ASUS Let me down… again!

The Git has long been a fan of ASUS products starting in the 90s when he discovered the company manufactured reliable, well-documented motherboards. He currently owns two desktop PCs with ASUS MoBos and a Zenbook that travels with him almost everywhere. The deterioration in The Git’s admiration for ASUS began when he purchased a motherboard to replace the aging Gigabyte MoBo in the home theatre PC.

The replacement board had a non-standard connector for the front panel USB sockets and audio jacks. One can purchase an add-on connector to the motherboard for front-panel USB and audio, but that connects to a panel intended to sit in the 3.5 inch drive bay. A drive bay that doesn’t exist in the Silverstone HTPC case! Further, the PCI slots were of a new and much shorter type, so the TV tuner card needed to be replaced by a USB stick tuner. Ditto for the WiFi connection. The front panel USB socket problem was solved by plugging two USB cables (one USB 2 and one USB 3) into sockets at the back and brought around the side of the PC. The USB 3 cable is a tad short and attempting to purchase a longer one from Dick Smith, The Git discovered “there’s insufficient demand for USB 3 for us to stock them any more.” WTF!

The latest problem arose when the fan on the MSI video card died. Have you ever attempted to purchase a replacement fan for a video card? Instead of four holes, this one has but three. While the problem was fixed with an Antec fan of somewhat larger depth and diameter and the judicious application of hot glue, The Git decided to purchase himself a Christmas present in the form of a new video card. After much research and reviewing, he decided upon an ASUS Radeon R7 250 with 1 GB of DDR5 RAM and a “dustproof fan”. The card appeared to offer all that The Git needed: an extra turn of speed, capability to provide a resolution of 2560 by 1440 pixels on the Dell U2711 27″ display and the modest cost of $117.30, somewhat less than he had paid for the MSI card a couple of years ago.

When the card, the driver and utilities installed, the display was a meagre 1920 by 1080. Nothing The Git tried could persuade the video card to drive the display at any higher resolution. The ASUS website The Git originally accessed states quite clearly that the card is capable of 2560 by 1600. Accessing the “same” information via ASUS.com.au the spec now reads “DVI Max Resolution : 1920×1200“. What The Git had failed to notice during his research was that DVI was limited to 1920 by 1080 and that the higher resolution was “Digital”. The penny dropped; the higher resolution was only supported on the HDMI socket. The odd thing here is that the HTPC has a TV for a display and that is connected via a DVI cable and an adapter to convert DVI to the HDMI requirement at the TV end. Acquiring an HDMI cable this close to Christmas was only possible by asking The Gitling to bring one with him when he came on Christmas Eve to enjoy the festive season with us.

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NBN Even More Final Comment

After several frustrating weeks of fraudband, The Git finally has real broadband. Download speeds on EscapeNet vary between 0.5 Mb/s and sometimes exceed 5 Mb/s, but never for very long. More worryingly, the speed fluctuates to such an extent that streaming video that worked passably on ADSL has been virtually unwatchable. However, several particpants in a thread at Whirlpool Forums suggested that The Git try another Internet service provider.

Internode (founded by Simon Hackett) have a monthly plan and The Git signed up for two months for the princely sum of $228.90, later amended to $198.90 after being told that was the original quote. Much to The Git’s relief, Internode connections are consistently higher than 11 Mb/s and streaming video has become watchable once more.

EscapeNet initially said they would charge an exit fee for termination of the 24 month contract, but have since had second thoughts. They claim that the erratic behaviour The Git has experienced is not due to a shortage of backhaul, and that the problem lies somewhere within NBN Co’s operations. The Git is assisting EscapeNet in persuading NBN Co that there is a problem; apparently it affects only EscapeNet’s Fixed Wireless clients and only a small number of them.

So there is a purpose to the extra Ethernet ports on the NBN Network Termination Device! Presumably, if Internode’s service goes pear-shaped, The Git will have the delight of being able to be connected even more than two different ISPs!

Phishing Alert: Network Solutions

In the past, The Git’s domain registrar (NetSol) has issued warnings about phishing attacks via email:

Phishing Alert : Please watch for emails like this

We have been receiving reports that some customers are receiving spam/phishing emails that are fraudulent. There are reports that customers of other registrars are also receiving similar spam/phishing emails. The email we have seen has the subject line “Attention: domain will be expired soon.” There is a link the email that says “‘Renew your domain now and while it shows  http://www.networksolutions.com it actually goes tohttp://www.networksolutions.com.com42.asia>  now look closer , the link actually goes to the domain “com42.asia “. There are other domains and subject lines that are being used.   Please delete the email if it is suspicious.   We want you to know that we are taking every possible measure to protect our Customers from this attack and mitigate its impact. We are working very closely with the Registries as well as ISPs to detect any new domains from which these attacks are coming and shut them down.

The Git’s bank, ISPs and others have all warned against clicking links in unsolicited emails; indeed, The Git has taught hundreds of email users the same. It was surprising then when The Git received the following email from NetSol:

Dear Customer, New Regulations now require that domain account holders confirm their email information otherwise their domain will be deactivated. If your domain is deactivated you will still own the domain but you will not be able to have a live website until you verify your contact information. To ensure your domain(s) remain active, please click the CONFIRM button below to confirm the email address we have for you is accurate. CONFIRMIf you have any questions, feel free to contact customer service at 1-888-642-0209.

