfortunately that kind of limits the choice somewhat, as many other providers require a BT line. One option I’m beginning to give serious thought to is Virgin Media (they must have improved since the NTL days by now surely?!) but I have reservations: their pricing seems a tad chaotic (their junk mail seems to include a reasonable offer, but it doesn’t appear on the web site it tells you to go to!) and if I pay for 4Mb broadband from them I would be extremely upset not to get the whole 4Mb, all the time. None of this ADSL/’up to’ nonsense. Sure, it might not be possible to supply higher speeds, so charge me less (not difficult really)!!!

Maybe Orange could be the answer– that would take care of the mobile part of the equation without going near O2 or Vodafone, which is a plus. At first glance they don’t seem to require a BT line either…

You also need:
a home phone line (excluding Kingston Communications and cable)

I suspect that’s just the tip of the iceberg, so I’m still looking. Any suggestions for who to try, and who to avoid, would be very very handy!!