Smart Circuit breaker wanted

Switch board at HSG

My dream hardware project, the project I check https://www.kickstarter.com/ periodically for, is a "smart" MCB that could fit in a typical circuit switch board, but with two additional features:

  1. Wifi IoT connectivity so I can at least TURN OFF that switch
  2. An API to read out of how much power the circuit is pulling in kilowatts

Close up of MCBs

Use case

Ever left your home with the Iron or Air-conditioner on?

I want a simple Web application to be able to see a total & break down of how much power my home is using. If I noticed some grave irregularity (like leaving an iron on!!), I can just switch the power off for that circuit altogether.

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Problems with Internet in Singapore

An update on 1.5 years ago with Why Singapore Internet sucks. This is in the context of HSG.

HSG is stuck with M1 until 2016-02-09, since we were connected after 3+ month delay due to OpenNET 'capacity issues' on 2014-02-10.

(The other day I heard of a company waiting FIVE MONTHS for an OpenNET connection)

Switching cost far too high

Locked into a recurring two year contract. We tried to switch but M1 said we renewed per contract which as a Hackerspace we were unaware of (until it was too late) and we can't get out of. To compound the issue, we are unable to upgrade from 100Mbps to 1Gbps IIUC until 1 year has elapsed of our recurring contract.

Update: 930SGD pcm for 1Gbps Internet http://s.natalian.org/2014-11-25/M1-quote-1Gbps.pdf

Business versus residential line cost

Same service, 2+ times price difference, that's if you can get a clearly priced business package. Usually it has to be negotiated down from some crazy price.

Singapore ISPs have no status page / no accountability

{M1,Singtel,Starhub} do not have a status page like https://aastatus.net/ or http://status.aws.amazon.com/#AP_block

We never know what service quality we are getting, whether it is getting worse or better. (International) Bandwidth is another matter entirely which seems variable and opaque.

No static IPs / IP allocation service / IPv6

Making home/office hosting dependent on unreliable dynamic IP aliasing... Therefore any reliable Internet service is forced to centralise onto "the Cloud" which is usually much more expensive despite what AWS et al would like you to believe.

Conclusion

As a Hackerspace we are locked for years with uncompetitive Internet and we are unable to reasonably host any project at the Hackerspace.

We are forced to beg for Cloud credit and we are unable to run anything bandwidth intensive.

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Nintendo Wii U owner comments

I bought a 300GBP Wii U with MarioKart 8.

MarioKart 8 is indeed good, but the rest of the system kinda sucks. Doesn't surprise me that Nintendo posted losses.

  • Their update procedure is cumbersome and isn't done seamlessly in the background. So it can stop you from playing.
  • No details to what the updates are, so there is no reward or new UX to look forward to
  • Many Apps I want to see get better like the Youtube App... does not get better
  • In fact nothing seems to get better. For an internet connected platform not to evolve... well then it's dying imo
  • The Nintendo store is really really, phenomenally shit. I WANT TO BUY NEW GAMES!
  • Nintendo identity is really poorly designed. I am constantly confused between my Nintendo U id, Nintendo store and something else again
  • Nintendo offered me a free game if I entered or registered MarioKart 8. Er... I don't have time for this shit. I lost the code. I didn't get a new game. I have a bitter taste in my mouth.
  • Customer service is poor. No twitter, and when I explained I lost the code, they said they could only give me a new code if I provide them the old code. Er... I don't think you understand.

I'm writing this with the hope Nintendo bloody well gets their finger out. I think the hardware itself is fine. The platform software is just really quite poor.

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Redirecting a UK home telephone number

99 times out of 100 it will be with BT.

Say you want to redirect your email. Easy peasy. Free of cost.

Say you want to redirect your telephone number to your mobile or VOIP system? Lets assume you are redirecting to a local number, the cheapest possible way to do it.

First you need Call Diversion, 3.50GBP.

Now you must pay for the incoming call which is redirected:

  • 11:18 £1.230
  • 2:21 £0.420
  • 0:39 £0.240
  • 0:02 £0.240
  • 0:47 £0.240
  • 3:15 £0.210
  • 0:24 £0.170
  • 0:09 £0.170
  • 0:05 £0.240
  • 0:23 £0.170

This can amount pretty quickly!!

I'm told you can cumbersomely get your number if you disconnect your line, which is obviously hugely inconvienant.

Pity OFCOM are not doing anything to improve number portability and competition AFAIK.

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Recovering a stolen camera

Well strictly speaking I left the 450SGD Canon S120 on the Airport bus (I think). I was so tired that day. I realised this and contacted the Palermo Airport bus company hours later to no avail. Also contacted Palermo Airport itself. No dice.

