2015 Now that’s done, what happened and where to now?

So at the beginning of last year I made some resolutions… well not so much resolutions but goals (New Year’s resolutions tend to last only a few hours-days so I don’t do that…)

The …umm.. goals:

  • To cut down on Facebook usage.
    • Wish a ‘Happy Birthday’ personally not using Facebook.
    • Not to sit reading ‘Newfeeds’.
    • Not to post when I’m going to the toilet, or blowing my nose.
  • To cut down on helping others before looking after myself.
    • In past years I have run myself to the point of getting sick taking photos, helping people out, etc.
    • This year only doing stuff for people that look after me and are concerned with my health.
    • To allow people to join me in my life (share my life) rather than follow everyone else in theirs.
  • To treat everyone with the respect and attitude that they treat me (for better or for worse.)
  • To cut down the amount of time that I work (for my employer) to something closer to resembling the actual times/hours I am supposed to work (using the hours to look after my family and friends.)

So how did it all go?  Well a mix of both success and failure, the easier ones were a complete success, the more difficult and controversial not so much. ie Facebook a no brainer, some took offence, some didn’t realise, some followed suit.  Some people treated me with complete disrespect and bad (awful) attitude, but I couldn’t bring myself to return the feelings no matter how much I wanted to.

2015 In Review…

Michelle Proposes to Gabie
The proposal…

The beginning of the year began with a proposal just a few seconds into the new year…  I tried to make it the stroke of midnight but this in reality was never going to happen, so it happened with the first minute of the new year.  This I think is how everyone should start a new year…  Not a proposal of marriage, but to start it with a happy note: Start in the way which you intend on going on.

I find in my life that no matter how hard you will try to keep everything on a positive note, there will always be those who try and spoil things, there will always be a negative, 2015 was no different.  Within a few weeks we (Gabie and I) lost a bunch of friends.  Some closer than others.  Some didn’t like the fact we were getting married.  Some didn’t like to see us happy. Some people just have to ensure everyone else is as miserable as they are in their lives.  Some people are just unfathomable and are just better left to wallow in their own self pity.  The result was after a great deal of stress and angst Gabie changed jobs to avoid someone who was poisonous in our lives, not to forget she hated the job.

After that little upset was dealt with, Gabie set her heart, with my full support, on pursuing an ambition of hers… To teach again.  For this she needed a TELT (Test for English Language Teachers) course to begin the process and in February she took the course, she thoroughly enjoyed it, at least until the exam and the early start preceded by an anxious and therefore sleepless night.  We found later, as I expected, she had passed it.  We booked the TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course so that she may continue with the dream.

Michael, his lovely wife Anna, and the two beautiful children with us in their garden at Easter.
The family… Michael’s.

Easter was the next point in the year when things happened and fortunately it was also good.  We headed to the UK to visit my family, first my mother in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, then later my brother and his family in Mirfield, Leeds.  My sister came for Easter Sunday dinner with Mum so Gabie got to meet her then.

The Easter trip was a really good one as we found a great hotel, the Holiday Inn, Leeds-Brighouse… definitely on the list of places to stay!  (In fact we went back there at Christmas 2015 – more on that later.)

Next event was Gabie’s course, the May 2015 TEFL course and the resulting certificate (for those successful.)  A potentially stressful time, but  with the exception of Wedding plans I had managed to remove as many as possible sources of stress for Gabie, and this paid off as she also aced the course and got her certificate.

Attacked by a bouncer..

You’ll note at this point I haven’t mentioned a lot about me or what I have done, well that’s because there is not a lot to tell.  After a number of court events the case against the bouncers that had attacked me  was dropped because I couldn’t identify him as the attacker (when you’re attacked from behind and kicked in the back of the head it’s a tad difficult to identify the attacker) and it was obvious that he had friends as none of the witnesses – even the police witness – stepped up to identify him and the CCTV footage was mysteriously absent… apparently for the hour when the attack happened… apparently the system malfunctioned… as is often observed when its the staff being prosecuted.

