DPD couriers

Recently, i had another hardware failure of my Asus G73JH (the GPU seems a bit dodgy in these units, and the TFT screen will quite suddenly fail), for the second time in a year. Disappointing, but at least it’s covered by warranty and Asus do seem to have a quick turnaround for repairs. However, their choice of courier is terrible.

Both times that I’ve had to deal with DPD couriers, I’ve been left frustrated by their inability to carry out the basic tasks required of a delivery company.

  • They will only tell you (by text) one day before that they plan to deliver the following day, but not what time. They don’t, at this point, give you the opportunity to change it.
  • The following day, they will text you and inform you of their delivery window. This isn’t particularly useful for people who plan their day more than a few hours in advance.
  • You can change the delivery day, but not the time, but even then only with a choice of three subsequent (week)days.
  • You can pick up the parcel from the depot, but chances are that they’re a long way away, you have to book your visit in advance, and they’re not open until 9am.
  • You can’t redeliver to a different address.

I’m not the only person to be disappointed by DPD couriers performance, either.

If you want to call them, and speak to someone, it seems that the only way to do it is to call 0845 556 0560 and simply don’t select any of the options, for ages. Eventually you’ll get put through. Of course, when you do, you’l most likely get put through to someone like “Vanetta” (whom I spoke to today, but I don’t think that’s a real name), who will just answer your questions like you’re insane, and will make you work incredibly hard to tease out the details of how you might actually obtain your goods. Not that she could just provide some help, no, you’ve got to investigate the options and work out it out for yourself.

So in the end, I decided that the easiest thing would be for me to drive out to the DPD depot on monday morning to pick it up. It’s a 40 minute drive, but better than hanging around and waiting for someone to turn up whenever they fancy.

UPDATE: I drove to the DPD depot on Monday morning to pick up the laptop. You have to ring the doorbell to be let in, and there’s a little sign saying that you might be searched. Nice touch.

dpd couriers depot nottingham

I provided my details to a lady who then disappeared off to find my laptop. She was gone some time, and eventually returned about 15 minutes later to inform me that the laptop’s been sent out for delivery to my home address, and that I could either go home and wait for it, or arrange to pick it up tomorrow. I’ve about had enough of this by now, so I change my plans for the day, head home, and wait for DPD couriers to deliver, again.

Is it really this hard to deliver packages from one place, to another?

2ND UPDATE:

DPD still hadn’t delivered by 2:30pm, so I rang them. They checked the consignment number and apparently, it’s still at the depot, waiting for me to pick it up. They are now “looking into it.”

3rd UPDATE:

They sent a guy round at 3:50pm, after I kicked up a little bit of a fuss. The laptop is now back in my possession, and I’m never going to let DPD couriers anywhere near it ever again.



Why are we running out of IP addresses? (About IPv4 and IPv6)

IP addresses are what computers and other networked devices use to identify each other on the network. This network could be your home wifi network, with two computers, a couple of iphones, a printer, and your ADSL router, or it could be the entire internet, with millions of connected devices. IP (version 4 – the “normal” version) addresses are made of 32 bits (thirty-two ones and zeros), written in the form of four “octets” (8 bits, or ones and zeros), separated by dots. Each octet can be any number from 0 to 255, because this is the number of different potential combinations of ones and zeros if you have eight in a row, like 11001001, for example.

So, if each number can be 0-255, and you have four of these numbers, there are 4,294,967,296 different potential addresses. Nearly 4.3 billion. That’s quite a lot, but not enough.

A home network might use a range of IP addresses that look like 192.168.1.x (where x can be anything from 1 to 254), and a big business network might look like 10.x.x.x or 172.16.x.x. Because you can change the numbers where the x’s are, you can give your network the ability to have different numbers of things connected. Being protected from the internet (a “private” network), these addresses can be (and are) used over and over again in homes and businesses all over the world. There are internet “rules” that tell people what IP addresses you should use.

Just so you know, the address 127.0.0.1 always means “loopback” or “localhost” or “home” – it’s commonly used for troubleshooting, as it is effectively the device’s own IP address. If you want to reach all the computers on a network, you use the IP address 255.255.255.255, or the “broadcast” address.

