Thursday, October 31, 2013

Joke that is BT FTTC Roll Out

I've seen various delays in my area from BT OpenReach with enabling Fibre to the Cabinet, or FTTC as it is known.

Let it be known this is a major project and there will be delays and problems.

However as an IT professional, it is the way in which those issues are handled, progressed and conveyed which to me gives the most contention as the handling is poor, progression is slow, and the lack of information to the general public is virtually none existant.

There are many people in similar situations to myself where BT have given excuse after excuse as to why their cabinet has been delayed in the roll out and each one has been proven wrong.

My particular situation for the CMSPR Exchange for Hall Green and Springfield, saw a typical roll out. The cabinets were installed and connected to fibre and the first ten cabinets activated for fibre really quickly at the beginning of September. A month later, start of October, and we have ten more cabinets enabled. However my cabinet is one of three current cabinets that had an original date of 30th September 2013 for activation pushed back with no sign of any roadworks.

The cabinets involved are Cabinet 27 on Springfield Road which has only very recently in the past few days received a roadworks.org notice three weeks in advance of the work for 19th November. Cabinet 14 on the junction of Highfield Road and Robin Hood Lane has had no further work as far as I can see since it was originally installed in the middle of July (nearly three months) despite a DSL Checker date of 31st October and an NGA rep advising middle of November for activation (so another case of DSL Checker being wrong). Interestingly this did appear to have some roadworks scheduled for the start of October, but this was nothing more than unblocking ducts and installing fibre. This cabinet is approximately 0.3 mile away from Cabinet 16 which has been activated and is located on the corner of Highfield Road and Sherwood Road, and less than 0.l mile from Cabinet 22 on the corner of Etwall Road and Highfield Road. Ironically, Cabinet 14 is en route to Cabinet 22 from Cabinet 16 and reportedly only suffers from a tie line problem.

Cabinet 13, which is my cabinet, is half a mile from the Exchange, half a mile from Cabinet 14 and 0.4 mile from the main road. This has also had no work since the middle of July when first installed. All junction boxes run on the pavement, there's several directions and ways in (Stratford Road, Petersfield, from Cabinet 14, down Cole Bank and along Sarehole and come back up) and appears to be a key cabinet on the way to Billesley Cabinet 12 and 11 on Brook Lane and any delays here would delay those cabinets too.

NGA report that the cabinet is expected to go live middle of January due to routing problems from the Exchange.

While it can be agreed there are trunking issues, why is the delay so long? It has now been over three months since work was last performed on this cabinet with no sign of any further work being actioned. To keep the DSL Checker date, they would have to complete the work by the middle of November, we'll say end of November though for NGA. Work however does not seem imminent.

People do say that there can be a range of different problems and not all cabinets are alike. While that is true, what is equally true is that it is clear that BT only started work on this cabinet after the original ETA date of 30th September. During installations in Kingstanding, they were running the fibre to the cabinets while the fibre was being installed. My point is that if this was done at the time, or even if they had separate teams doing the fibre they could have still done the fibre in order and have found the problem much sooner in the process to schedule resources earlier. As it is, they appear to have only found the problem two months after the original install, and one months after the first ten went live.

My second bone of contention is that when there were problems with the first ten cabinets, eg Cabinet 16, OpenReach were out again in two weeks digging up and relaying. The cabinet was installed dug up again, repaired, and live all in the space of a few weeks. This same process is not being followed with all cabinets - BT do not seem to be working on all cabinets in the area, they do a few, mostly the more commercially viable ones, and then move on to another area.

This to me means that I am waiting simply because BT can't be bothered yet.

When BT do the work to repair this cabinet, it will most likely only end up taking a few days at the most. And it is immeasurably frustrating to find that they can work on virtually every other cabinet but yours.

They haven't done anything, there's no sign of them doing anything, I really don't believe they'll meet their deadline, the work will probably be really simple and over in a couple of days. Im just waiting because BT have chosen not to repair this cabinet at this moment in time.


Friday, September 27, 2013

Royal Mail Privatisation

It is fundamentally disgraceful to sell off the Royal Mail. The government says it is a way to bring in fresh revenue.

If someone really does have £3bn to purchase the Royal Mail, how on earth are they going to be able to afford to pump more money into it to upgrade facilities? Either prices go up, or costs go down.

But hey, we can't afford everything, people want their benefits and taxes to go down - but we don't want to pay for it.

It is a mistake to sell off the Royal Mail, but it's a mistake for us as the electorate to expect something for nothing.