On the work side of things I was not following my goal and was doing many many hours fighting to get things working correctly at the OS level, leaving me to blog a warning about FreeBSD particularly for production use…

So towards the end of May we had good news and bad news in the papers, first was Ireland who became the first country to approve same sex marriage by popular vote.  The local papers reported on the problems in Swieqi started happening again, this time not only vandalism but also thieves… and again it was my CCTV video that resulted in the capture…  Much to the annoyance of some people, but the residents were very happy which is all that matters.

July would mark one of my few photographic events of the year where I covered XMA 2015, it also marked the ‘full steam ahead’ on the wedding plans.  It also made for a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland to visit the good people from ‘Your GP‘ who wrote medical reports that resulted (eventually) in me obtaining my GRC (Gender Recognition Certificate) which also gave me my new Birth Certificate…. all of which was a pre-requisit to getting approved for marriage in Malta.

August went with a blur, and was marred by an insult or two.  Won’t go into the details of who here, but suffice it to say, if you’re invited to someone’s Wedding it is polite to either attend or at least say that you can’t.  Similarly if you’re invited to a stag or hen night and you don’t want to deliver one of the biggest insults in Malta, you tell people you can’t make it, you don’t just not show up.  Lastly for the wedding you don’t tell people you never received the invite “a week before and it was too late” if you’re going to show it to other people who might actually tell the happy couple two-three weeks before!!!  Weddings in Malta are a personal thing and the bride side of the event is very very personal.

So September and the wedding itself, well what more is there to say…?

The vows captured by The Malta Independent.
The vows captured by the photographer from The Malta Independent on Sunday.

Well quite a lot, but not for this post.  Things didn’t go according to our desire, but according to the wedding planners design, despite our being quite specific.  The important thing though was we got married, and most of those people important to us were there to witness it.

Our honeymoon took us to Iceland, mainly chosen as a location as its spectacular and very difficult/expensive to get to if you live in Australia.

Panoramic View of Iceland on the way back to the Airport
Panoramic View of Iceland on the way back to the Airport

Iceland was rather different and brought some disappointments, it was very expensive for a lot less… especially considering it is ‘part of Europe’ .. the year before I spent less money on our holiday for more days in the Seychelles than our fleeting visit to Iceland where we seemed to spend all the time driving from place to place.  What topped off the whole experience was getting back to Malta and having Europcar Iceland try and accuse us of putting a massive dent in the roof of the car and try to charge us an addition €3500 to have it repaired….!  Worst part of the whole ordeal is that we had already read about various rental companies trying this on in Iceland, so we went with Europcar because we figured “Big well known name, will be reputable” … how wrong we were.  Result was we informed the bank they had no permission to make such a withdrawal and told them to take us to court.  They no doubt figured with me having photos of the vehicle before and after they would end up with a fraud charge in court and I haven’t heard from them since.  My advice in all such cases, always get evidence, and always stand your ground.  In most countries if you are innocent you can claim all costs associated with a lawsuit (legal fees, flights, hotels etc)…

So skipping to Christmas 2015, for the first time in many years, I did not put up the Christmas decorations, we knew we were going away and the house was a bit of a mess with everything that has been going on renovations wise so figured ‘why bother’.  That said, lights went up on the outside of the house, though in a diminished set.

So at the end of 2015, despite haven attended court several times against both defendants, “Sean Borg” and “Xelinu” nothing has progressed, every time the case has been adjourned, quite literally. So I am no further forward in reclaiming either my truck or bike, though I have a new lawyer on the team.  For those who have forgotten what this is about… A previous blog entry…

The ARMS saga is still going on, they finally just 3-4 weeks before our wedding decided they want to talk to me about the rates.  They had to wait until I got back from honeymoon as I was way too busy to deal, and they agreed I should be on commercial rate but insisted only from the point of the March 2012 telephone call… some 18 months (and €15,000 later.)  They have told me that if I supply paperwork on older forms than I have currently found then they will reconsider… I have so far found 8 forms of various different revisions (though plenty from 2011 and 2013) .. and have 3 more boxes of paperwork to review.  The problem being there, is that there is half a tonne of concrete slabs in front of the boxes which was supposed to have been removed already.. didn’t stop them threatening to cut the power over Christmas, or adding nearly €300 in ‘other charges’ which in the fine print was for ‘legal services’… next thing for me is to charge them for the legal services relating to the fact they *still* are billing me on the incorrect rate and charging me interest on the invalid bill, and without a credit contract or credit control…. and they have the audacity to threaten me when they are illegally charging fees against an account they have failed to bill.  (Note: a judge confirmed my case as stated in December 2013, they are trying to negotiate a change to that judgement.)