But on the internet, an address will more usually look a little different, and could be something like 209.85.143.99 (google.co.uk), 80.82.118.57 (this website), or 171.64.13.26 (stanford.edu). Everything on the internet needs to have a unique IP address, from websites, email servers, itunes, internet radio stations, your iphone, and your home ADSL router. There are some clever ways that internet service providers conserve the number of IP addresses they need to use, by re-using IP addresses that haven’t been used in a while (which is why your home IP address may change every now and then), or using “network address translation” techniques (essentially giving out “private” IP addresses and re-routing them) so that multiple devices can use the same “internet” IP address.

However, partly because there are increasingly more and more devices connecting to the internet, more servers, and more websites, but also due to IP addresses being handed out in blocks (resulting in many not being used, but not available for use by anyone else), we’re running low. Current estimates put the running out date as early as February 2011, but by clawing back some of the wastage, and using Network Address Translation, the internet should be safe for a while.

Long term, however, we need a new system. That system is IP version 6, which instead of 32 bits per address, uses 128 bits, and therefore supports 2128 or approximately 3.4×1038 unique addresses. By comparison, this amounts to approximately 5×1028 addresses for each of the 6.8 billion people alive in 2010. Actually, the primary aim of IPv6 was not really to provide such a huge number of addresses, but rather to enable devices to more simply allocate addresses, improve routing efficiency (less requirement to fiddle around with address translation or port forwarding), and add clever features such as authentication and data integrity.

Oh, because I know you’ll ask, IPv5 was an experimental streaming protocol, which is why we’ve gone from IPv4 straight to IPv6.

Globally, IPv6 is still very much in its infancy, with largely only the internet big players such as google beginning to roll it out. If you have new hardware and Windows Vista or 7, however, you can use it quite effectively in your private home network. On the internet itself, there’s not that much around yet. Facebook have an IPv6 address at http://www.v6.facebook.com/ and google have theirs at http://ipv6.google.com/, but without an internet-facing IPv6 connection, you won’t be able to get to those links, yet, as there are some issues to be overcome in combining the two addressing protocols. Possibly the biggest and most notable use so far of IPv6 was the 2008 Olympic Games – http://ipv6.beijing2008.cn/en (IP addresses 2001:252:0:1::2008:6 and 2001:252:0:1::2008:8), and all the network operations of the games were conducted using IPv6.

In a few years’ time, we’ll all be using IPv6 in one way or another, by using 4G mobile phones, connecting our homes to high-speed internet, accessing new websites and web services, and more; though IPv4 is going to be around for a long, long time.



The constant battle between motorists and cyclists.

All this debate about cycling and motoring (usually presented as a confrontation between the two) is getting tiresome. I’m a motorist and a cyclist too, like many people. I don’t commute to work on my bike, but I ride for leisure and have ridden competitively. I ride off-road a lot, but also quite often on the road too
If we’re going to get anywhere with this debate, I think we need to agree on a few key points:
1. Cycling is good, and should be encouraged. It’s good for the environment, good for congestion, and good for the health and fitness of the cyclist.
2. Cyclists are vulnerable. With just a lightweight helmet and clothing for protection, motorists need to be aware that what might be a minor accident for them, can mean death or serious injury to a cyclist.
3. Cycling is hard work. The shorter a cyclist’s journey can be, the better. Stopping and starting is also hard work. In a car at traffic lights, a green light means you lift the clutch and push on the throttle, on a bike, you get up out of the saddle, pump those legs, and exert a lot of energy in order to get up to speed.
If all motorists were properly aware of those facts, they might not be in such a hurry to condemn cyclists. I know it can be frustrating to drive behind a cyclist, waiting for space to pass, and it can be a surprise to see a bike weaving their way through a queue of slow traffic, and sometimes around junctions, you have to wait for a cyclist to get out of the way before you turn right or left, but that doesn’t mean the cyclist isn’t aware of this. Cycle paths are often terrible. I’ll often ride on the road instead of a cycle path, because cycle paths can be so difficult to navigate. Lowered kerbs (especially on a lightweight road bike), potholes, convoluted routes around traffic junctions, and the way they seem to suddenly end and reappear a few hundred yards down the road all mean that the actual road is often a better place to ride.