Odeon: Broadway Plaza Review

I recently went to see Kick Ass 2 at the Odeon Broadway Plaza cinema. I usually use CineWorld at Broad Street as that is a wonderful cinema. Odeon however had the film I wanted to see.

There was no obvious notice from outside that the cinema was actually open. I had to tentatively scout for an open door. Very uninviting.

I collected my tickets from the machine and was seen by an "usher" or ticket inspector who validated my ticket and asked me to fill out a survey. My sensors were up.

The male toilets downstairs were filthy. Missing soap dispensers of which only two were available, and only one had soap. Even that fell off the wall while using it. A cubicle had grafiti and the ceiling was filthy.

I purchased a drink, popcorn and hotdog. I was not told about a lift which would have helped. It's difficult enough to get that up the stairs without assistance and it was worse for me with my vertigo. I managed one flight of stairs to the landing and saw the next flight of stairs. I had to wolf down my hot dog and leave my drink and popcorn on the landing to go back downstairs to find out if they even ha a lift explaining I had vertigo and left my food upstairs. No help from anyone, so I had to go up and get my drink and take that down, go back up again and get the popcorn and then find the lift.

Finally on the top floor, the pool tables were stained which didn't look good, but I got to my screen to be informed that the air conditioning had broken! Fine, last chance for me to see the film. Sat in the seat and already noted something was off. The seat was broken and sloping forward, so had to move again to take the next seat.

In all honesty though, the screen and audio quality was probably one of the best I've seen. Better than CineWorld.

But the Hot Dog I had I think was going a bit stale as the bun was quite chewy.

So:


  • Unwelcoming entrance
  • Not told about a lift
  • Staff not offering help to bring my food down after suffering from vertigo
  • Dirty pool tables
  • Filthy toilet ceiling
  • Missing soap dispensers
  • Unstocked soap dispensers
  • Soap dispensers that fall off the wall
  • Stale hot dog bun
  • No Air Conditioning in Screen 9
  • Broken seat


To be honest, I don't think I'd ever use that Cinema ever again which is a shame because the screen and audio are brilliant. But it does need to ensure the facilities are up scratch, especially if you're handing out requests for surveys!

BT Rant - FTTC for CMSPR / Hall Green and Springfield in Birmingham


When I heard that BT was going to roll out Fibre to my local telephone exchange the CMSPR "Springfield" exchange, I was absolutely delighted.

I don't like Virgin cable, and quite frankly being the second city, the fibre rollout by BT has been appalling. Other more rural locations were getting it before us. 

But first the Exchange became marked as a Future Exchange and I remained patient. It then rolled over to a "Coming Soon" exchange and would be enabled by the end of September 2013. Brilliant News. I can finally move away from ADSL2+ and with BeThere being sold off to Sky, it's a good change to migrate to a new service.

Far be it from me to be ignorant of how they install fibre, I've read up on how other people get their cabinets installed. Sometimes a contractor plonks a cabinet on the ground then come back weeks later to dig up and install power, trunking to BT man holes for routing cable then weeks and months later, possibly fibre.

In our area, things seemed to be moving a little free-er. The cabinet installers were doing an amazing job and were installing the new FTTC cabinets with break neck speed. They dug the ground, the trenches, laid the foundations, connected the power, put trunking to the BT manholes and filled in the ground. They did this really qucikly and very impressibly. Even a cabinet that seemingly had blocked trunking was dug up a week later and relaid. I spotted cables installing fibre a few days later and suddenly the first few cabinets came live.

Within two weeks, we had 10 cabinets go live. It seemed there was a real push to get everything installed and connected. Cabinets 26, 8, 9 and 10 which run east to west on Cole Bank Road, School Road and Lakey Lane were enabled, then Cabinet 1 on College Road in Springfield was enabled and that was a mile north of the Exchange on Stratford Road. 

I was seeing cable installers in the area and it was always amazing to see the next new cabinet go live on the BT DSL Checker. But then it all went quiet. I stopped seeing the engineers and there was very little progress being made anywhere else. The rollout schedule stopped making any sense. They had enabled Cabinet 3 and 6 on Stratford Road between Cabinet 1 and the Exchange, 15 on Hamlet Road and 16 on Highfield Road near Stratford Road. The last one I saw go live was 23 on Fox Hollies Road opposite York Road, and that was after waiting a week on the DSL Checker.