Anyhow so there you go 2015 in a nutshell, the only thing I haven’t covered is I’ve changed from doing 70(ish) hours per week for my employer to more like 45 hours per week this has had a *massive* difference… nothing new has been developed by me, my paperwork has been done when other things have gone the wayside, and visa versa.  Finally with all the failures of the network most of the time I have had has been wasted trying to fix other peoples’ problems just so I can actually do my job.  Good job the service I am responsible for is in my control and not the control of others or the entire service would be long dead and gone by now.

Here’s hoping 2016 will bring more success.

Musings on Copyright theft… well Torrenting and other things…

So here I am in Malta, where the local channels on TV are mostly in Maltese, all two of them (unless you want to include the political ones)… The DVDs and Blu-Ray available are a small selection of what is out there (and none of what I want)… So what’s a girl to do..?

Well 4 years ago I got a Dreambox and pointed the dish at Astra (28.2E)… and got British TV… well until they put Astra 2d up then I had to move to Sky channels (also British) but upon trying to get a Sky card to legitimately pay for what I was watching I was refused… point blank… so I upgraded to a motorised unit and a 1.2m dish and had a look at Europe….. Oh the channels it opened up.. I continued….

Fast forward to Sept 29, 2013 and Astra 2e was launched, and predictably in early 2014 channels started getting migrated to the new satellite… Of course I still can’t buy a card without a UK address (as if I would want to live there with the current political climate!)… So I did the next best thing… Meet “Colossus” my 48T storage server… I started torrenting…..

Not something I wanted to do, but it fit the bill, I was able to watch my favourite TV programs in English, when and where I want… I still watched FTA British TV with the 2.4m dish “upgrade” I treated myself to along with a number of Sky channels including the movie channels using card-sharing…. something I don’t actually want to do, but it is the only option.

Fast forward to March 2015, Astra 2e is put into full service and movie channels and most of the FTA channels are now on the Northern footprint and “sex hotlines” seem to be the order of the day for the European footprint, so now I am virtually completely reliant on Torrents for all my TV and Movies… Guess I finally succumbed to the dark side (well is it really “Dark”? given that I wanted to pay, and I was denied, then after I found a solution, that has been denied now, I went to the “Dark Side” and joined the P2P cloud and now with my 100M Ethernet to the ‘Net’ I share and share alike to see the programs I’m happy to pay for….n Is that really “Dark”…?)

So what’s this post about, well some (DMCA/MPAA idiots) will consider it a confession of a criminal….? Really is it though?

I want a service, I was denied that service, so I found the next best thing, and because it is a “soft” target “illegal” service it was also denied to me by technical means (I’m not going to put a 4.3m dish on the roof!).. so I went to do what everyone else does (you know what they say, “If you can’t beat them, join them!” not because I want to but because it’s my only option… and guess what… it’s better than the “Sky” service I was willing to pay some £70+ per month for!

Now when I want something, I just download it, because it’s a hell of a lot less hassle than flying to the UK to go watch it.

So my message:

Take note DMCA/MPAA/Sky and other providers, if you want to stop the pirates stop making more of them by blocking those who would pay for the service!

Oh and Foxtel, take note: Limiting Grimm and the likes to those who get “Full Subscription” is doing the same thing, people will download it because they *can’t afford* to pay you for your top subscription (and in reality if they only want one particular program, why the f**k would they pay for it?)

Give the people what they want for a reasonable price and pirating will go away… Screw every last $0.01 in profit and people will find alternatives they can afford.

(even Microsoft worked out they couldn’t stop the pirates and in the end it was causing them more trouble than the lost revenue through reputation issues!)

Comments welcome!

A history of my experience with FreeBSD and a warning to users….

So a rant about how a great project can go bad, and how it’s still doing stuff that should never be done and why I’ve decided to ‘fix it myself’ or move away from it completely.