specialized enduro mtb

Motorists and pedestrians alike seem to have a few regular things to say about cyclists:
“Cyclists don’t obey the highway code.”
Neither do motorists. Not all cyclists are angelic, considerate, and polite road users, but neither are motorists, and we don’t start every debate about driving with how many drivers exceed the speed limit, drive after a beer or two, drive recklessly or don’t pay attention. Why do it to cyclists?
Cyclists aren’t entirely without blame though. And I’m not *just* talking about the reckless, junction-skipping, red light jumping, no-lights or helmet ones. The cyclists that are too slow, too hesitant, and too timid are equally as bad. Be bold, obvious, and clear about your intentions, and you won’t have many problems with traffic. And don’t be an idiot.
“Cyclists jump red lights.”
I’ll admit to this. Partly because of item 3 above,  if it’s obviously clear and safe do so, I see no problem with a cyclist going through a red light, carefully and at an appropriate speed, bearing in mind that it’s their own welfare at risk.
“They ride the wrong way up one-way streets.”
One way streets and footpaths. I’ve cycled the wrong way up a one way street, when the alternative would be to add over 10 minutes to my journey – it’s no big deal to drive an extra half mile around a city centre to obey street regulations, but it’s a whole different matter on a bike. I’d only do it if it was clear, safe, and not busy, of course. This often applies to pedestrianised areas too. Of course, this wouldn’t be an issue if town planners took cyclists into account, but they so rarely do.
“If cyclists want to use the roads, they should pay road tax.”
We do. Most of us have cars too. And anyway, there’s no fiscal link between vehicle excise duty (road tax), and the roads themselves. Roads are funded by general taxation, so cyclists have paid just as much as motorists.
“Roads were built for cars, not bikes.”
Bikes were here before cars. Horses and carts before either.
“Motorists have to have insurance, so cyclists should too.”
Actually many of us do, through cycling clubs or as part of our other insurance policies. But this is a more complex issue than just insisting cyclists are insured. Cycling is cheap, and obliging cyclists to be insured would mean many either couldn’t afford it, wouldn’t bother, or would just go back to driving their car.
As a cyclist, I’d like to see better cycle routes, town planning that actually aids cyclists rather than hinders them, more encouragement for recreational and competitive cycling, and and better integration with public transport. If drivers could treat us with respect, that’d be great too. We need to encourage more people out on their bikes; if just 10% of motorists got out if their cars and into their bikes, imagine how much less congested the roads would be, how much healthier and happier we’d be as a nation, and we wouldn’t spending so much on petrol either.



Nottingham computer repair, covering sneinton, west bridgford and carlton.

I’m setting up a little evening and weekends service to the local area for people who need help with various computer issues, such as cleaning up virus infections, setting up new PC’s, helping to set up and secure wireless networks, and other computer repairs.

I’ve called it Eastside IT (since West Bridgford, Sneinton, Carlton, and surrounding are sort of on the East side of Nottingham…)

Mountain biking Snowdon

Last weekend (30 October 2010), we biked up Snowdon.

We’d been planning it for a while, and used facebook to organise the trip – it turned out to be 9 of us, so we booked and stayed at the Eagles bunkhouse in penmachno, which is a great place to stay if you’re in the area, and want somewhere cheap to use as a base for whatever outdoor activities you’ve got planned. It’s basically above/in the Eagles pub, so the evenings are usually spent drinking good welsh ale. They don’t serve food at the pub though, so we ate at a pub down the road called the silver fountain (and I can recommend the HUGE gammon steaks).

On the day of the ride, we set off a little later than planned and had a little bit of trouble finding the correct car park, but found it in the end (The rangers’ station car park, near Rhyd-du). It was raining, and it’s pretty difficult, psychologically, to start a ride in the rain, but it soon tailed off and we got our stuff together and set off. We were well kitted up, with waterproofs, lots of layers, food, drink, first aid kits and lots of mobile phones.