So I was thinking how I could avoid this situation or better find it in future. I did have my name and twitter id on a sticker on the camera. Obviously this wasn't enough for it to me returned to me. :(

On the train to Naples

Searching by serial number

First off, the Canon's serial number of the camera is NOT embedded in the images it takes.

/home/hendry/Downloads$ strings 14094833648_7703bd9cbd_o.jpg | grep PowerShot
Canon PowerShot S120
IMG:PowerShot S120 JPEG
/home/hendry/Downloads$ strings 14094833648_7703bd9cbd_o.jpg | grep 71805

Engraving it

Casey Neistat engraves his camera using a Dremel. I wish I did this since the photos / videos I took are worth more to me than the resale value of the camera.

Ibeacon whatever

I noticed http://www.thetileapp.com/ but I don't see how that would work. The tile itself could only be attached clumsily. And only people RUNNING THE TILE APP ON AN IPHONE in very close vicinity (0% chance) could ever possibly report this back to me.

Invisible markers and stuff

I think this stuff rubs off and the fact that it's invisible is a bit dumb. UK police say they use this to identify stolen goods, but I doubt its utility.

Stolen database of stuff

AFAIK there is no place to say XYZ serial of equipment is stolen. Wish there was.

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FTTC is worse than ADSL when 2km far away from exchange

I've complained about Superfast Cornwall rural broadband rollout technology being a poor choice for rural locations before.

Now I have a nice graph to illustrate the point:

fttc speed graph

The image is from http://nbnmyths.wordpress.com/ which is site devoted to outing the scandal of the "next generation" Australian broadband roll out.

So unless you live ontop of a cabinet, FTTC (VDSL), the product that Superfast Cornwall tout can well be an expensive waste of time. The cheaper older ADSL can be better than FTTC in distances greater than 2km!!

To add to the confusion of my FTTC "superfast" install, we are told our line length is 3400m, even though I can drive to the cabinet in a mile. Combine that with line instability (we lose carrier upto several times a day), we have a very poor experience with this "upgrade".

Rural Cornwall connectivity looks bleak. BT Openreach probably won't lay fibre or allow folks like me to pull fibre through their conduits. My ISP says the best I can do is buy another line and consider bonding them, doubling again my ISP costs to ~100GBP per month.

3G might come along. I could perhaps consider long range wifi with a neighbour who lives closer to the exchange. But those options will have high latency.

What a disaster. :(

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Barclays made my backup account dormant and took my money

Since I travel a lot, I keep a backup current account debit card in a secret location in case my wallet is stolen or lost.

That un-expired card failed to work earlier this year. I later logged onto Barclays online banking to find no trace of the account. It's as if it never existed.

The account had 693.73GBP in it.

I called up Barclays quoting the account number and sort code printed on the bottom of the card... at first the "customer service representative" worryingly could not tell me what has happened. Two phone calls later and a visit to my branch, reveals that my backup account is considered "dormant" because I have not used it for a year.

Later it turns out I was sent a letter on the 17 December from "Mr D Wass" warning me that "Your current account has not been used for some time". It instructed me to call Barclays by the 10th of March 2014. Since I'm terrible with post, I failed to read this single warning letter. And now my account is dormant. This letter was not found upon their Document Management service "Barclays Cloud It", which I think it should be.

At the branch I'm given a long https://www.bba.org.uk/ form to fill in. I've already wasted many hours on this, and now I need to provide personal details to a 3rd party, in order to get my money back? I'm shocked. Why can't Barclays simply re-open my account?!

I called up https://www.bba.org.uk/ to express my frustration. The receptionist tells me that they simply act as a post box for Barclays dormant accounts team. I've now just spent half an hour filling a form in https://www.mylostaccount.org.uk/, which could have a better SSL support.

Thank you for completing the mylostaccount online form.

Your enquiry will be dealt with by the following organisation/s in the coming weeks:

IF NO ORGANISATION IS LISTED BELOW THIS CLAIM HAS NOT BEEN SUBMITTED. PLEASE START AGAIN OR TELEPHONE 020 7216 8909 FOR HELP.

Barclays Bank Plc

BBA reference id: 503731

To carry out a full check of all the institutions listed may take up to 12 weeks.

I am still waiting to get my money back. I also want to lobby Barclays to:

  1. Inform me of account changes on the online banking application which I use regularly and not snail mail
  2. Stop this insane practice. Why the HELL wasn't MY MONEY put into my other current account at the VERY LEAST?

When I asked Barclays why they make accounts dormant, it was the time honoured "security reasons" response. Shocking.

UPDATE: A reply from BBA. I've struck gold! June 19

I am pleased to advise you that Barclays have indicated that they may have traced a dormant account in the name of Kai Hendry that you have quoted and a letter will be sent to you from the bank, within the next 28days, to validate your claim.

British Bankers' Association

The Voice of Banking and Financial Services

Sheeezus.