Back in 2003 Paul Vixie forced me into using FreeBSD on one of my servers, it was not a welcome change for me, I was an avid Linux user until this point…. and it didn’t go well.. I started on 4.x, found there was no threading support, so “upgraded” the system to 5.x… which went badly…very badly… and every upgrade through 5.x was as bad…. Partly because of what I did, partly because of my lack of knowledge and partly because of system limitations.

Out came 6.0 and I started working with it and soon I had a whole slew of machines that were on 6.0 and with 6.1 and 6.2 things only got better. I had build servers, I had package servers, I could boot one of the servers off the network and have it completely re-install the server with the latest OS, Patches and Packages within 23 minutes (bare metal to built, configured and in production in 23 minutes…!)

Then came 7.0 and my ‘burnout’ – personal, profession life clashed, I ‘burnt out’ and my technical issues took a back burner, then before you knew it 7.3 and 7.4 were out and I had sold my company… and I was back working on getting things patched and upgraded… however some major changes had happened and the ‘ports’ tree no longer worked on 6.x hosts… so the entire system was frozen…. no new security patches, no upgrades, however along with the sale of the company came new hope… new hardware… and an opportunity to upgrade by replacing the hardware… New hardware was installed to 7.3 (as this was all that was available on Softlayer) and then my attention was diverted to getting my software upgraded to a new major revision and with it my attention and priorities changed from Sys-Admin work to developer and the older systems remained. Not long later the company that ‘bought me’, ‘sold me’ to another (my current) employer, Proofpoint Inc and new priorities were given… along with more new servers.. the result was 8.x systems being installed and with the advent of FreeBSD upgrading ‘bmake’ more stuff got changed in the ports tree, again making them non-working on pre 7.4 systems… more things got changed/patched on my servers and I ended up with new hardware again, this time running 9.0 and 9.1… at this point in time (2013) I had the following versions of FreeBSD in production:

  • FreeBSD 6.0
  • FreeBSD 6.1
  • FreeBSD 6.2
  • FreeBSD 7.2
  • FreeBSD 7.3
  • FreeBSD 8.1
  • FreeBSD 8.2
  • FreeBSD 8.3
  • FreeBSD 8.4
  • FreeBSD 9.0
  • FreeBSD 9.1

Which for any sys-admin you can guess would be a nightmare.  Further Proofpoint has policy and puppet, policies about how things are managed and puppet to manage everything.  It was suggested that my systems should be managed by puppet… so after Oct 2013 when the databases were finally migrated to the new hardware and then I could work on upgrading everything off old hardware and onto new OS’s and patches I setup a puppet server, a number of build servers and a test suite, all of my own creation and similar to what I had done in 2005… to take back control…  I also ended up with FreeBSD 9.2 on some servers, so I decided i would standardise on:

  • FreeBSD 8.4
  • FreeBSD 9.0
  • FreeBSD 9.1
  • FreeBSD 9.2

…at least until I could spend the time getting everything to a single OS level…  FreeBSD 10.0 came out, and later FreeBSD 9.3, but by that time I had the basic systems working and so adding these to the build and test suite was a matter of adding new build and test hosts… which just took a few hours.

As part of this build change I learned new tools:

  • Jenkins
  • Poudriere
  • Puppet
  • VirtualBox

I learned how to create my own ports, I learned how to patch my own ports privately.  I learned how to submit bugs back to FreeBSD ports maintainers.  I became a FreeBSD port maintainer myself.  I noted that as of 1st September 2014 the old pkg_* tools that had been around since day dot were about to be End-Of-Life’d in favour of a new ‘PKGNG‘ system.  I read the linked blog entry and decided that it was something I would have to look at, but later, because the EOL (as most sys-admins know) just means no new patches and something may start breaking that wouldn’t be supported by the developers.  At the end of July 2014 I spoke with the main protagonist of the change and was informed bluntly and to the point that they had already got a patch built and waiting to be applied, not to EOL the tools but to actually and deliberately break the existing tools thereby forcing people to use the new system.