We chose to ride the rangers path, as it’s shorter, but harder, and there was likely to be quite a few people on the llanberis pass, many of whom might not appreciate moving out of the way for a bunch of mountain bikers. The first 30 minutes of the ride was steep, but rideable, with only the odd small section where it was necessary to get off and push or climb. Incidentally, I was carrying a cracked rib from a stupid crash in the peak district a week before, and found that out-of-the-saddle climbing hurt quite a bit, so mostly I’d sit and spin up. Further up, the trail essentially turned into a stream, with water up to 6 inches deep, and technical rocks underneath. This was where it turned into real mountain biking, and you could neither let off the power, or lose concentration – really good fun.

At some point, though i forget how far we had come, we got to where the cloud was hanging down, and it was also the point where it was no longer possible to ride. From here on in, it was 90% pushing, lifting, and carrying the bikes up and over the rocks. Those with light xc bikes, or who were particularly strong, could carry their bikes on their backs, but most of us just opted to push and pull our bikes. Slower – but less painful.



After another half hour or so, the wind really picked up, and it was possible to see the clouds whipping through the valley at incredible speed. Shortly after that, we had rain, and shortly after that, hail. The hail was the worst – strong, bitter wind at 90 degrees to the trail, flinging hailstones hard at you, while you’re struggling to push the bike just a few feet up some rocks. In terms of pure difficulty, it was some of the hardest “biking” I’ve ever done, and there were times when we would just look at each other with a kind of “What the hell are we doing?!” look on our faces.

With visibility terribly poor – between 20 feet and 50 feet, depending on the thickness of the cloud at the time, we never really knew how far we’d come, or how far we’d have to go, but when we reached the train line, we knew we were nearly there, and it also levelled out a bit, with a few sections actually rideable. It was much busier here though, so it was slower going, having to pass a lot of walkers on their way to the summit. We got quite a few funny looks, and lost count of the number of times people asked “You rode your bikes up here?!”

Rather suddenly, we were at the summit, and while it was heaving with walkers, we still managed to get our bikes up onto the triangulation point (we were damned if we were getting our bikes all the way up there and not to the top!), and took some photos. The ascent had taken us just over two hours.

We all then had some sort of hot drink and a bite to eat at the snowdon cafe, added a base layer or two as it was definitely getting colder, and got ready to head back down. As there was a far higher risk of crashes on the descent, we planned to regroup regularly to ensure we didn’t lose anyone (though we nearly lost someone in the first few minutes, due to some confusion about whether they’d seen us head down).



Around 90% of the descent, if not more, is rideable – more so if it’s dry, I’d guess. And with only one or two minor spills, a couple of stops to regroup, it took us not much over 20 minutes to ride down. The trail had definitely collected more water, and we were soaked pretty quickly once we got to the wet sections. It’s a fantastic descent though, and some sections are really fast, while others take a bit more low-speed technical riding. Most of the walkers we passed were very good natured and let us pass easily, though there was a small minority who didn’t appreciate us being there – though I don’t know if they’re aware that bikes are permitted on Snowdon at this time of year.

Sorting ourselves out again at the car park, there was already a lot of talk about which mountain to do next time…

Worldcard mobile iphone app review

Having been to a few shows and conferences recently, and acquiring a number of business cards that inevitably end up loose in my pocket, bag, or on my desk, I decided I’d better have a look for an iphone app that could read and OCR business cards and import the data into my contacts.

So, I downloaded and installed Worldcard mobile from the app store (£3.49), and tried it out.

worldcard mobile

It works pretty well, you fire it up and are presented with a screen where you can choose to photograph a business card, use an existing photo, or use copied text from an email signature (which is a nice addition). Using the taking a photo option then simply gives you a screen with some border edges to get the image straight, and you take the picture. You need fairly decent light for this, and if the business card is laminated, you’ll need to be careful to angle it so you don’t get any glare. If mistakes are made, you can easily correct them in the app itself.

With almost all business cards, it works superbly, reading the text accurately, and placing the data in the correct fields (mobile, email, name, etc). The only issues it seems to have is with particularly colourful and strangely designed business cards. Once you’ve pulled the data out, Worldcard mobile will export it into your contacts, or you can choose to update an existing contact.

Ultimately, a very useful app. The text recognition isn’t perfect, but is good enough in 90% of cases.