We now have 11 Cabinets live after around four weeks (the first ten done in two weeks) and it looks like to me there's very little progress being made now. After cabinet 15, the fibre run goes past Cabinet 21 on Stratford Road and round the corner to Cabinet 16 on Highfield Road. It was after this that Cabinet 23 went live. This is when the roll out coverage started to confuse me because remaining cabinets on Stratford Road (30 and 21), Lakey Lane (24 and 25), Highfield Road and Robin Hood Lane (14, 22) were being overlooked despite being the most logical geographically.

Ten live cabinets in two weeks with a Cabinet 1 mile away being enabled, my Cabinet half a mile from the Exchange would be a cinch! The cabinet is in, power connected, shorter distance, easy.

After the two weeks, I noted a distinct lack of activity and to all intents and purposes, the fibre roll out had all but stopped apart from the odd cabinet here and there.

Other users say that there can be blockages, problems with ducting, power, problems with all sorts of stuff.

Given how quick the engineers were to install the cabinets in the first place and then enable those first ten, something smells distinctly fishy. The power is in, the cabinets are in, fibre cabinets are being bypassed so the next one can be enabled, so there's hardly a problem with trunking to the FTTC box. The cabinets don't stray near private property so no need for wayleaves. There's no conservation areas near by. Where is the original speed I saw?

Checking the DSL Checker, six cabinets have been pushed back another month, my cabinet with two others have been pushed by by three months! They've decided to install a cabinet opposite Cabinet 12 now, that's Cabinet 11. Cabinet 12 is scheduled for 31st December, but Cabinet 11 is scheduled for 31st May!

I'll probably get some spiel from BT about procedures and plans, but to be frank, the way the cabinets are being enabled, doesn't seem to follow any pattern except for density and potential revenue. I do not understand what will take upto three months to install my cabinet, let alone a month to install the other six given the close physical proximity of some of the other cabinets to existing infrastructure. They can install a cabinet a mile from the exchange and four cabinets east to west without problems, so what is causing so many problems with my cabinet (and indeed the others?). Unless there are major trunking problems, I actually suspect a massive planning failure and the only thing that's really important is to install around 10 cabinets, move on to the next exchange and move everything else back a few months. I suspect that when it comes to enabling my cabinet, they'll probably do it in a day with a short 0.4m fibre run to the main road.

Of course, BT might be justified and they will neeed to dig up the entire road and replace all the trunking.... but somehow I doubt it. The problem doesn't seem to me how long it takes as this can happen very quickly in my area, but there just doesn't seem to be any interest in BT to actually do this!

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

The Upper Hand House Picture

Here's a picture of the house from the Central Television Production of the Upper Hand. The house is already on the internet in several forms in video, so I have no issue with posting this as proof I found it. But I will respect privacy and not publish the location for now.


The Upper Hand House

Im a great fan of The Upper Hand TV show. It was filmed by Central Independent Television in Nottingham using the scripts of the American sitcom, Who's the Boss as a basis.

Im a fan of regional television, Central in particular being my local region and wish it would return.

But I've always been curious to find the Upper Hand House.

I have now found the house. I found it on Google Maps and Street View and visited the area on Sunday and took my own photographs. For security and privacy reasons, I cannot divulge the location, but once I've suitably blurred out any identifying details, I may post a picture of the house - the decision will be based on the fact that pictures of the house are available on a DVD.

I would love to share with you the area, as we could have fan days and visit the local pub, but I have been advised there is a restriction on posting pictures of the house for security purposes. I don't think this is true, and nothing in UK Law stops me from doing this as far as I know as I was stood on public land.

However for privacy, I will not share the location.

Kick Ass 2 - Victim of Zero Publicity

I've been a little dismayed to see that Kick Ass 2 hasn't been quite as successful at the box office as it's predecessor.

It is true that nothing can hold a candle to Kick Ass, but Kick Ass 2 is still a great movie in its own right.

If the UK is anything to go by, I think the problem has been a complete lack of advertising.

Nobody I know actually knew the thing had been released. I wasn't even aware of the first Kick Ass until my brother showed it to me to be frank. When I talked about Kick Ass 2, the reaction has been "when's that out?". I've had to say it's been out three weeks!

As far as I can see, apart from Jim Carrey and a huge poster on a relatively quiet road, there's been virtually no advertising.

No wonder it's performing poorly.

Looks like it's near the end of it's run, so go see it people.

Simon

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Bangernomics

I've been hearing a lot about bangernomics recently - which essentially about finding the hidden gems of automobiles, cheap, high mileage, well looked after, used cars, not necessarily all three, loving them for as little as possible and then running them into the ground without worrying about high cost repairs.