Needless to say with less than 5 weeks of time before this was due to occur there was no chance of me converting all 57 servers, so I suggested that they shouldn’t I was told, its going to happen regardless… and that I should know that EOL means the product would no longer work, not that it would just not be supported anymore.  I guess all those years I had worked for the likes of Netscape, Oracle etc meant they all got it wrong… even Microsoft got it wrong, I mean Windows XP was ‘EOL’d a while back and well all those Window XP machines around the world just stopped working the same day… NOT!

So I continued with my build system and tried to get a stable patched repository of packages so I could at least continue my plan to get the servers to the standardised OS levels…  During testing of the packages I noted bugs, reported them to the developers, then pushed the maintainers (with mixed levels of success) to implement the fixes before the dead line (more appropriately named rather than EOL)… I failed.. several patches were not put into the ports tree until 7 days after the dead line (and that may have been deliberate on the developers aspect – though will never know.)  So the ports tree was patched on time, it rendered the old tools dead and my entire build, test and development system was broken.

I set about repairing it, for a while just copying pre-DeadLine files for building seemed to work with some local changes, so I continued to build out my systems to cope with this, and finally at the beginning of Dec 2014 I got a stable and complete repository.

Over Christmas 2014 I set myself the task of upgrading all servers to one of the standardised OS’s and at the same time patching all the existing OS’s on one of those versions.  Of 57 servers, 31 became un-usable in some way during the patch update process (freebsd-update)  Some became un-bootable, some couldn’t access the network, some (even going from 9.3-RELEASE to 9.3-P5) broke packages such as ‘sudo’ leaving me unable to gain increased privileges to finish the patch process…. after over 160 hours of work, only stopping Christmas day and New Years day, all systems were patched to 9.2 or 9.3 with all the security patches…as they had to be because of the NTPd remote root exploit…. only having to reinstall 2 of the systems from scratch as they were un-recoverable.

Early January 2015 the build system failed again when trying to patch new security issues and I found it was related to more changes by the same culprit so decided after seeing similar rants by other long standing advocates to ask for some help and got a working set of Mk/* files with the intention of fixing it again.  The files I got wouldn’t work so I merged the tree by hand (27900+ lines) only to find the system not quite working… a week later and I have a working build system for most of the ports.  I set it going and get a working repository and decide to re-run the build because of a failed patch, and it all broke again…

So for the warning to all FreeBSD Users:

IF YOU RUN PRODUCTION SERVERS THAT REQUIRE TESTING AND STABILITY BEFORE MAJOR CHANGES, YOU PROBABLY ARE STILL ON PKG_* TOOLS, DON’T UPGRADE, DON’T PATCH AND LOOK AT OTHER SOLUTIONS! Here’s why:

  • running ‘freebsd-update‘ the extra pass to “delete old” will delete all pkg_* tools (even if you haven’t converted to pkgng)
  • updating the ports tree and updating something will automatically convert the system to use pkgng (whether tested and working or not)
  • if you build your own packages using poudriere 3.1 or above it will also “upgrade” your system without confirmation or warning.

Basically whether tested or not, whether working or not, the FreeBSD developers (not the kernel devs as far as I know) will change your production systems to configurations that will probably render your automated systems completely ineffective, without warning and without notification.

What am I doing about it, well at the moment I have created a ports tree ( svn co http://svn.sorbs.net/repos/ports/head ) on http://svn.sorbs.net/repos/ports that can be put into poudriere (as SVN_HOST=svn.sorbs.net/repos ) and it will in theory build most packages for pkg_* tools – it’s not complete and is being changed on a daily basis currently as new changes go in, and with the latest “HEADSUP” announced on the FreeBSD Ports mailing list detailing another change in syntax that is not backward compatible with existing systems (even pkgng ones) I expect it won’t work for long….  My advice as the culprit seems hell bent on changing systems to the way Linux has been for years and ignoring all input from users of FreeBSD that does not agree with his vision, find an alternative.

After 12 years of promoting FreeBSD I am not any more, I’m not going to stop my employer moving everything to Linux, and I’m *NOT* going to upgrade anything to 10.x (and as 9.4 will probably not have pkg_* tools available, I won’t be going there either.)