FINAL UPDATE: Barclays sent me a cheque for 693.72 (think I'm down 1 penny somehow), back dated to 03-JUL-14 which arrived on July 24th. My parents kindly drove into town to bank the cheque the next day. Hugely inconvenient. Money lost. Lots of time lost. No apology from Barclays. Watch out.

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Withdrawing money in Europe with Barclays Debit

I anticipated that this might be difficult, so I called Barclays beforehand to ensure my Debit card would work for a start and then I get the best rates.

They advised I use only Global Alliance atms.

So whilst in Italy, I sought out the BNL atms, which was a little awkward at times. Time was wasted.

Problem 1 - no idea how much my withdrawal limit is

I want to withdraw a large amount of EUROs to minimize the transaction fee. Unfortunately it didn't allow me to withdraw 500EUR. Or 400EUR. So in order not to upset the person behind me, I reached for the 250EUR mark.

-£209.00
Cash Withdrawal
ITALY
AMOUNT IN EUR 250.00 ON 25 MAY VISA FX RATE 1.231981 FINAL GBP AMOUNT INCLUDES NON-STERLING TRANS FEE £6.07 ATM

Problem 2 - fixed % fee of I don't know what

Yikes, that's a 6GBP fee.

It gets worse:

-£251.87
Cash Withdrawal
ITALY
AMOUNT IN EUR 300.00 ON 28 MAY VISA FX RATE 1.22669 FINAL GBP AMOUNT INCLUDES NON-STERLING TRANS FEE £7.31 ATM

There is a fixed percentage, ontop of these bad GBP-EUR conversions.

£176.27
Cash Withdrawal
ITALY
AMOUNT IN EUR 210.00 ON 31 MAY VISA FX RATE 1.226989 FINAL GBP AMOUNT INCLUDES NON-STERLING TRANS FEE £5.12 ATM

I called up Barclays to complain, and they say they advise holiday makers to bring cash. Post office cash at 1.16 EUR to the GBP isn't a lot better.

I can't get the credit card deals http://travelmoney.moneysavingexpert.com/ recommends since I'm self-employed. One can get better deals by ordering EUR cash in advance in England, but it involves a rigmarole. What a PITA. Times like these I'd rather UK have the EURO.

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Good riddance Certificate Authorities

I've long moaned and bitched about Certificate Authorities and the cost of SSL, and recently I think I've seen the light at the end of the tunnel.

It's called DNS-based Authentication of Named Entities aka DANE and Domain Name System Security Extensions aka DNSSEC.

This will as I understand it, put the multi-million "Certificate Authority" industry out of business. Goodbye Verisign, Thawte, Geotrust, RapidSSL.

I've archived a list of the trusted Mozilla CAs currently shipped in Firefox here for future prosperity.

Folks in the future might think, it's amazing that we had a system that allowed the Turkish government to impersonate any SSL secured Website.

In order to make this sea change possible, I urge you to lobby your DNS service to support DNSSEC and get experimenting with DANE.

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Canon warranty for second hand purchases

Despite swearing off Canon with the TERRIBLE EXPERIENCE of the Canon S100, I'm back for more pain. Why? I want to be able to record 1080p and take better photographs that my iPhone 5S can muster.

So I followed Singapore's Clubsnap advice with buying a second-hand Canon S120 for 450SGD, by ensuring I didn't just have the warranty card, but the original receipt from Challenger too.

In an ideal world, the Canon's serial number printed at the bottom would be enough. No fiddly bits of paper to worry about.

Canon S120 serial number

Then when signing up for the warranty, the awfully implemented form at https://warranty.canon.com.sg/ said my serial number was invalid.

Er, what? So I jump through the five or six hoops to fill in a tiny form to Contact Canon support in Singapore, to get this reply:

Thank you for contacting Canon Contact Centre. My name is Michael and I will be more than happy to assist you.

As I understand it, you had purchased 2nd hand camera and would like to register online warranty however it's failed. If there has been any misunderstanding, please do let me know.

We regret to inform you as your product already been registered online warranty for the previous owner, this is reason why you currently unable to register online warranty again and show invalid serial number.

We would like to apologize as we unable to change the ownership name, or else the warranty period will be terminate and unable to register the online warranty to get back the warranty period.

Once again, we would like to truly apologize for any inconvenience caused.

I hope the above information helps to address your concern. Do keep the case ID 255932 for reference.

We look forward to serving you again.

So if I understand this, a new owner invalidates the warranty? This is what I wrote back to the customer service representative Michael, and he replied:

I would like to advise you still may carry in your product for servicing under the warranty period between 4th January 2014 until 3rd April 2015 without any service charge. 

So basically, I can still get warranty service as I understand it, but not if I update the ownership details of the second-hand Canon camera I bought. Completely daft Canon.

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