This I think comes from the idea that when people looking to change their current car, should check to see how much the current car costs in terms of how much it costs monthly to fix, vs loan repayments and then only changing it when the monthly cost increases.

I believe this is somewhat of a false economy.

First off the simple premise, you don't get anything for free.

So even the banger has to be bought from somewhere, and even though you're not spending wild amounts of money, still has a cost to it. So it is a case of minimising that cost.

Now most will buy their banger with an MOT, use it for a year, sell it on.

But, my car cost me £3000, I've had it five coming on to six years, so, it's cost me £500 a year. I've had to add the odd exhaust on here and there and fix the brakes, but it's probably no where near what might have to be spent on a banger. So Im Ok with that.

I think most bangernomic experts would certainly agree I've got my money out of it.

But Im looking to upgrade my car before it becomes a money pit.

I consider spending money on a car you intend to get rid of and has no value at all, is complete false economy. While the repairs won't add up to a great amount, to me, it is akin to throwing good money after bad.

If we consider my current car is worth £500 and over the next four years, could need several improvements, clutch, brakes, tyres, exhaust, pas pump, 8 oil and filter changes, maybe a new wheel bearing, air con recharge and tracking and the serpentine belt, well, we're talking a good chunk of money. Lets be conservative and say £1000 (this year I've spent £200 on CV joints and Exhaust fixings anyhow sooo...)

The car I've got my eye on is £8500. Loan repayments would be £215 per month over four years or £10320 in total.

With road tax and fuel savings, Im estimating £700 minimum saving per year or £2800.

So the initial cost was £10320. With economy savings, Im looking at £7520

The residual car cost should be about £4500 if I was to sell the car there and then, so we're talking more like £3020 for the cost of ownership over four years.

Now in theory, if I don't need to tinker too much with the new car, ie, we don't expect the cam belt, bearings, exhaust, or other peculiar fault occur, when we can write off the figure that we know we would spend on our current car against the remainder cost of ownership.

So we're not looking at £2020 or less.

Of course practically speaking, we would need to account for servicing of new vehicle and any other emergency, so we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves too far.

Still £3020 over four years is £755 a year.

Extend that into five years of ownership and we're down to around £600.

Still that residual value of around £4500 can then be used on trade in for a newer car, and this time only needing a £4000 over two years.

Now Ok, this depends on the following factors:

1) No major problems with new vehicle
2) Being able to afford credit/pay up front

But I think it does make sense from this humble observer to keep trying to do slightly better each time. Sell sooner so you have a greater value car and the next car can either be newer but of the same money for half the cost (because you have the resale value of the old car), or you get another loan for the same value, and get an even better car....

And so on and so forth.

Simon

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Vocation

Im thinking of using a little money to follow my vocation.

First step, is to purchase a new bass guitar.

For many years, I've had a Vintage V900 (Vintage - a brand name of John Hornby Skewes).

It is a reliable bass, but I've had problems with it over the years.

Take the back plate off to change the battery and you're left with a mish mash of wires and what looks like a possibly second hand Active Bass electronics. The wiring is substandard and brittle and I've had to resolder things several times. There's no electro magnetic shielding in the battery and electronic compartment and this could explain the hideous humming you get when waving the bass near anything electrical such as a monitor.

The action was too low causing hideous fret buzz, and the tuners kept detuning, poor poor parts, and needed to be replaced.

Very poor in my opinion.

But it has been my reliable steed. However the pots are now disintegrating and unusable.

So Im considering a Fender Standard Jazz bass, a Yamaha RBX374 and an Ibanez SR300.

Im tempted for the Yamaha for budgetry reasons, however I might be able to splash out on a Fender.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Gripe about Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham

Before I get going, let me just point out that the staff are fabulous, PALS are fabulous. It is obvious they are working under difficult situations and making the best of it. This gripe is about the "system".

I've been due to have my gallbladder out. They called for me last Tuesday to advise the operation had been cancelled as they had run out of space due to Norovirus doing the rounds and the other hospitals closed.

Although I failed to get the message, they did however leave one, and they have been busy with other issues since Norovirus. No problem there. The biggest gripe I have is that neither reception, or the nurses said my operation had been cancelled. They just said there was a problem and left me waiting in the waiting room for two and a half hours.

They eventually got back in yesterday. Nil by mouth again since midnight, hanging around waiting, waiting, no feedback. Just patient waiting. I was there from 8am and the doctor finally saw me at 2.30pm to say the operation had been cancelled yet again. His words, were along the lines of them trying to squeeze me in between two liver transplants and over running.