Sadly, thinking about the whole issue, with a little work it could have been avoided, ensuring all variables in the ports are backwards compatible and having separate Mk/* repositories (even unmaintained/EOLd) would have made the whole process less painful an allowed the developers to continue their path, whether right or wrong, to completion, and allow us insignificant users to continue without pain.  In fact had someone had the for-sight I think even pre-bmake systems would still be patchable and working, even back to the 6.x tree! .. well at least until the new changes in the plist files… which most can be back-ported despite the claim that progress is impossible with the old pkg_* tools.

New Computer for Xmas? From Amazon? Watch out you might need a HazMat suit….!!

What is it with me, I seem to attract trouble at the moment, either that or I just don’t take s**t like others do…

So I’m not going to talk about the ripoff known as Ebay seller StuffUSell who sells stuff that they know doesn’t match the description… that’s Ebay and par for the course… No this is about someone you would think would know better… Amazon…!

Yeah the price of globalisation.. they’re so big in every country that when searching for stuff you don’t even see Ebay at the top of the list anymore, you just see 100’s of Amazon links leaving you little choice about where you can purchase items…  Even if they can’t/won’t deliver.

Many of you the readers know I live in Malta (Europe, not the town in the USA) it’s a small island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea and unfortunately getting stuff that is available to the rest of the world can be a task… and it’s not cheap (sometimes as much as double to RRP.)  For this reason I often use online services such as Amazon to get what I need at a reasonable price, paying extra for shipping.  Obviously because of Tax and VAT I prefer to order from Amazon EU/UK where ever possible.

So what is the subject about, you’re thinking.. well simple are you in Europe, are you thinking about ordering a computer/tablet for Christmas 2013…?  Well my advice is avoid Amazon at all cost as you might find yourself without what you are waiting for until after Christmas, with the excuse the Item you are ordering has a HAZMAT sticker on it and we can’t ship it to you…

Here’s the screenshot of the item I ordered over a week ago.. (click for hi-res version)

Thecus N4510UR 12TB NAS
Thecus N4510UR 12TB NAS

So as you can see ‘Ordered on 21 November 2013’ .. however lets take a look at ‘My Orders’ (click for hi-res)…

My Orders at Amazon
My Orders at Amazon

So I didn’t get any delivery, so I checked the order status, found it not yet dispatched so I got onto Customer Support (politely at first)… and after 24 hours I got this response:

 Hello,

I am writing to let you know about your order #202-2620275-0284318.

I have received an update from our fulfillment center stating that this item has been held up at JKPT this is because the item has been identified as having HAZMAT control on it and therefore can not be shipped to the address used as we can not ship this type of product to an overseas address.

I hope this helps you.

We loo forward seeing you again soon.

Warmest regards,

Ruban S.

It’s like ‘WFT?!?!?!’ HAZMAT?!?!??!  its a computer – it doesn’t even contain battery backup batteries!!

I got back to Customer support (again politly(ish) at first).. and couldn’t get a response as to what “JKPT” is … eventually I persuaded the Customer Support person to email me later what it meant, I got the following:

Hello,

I’m writing regarding your order #202-2620275-0284318.

Please be informed that, JKPT is a condition that an item is put into when we have no shipping method for the item due to HAZMAT regulations. It is usually to either an overseas address or a PO box address, locker or a parcel motel type place.

If we can be of further assistance, you can reply directly to this e-mail. You can reach us by chat or phone from this link:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/contact-us

Customer Service can be reached by phone and chat 7 days a week 06.00 to midnight, local UK time.

If you need to call us, we can be reached on Freephone (within the UK) 0800 496 1081. International customers can reach us on +44 207 084 7911.

We look forward to seeing you again soon.

Warmest regards,

Babuvignesh S.

At this point I got a little narcky and phoned them on the 0800 number for the UK and pointed out, that the address for delivery is a real address that they have delivered to previously, and that whilst they are correct ‘overseas’ pretty much everywhere in Europe could be classified as such if the origination point is Jersey as they previously indicated… and again the response:

 Hello,

Regarding your Order No: 202-2620275-0284318, we’ve got an update from our fulfilment team:

”  I’m sorry but this item has been held up at JKPT this is because the item has been identified as having HAZMAT control on it and therefore can not be shipped to the address used as we can not ship this type of product to an overseas address ”

Warmest regards,

Thangjam M

Then 24 hours later I get this:

Hello,

I’m sorry for the inconvenience caused to you with the restrictions to Malta.

I do understand your concern regarding the item being allowed to ship to Malta.

I’ve checked and can see that my colleague has already contacted appropriate department to investigate this issue.

As it is not yet possible to provide you with a resolution, we continue to work hard to provide an update and we still expect to be in contact with you on the date provided by my colleague, November 29, 2013.

Please accept my apologies for the inconvenience; we want to be sure to address this matter as thoroughly as possible.

If you don’t hear back from us by November 29, 2013, please contact us again by replying directly to this email.

I hope this helps. We look forward to seeing you again soon.

Warmest regards,

Imran A.

So the moral, if you want/need something quick (even as a business user buying business class items) don’t bother with Amazon, and certainly if it’s a computer or tablet (as tablets are computers).. go down the high street and buy over the counter – even if it costs more or takes your time, at least you’ll get it, and the shop is likely to be still there next time you need something!!

 

UPDATE [5th December 2013], this just in from Amazon:

Hello,

We’re writing about your Amazon.co.uk order 202-2620275-0284318 which included the following:

——————————————————

B009E0X9Q4

Thecus N4510UR 12TB (4 x 3TB) 4 Bay 1U Rackmount NAS with McAfee Antivirus Protection

——————————————————

Unfortunately, due to delivery restrictions on such items, we won’t be able to send you this item and have cancelled it from your order.  This is because this item contains flammable, pressurised, corrosive, environmentally hazardous or otherwise harmful substances classified as dangerous goods under the European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Air.

Although the amount of these substances in these products is usually quite limited, these products need to be transported in a certain way to ensure that they are handled with care and are therefore assigned to a specialist carrier.  Unfortunately this means that we can’t dispatch this to any destination outside of mainland UK.

We’re sorry for any inconvenience caused and hope to see you again soon.

Warmest regards

Customer Service Department

Amazon.co.uk

Please note: This e-mail was sent from a notification-only address that can’t accept incoming e-mail.  Please don’t reply to this message.

So there you have it, if you are buying a computer from Amazon (UK) and are not in the UK they cannot and will not ship the item – even if it is marked as being sold by Amazon Europe (S.a.r.L.) and even if it is marked as available for delivery to your country…

UPDATE 2:  Bit the bullet today, and went to one of the local computer stores and bought the non rackmount version of the NAS, found for €1123.00 (less than Amazon) I was able to get a 16TB version.. then I thought about it…  We’re on an island, everything is flown in.. but wait, Amazon said it was a HAZMAT marked item….!

Rude, Arrogant or just plain stupid…?

One would expect public figures to be the example, certainly in other countries those in public office, rock stars, actors and generally anyone famous has to set an example for others.  Where the law is broken, those famous often get heavier sentences as an ‘example’ to others, indeed as a person who has worked for a customs office I was warned as part of my induction if I was ever caught in possession of drugs I would likely get the maximum sentence by any court etc..  Where laws are not broken but ethics are, jobs are lost, people are distanced from colleagues and the culprits are discredited.  So the question is how does the Maltese political parties fair in this game of showmanship?

Well yesterday I had to fly back to San Francisco for my 3 monthly visit to ‘Head Office’ and I wasn’t looking forward to it.  United Airlines are renowned for the worst service of any passenger airline, and traveling some 60,000 air miles per year, I have to say I have had my fair share of their awful service.  However, my ‘travel dramas’ of the past were surpassed to my amazement and disgust by and incident at the very beginning of my journey…  Happening right in the Malta International Airport (MLA).

I was waiting patiently in line for a checkin assistant to become available with at least one person in the queue behind me, and a couple of friends being served already, then an older man came up and stood near the desk.  Thinking this guy was just after asking a quick question I did not challenge him, checkin continued and my friends started to move away, and to my amazement the guy stepped forward and put his suitcase on the conveyor belt and handed over his passport.  I immediately called, “excuse me! excuse me! There is a queue here you know?!?!” to which the reply was, “I see no queue.”