Well, I must shout heavily here. Although I appreciate the fact they tried to get me in at the next available opportunity, they seem to be struggling with emergencies here, and emergencies are pushing back routine scheduled operations.

Well that makes me concerned first of all for capacity of the Queen Elizabeth. You also can't tell me I was the only other scheduled liver related issue that day. This just suggests to me there is one surgeon running around in one theatre.

While transplants are undoubtedly an emergency, I can't believe that this means any other liver related issue is cancelled. Either there is no capacity, or I was squeezed in - as the doctor said.

Well, I'd rather not be squeezed in. I'd rather be at the top of a list of routine planned surgeries so I have at least got some hope of being seen that day.

So that's a day of holiday wasted.

The icing on the cake yesterday was when I was given a £3.40 voucher for food in the restaurant. After picking the fish mornay meal and being offered chips, I got to the till, presented my voucher and asked to provide a extra £1.50 for the chips. A small piece of fish that is half the size of your fist is £3.40! Well I couldn't afford it as I came in with very little money, a bit of change for the phone, because I was told to bring nothing in with me as it was an unsecured ward.

Well I hit the roof. I said I couldn't afford the food, and after lots of dithering, told them to stick their food and their voucher and their prices are disgusting.

But the biggest problem, is that I either want nothing, or a voucher that can cover the cost of a meal!

Very upset and annoyed.

I understand that they are busy, that there are bugs roaming the country, but I just want to be at the top of the particular list Im supposed to be on. I can probably guarantee that several other people will be getting their gallbladder surgery next Wednesday. Well, that's not right in my book. How about you cancel those and put me at the top of the list?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Privatisation of the NHS

I hear many debates about the privatisation of the NHS, some make arguments that it would be good, others bad.

It is hard to know where to tread in this minefield. However, I am conscious, that any private company exists, mainly and solely to make a profit - unless of course it is a truly philanthropic company, but given that most companies have shareholders, and shareholders by and large care about making a few quid through the stock market, then to me the idea of private companies running parts of the NHS is an absolutely abhorrent idea to me.

Competition is the thing that is lauded. Competition is good.

Is is.

But in this captitalist and greedy culture we live in, that competition will seek to cut corners. It will either save costs through mergers, or cutting back of non-essential services. Employees, namely doctors (and most likely nurses) will have to work longer hours, more oncall hours, perhaps less pay reviews, less benefits, less investment in equipment.

The only way to make a profit is to spend less than what you earn. And the only way to achieve this is either to cut costs by increasing the commitment by staff, or by increasing prices. As this is quite impossible to do to the end user and NHS is run according to budgets, then guess what it's going to be?

There may be a certain argument that GP's should earn less, that it is their own greed that has created this mess.

However I support our doctors and nurses and acknowledge that they perform a difficult job and need to be rewarded appropriately (and worked less).

What I don't necessarily support is the wastage within the NHS in terms of unnecessary procedures and poor diagnosis - like my case when I had ruptured a quadriceps tendon, during my recovery, instead of being sent to a sports physio and getting well within six month, I was 3 years under the NHS with regular visits to the hospital including expensive MRI's.

I still think society needs to work out it's greed ambition - not everyone has that greed, but a lot of people in real power today while the rest of us plebs struggle to cope. And those with power who are greedy, encourage us to be greedy, because that's the only way out of our personal hell.

Forget privatisation which only exists to make a profit, and sort out the greed epidemic.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Church Should Reflect Society

It almost amazes me when some downtrodden fetishist group declares the Church has lost touch with Society and that the Church needs to reflect society. How can we ask Gay Bishops to be celibate? The Church has clearly lost its way.

Gay bishops, Celibacy, right or wrong, Im not here to debate that point.

Im here to debate the principle that the Church is expected to almost follow mainstream society. What is good for society, is good for the Church.

Er, if that was the case, we should be tolerating alcoholism, recreational drug use, casual and promiscuous sex, divorce, consumerism, materialism etc.

The Church may be an outdated concept, but I believe the Church and its leaders have a position to be the last vestige of moral ethics, a beacon, a guiding light in the decaying fabric of society. Instead of wanton permissiveness and selfish greed, we strive we something more, something better, purpose, meaning, self-respect. Our greed and permissiveness can be seen in marriage and divorce for example, where all too often, it is seen as a celebration, a good piss up, entered into on a whim instead of being treated with the reverence and sanctity it deserves). That's not to say no one does that, but everything seems very "promiscuous" now.