I did not hear the reply, but my friends had, I repeated myself with the addition, “are you really such a rude person that you will jump the queue whilst there are others waiting?”  The reply, came under his breath, “F’oxx …” (I did not hear the second word but am fairly sure it was “Ommock” ..  Now for the benefit of the non Maltese speakers, “F’oxx” is equivalent to “Fuck” in English and “Ommock” is “Mother” (ie the term is “Fuck your mother”, which is used rather offensively instead of “Fuck Off”) ..  I was outraged and turned to the checkin assistant who was a young girl and she said, “he’s Flypass”

Now Flypass members get preferential treatment, they get to use the business class lounge etc..  However, their privileges does not extend to queue jumping, and in the event that someone does have that privilege they are to use the ‘business class’ line, or wait to be invited by the assistant.

Mr Joe Debono Grech
Mr Joe Debono Grech – MP for Labour

Remember me saying that I travel around 60,000 air-miles per year?  Well, that’s around 20,000 ‘Flypass’ miles per year, I am known to Air Malta staff in Malta, Germany and the UK (though not this girl on the check in desk).. I was flying Premium on Lufthansa in this case, I am a Gold ‘Star Alliance’ member (Lufthansa Miles and More, and United Airmiles etc)  I am a silver British Airways member and just 4,000 airmiles off being a Platinum Etihad member… I fly a lot, and have been doing so since 2009, I don’t enjoy it….  Not that it made any difference in this case the assistant still allowed him to continue and the poor people behind me had to wait for this ignorant twit.

Another Lufthansa staff member became free and checked me in.

I spent 30 minutes in the departure lounge wondering where the person had gone to, and boarded the flight on time, several minutes later one of the last people to board came into view, and who would it be, you guessed it, the rude person from checkin, and to my astonishment, he continued past my seat into the economy area and sat approximately half way down the plane…  Yes folks, this guy was not even a premium class traveller…!

Incensed by finding probably the most rude, ignorant person in Malta, I formulated a plan.  The plane landed and I jumped up and got off the plane as fast as possible, taking my carry on luggage with me, little did he know I would be waiting at the gate in Frankfurt with my Nikon D3s and F2.8 lens…  Camera checked, turned on, set to highspeed shooting (9 frames per second).. he walked off the plane and one of the pictures was uploaded here..  My plan to name and shame him into better behavior…  Give him an unwelcome 30 seconds of Internet fame…  Little did I realise who “he” is…

Within minutes of posting the picture to Facebook several people messaged me to tell me it was none other than Mr Joe Debono Grech, a politician parliamentary candidate for Labour. Many describing him as a relic of the 80s, some stating quite clearly that my report about his conduct has made up their minds on which way to vote at the next election.

Personally I am shocked that someone holding public office would conduct themselves in such a manner that brings their party into such disrepute.  Labour, not for the people, for everything they can get for themselves, is what comes to mind.  Well Mr Debono Grech, I will not stoop to your level, I will not tell you to “F’oxx ….” I will not use my frequent flyer privileges to be rude and inconsiderate to others, I will be the example you obviously cannot set, and I pray that the people of Malta never have to suffer election of someone so ignorant in the future.  I fully expect you to use your contacts to make my life hell, well do your worst is all I can say, I currently pay 4000EUR in income tax per month, I can claim most of those back with all the loop holes in the tax law, I choose not to!  I put my taxes into the community for the benefit of all, I support local artists where I can, often at great cost to myself, and never charge a penny.  I am polite most of the time (I am just not polite to people who don’t take ‘no’ for an answer) and I believe in the Maltese people and way of life.  I was not born here, and I do not have relatives here.  My only connection with Malta before I moved was that my father was stationed here in Malta during World War II..  I am 43 years old now, and I have never in my life seen *anyone* with a attitude as disgusting as yours, and I am just glad the new generation of Malta, whilst not following in as much tradition as many would like, are better behaved and respectful to others than yourself.

 

Oh and the right (Dis)Honorable Joe Debono Grech…. just for the record… you won’t be getting my vote either.

 

PS: I am learning Maltese, not because I have to – but because I WANT TO!!  So yes, I could understand what you said to the assistant.