Note that it’s “Dear Customer”, not “Jonathan Sturm” (my name isn’t really Pompous Git), nor does The Git’s account number occur anywhere in the email. Think of how the likes of Amazon and PayPal contact you. Further, the “New Regulations” aren’t linked to. What New Regulations? Despite a flurry of emails to support from The Git’s email address, NetSol have been adamant that responding to emails sent to that address is not confirmation that this email address is “accurate”. Only clicking on the link will confirm its accuracy. Nor is NetSol willing (or perhaps able) to tell me what and where these “New Regulations” are! Being mail-bombed by one’s domain registrar is, to say the least, unpleasant. So, The Git decided to transfer his domains to a new registrar (see below). Initiating the transfer (obtaining the relevant EPP Keys) generated a message that these would be made available within three working days. However, a subsequent email from NetSol stated:

If you intend to transfer this domain name please call Network Solutions at 1-888-642-9675 to request assistance from a transfer specialist.

WTF! The Git lives in Tasmania and NetSol are in the USA. The cost of such a telephone call would doubtless be astronomical given Telstra’s international call rates. Just how fucking hard is it to issue an EPP Key? Well, The Git happens to know the answer to that question. The http://www.pompousgit.com domain was registered with Uber Global (it was a birthday present some years ago) and it took seconds for them to issue an EPP Key. The Git has put NetSol on notice that he knows ICANN require the Key to be issued within six working days. Given NetSol’s recent propensity for annoying its customers, The Git is far from hopeful. Some time ago, NetSol began using subterfuge when renewing accounts. Items that one didn’t want were preslected and added into the account with no obvious way to remove them if you happened to notice before completing the transaction. For example, hiding one’s personal details from anyone performing a “whois” search. Since one’s personal details are usually a matter of public record (telephone directory, electoral roll etc) there is nothing to be achieved from this exercise beyond enriching the registrar. see http://blog.adrianroselli.com/2012/11/network-solutions-and-dark-patterns.html for some details. Some years ago, when The Git chose his first hosting service, the one he chose had just become a registrar when ICANN decided to remove Verisign/NetSol’s monopoly. He registered a domain with them and pointed it to a subdomain on his website. The hosting service subsequently sold their registrar business to GoDaddy. GoDaddy, unlike Netsol, didn’t send a renewal notice and sold that domain to a squatter who wanted far more to allow The Git its continued use than he was prepared to pay. It must be said that The Git’s continuing use of NetSol was almost entirely due to this as they sent out renewals both by email and snail mail for many years and to The Git’s mind this justified the extra cost. So, The Git asked his Internet savvy friends who he should choose as his new registrar. The answer was http://www.active-domain.com/ who extend your domain registration from its current expiry date by one year for a remarkably low fee. Additionally, extras that many registrars charge for are free. Quite why some business think that annoying the bejesus out of customers is a Good Idea escapes me.

Update

Managed to persuade NetSol to give me the auth codes for my domains and transfer is underway. However, when I last renewed I for whatever reason decided to turn on autorenew. Turning autorenew off cannot be achieved through either NetSol’s web interface or via email. It must be done through telephoning. Only problem with that is the telephone number is not accessible from Tasmania; I just get the engaged tone. Bastages! I’ll just have to cancel my credit card and go through all the shemozzle of updating all the places I make regular payments. I’m not usually given to hatred, but this has been the week from hell! The only upside in this was discovering that Telstra no longer charge like a wounded bull for international calls. They are actually quite reasonable — less than I was paying for prepaid mobile local calls three years ago.

Update 2

Fortunately, NetSol eventually responded to my complaints and has removed the autorenew from my accounts. They telephoned me and despite the difficulty understanding what was being said to me, managed to make them understand what it was that I wanted — after the second telephone call. It turns out that what they want are the answers to your personal questions that supposedly protect you from having your account spoofed. Of course if my password had been cracked by a malicious hacker, they could then have readily edited the answers to those questions.

Entering my account now generates a nag screen that tells me that I no longer have the protection of Autorenew , as well as my Domain Setup being “only 65% complete”. If The Git really wanted to be endlessly nagged he’d be married to SMBO. Oh wait… he already is 😉

More secure is a two level security system as used by The Git’s bank and WordPress. After entering the correct username and password, access is only granted after keying in a numeric code that is sent to the user’s mobile phone. If you lose your phone, all is not lost, however. WordPress give you a list of numbers that you can use to regain access to your account. Keeping that list on a sheet of paper is as bad of course unless it’s in a safe.

More convenient is PasswordSafe, free software that allows you to create a secure database of usernames and passwords. You protect the database with a secure password. Secure passwords include upper and lower case letters, numbers and none alpha-numeric characters such as @, #, %, & and $. True security requires different passwords for different places and remembering ever so many passwords with differing none alpha-numeric characters is impossible for most of us. Memorising one is all that is required with PasswordSafe (and other similar products The Git doesn’t use).

It’s difficult to describe the feeling The Git had when he clicked on the large, red CONFIRM button in the email from NetSol. After training ever so many clients to not ever do such a thing and never having done that thing (and thus remained relatively malware and virus-free for decades), it was a truly painful experience. One that The Git hopes he will never have to endure again.

NBN Final Comment

Our NBN connection is now working after a relatively minor problem was fixed: the ethernet cable that came with the router was faulty. That said, it finally became possible to assess the government’s speed claims and compare them to reality. Is the NBN really faster broadband than ADSL, or is it just a boondoggle to transfer $AU6 billion dollars of taxpayers’ money into the pockets of the ALP’s mates and matesses?

The plan The Git purchased claims a download speed of 12 Mb/s and uploads at 1 Mb/s. Actual measured download speeds have varied between 1.3 and almost 5 Mb/s. That is, when demand on the tower The Git is connected to is high, it is actually slower than my ADSL1 connection was most of the time. At best, it is less than 4 times faster despite supposedly being 8 times faster, and almost certainly considerably slower than could have been achieved over ADSL2. While I doubt that the ~25 Mb/s maximum achievable on ADSL2 was ever possible at The House of Steel, it would certainly have been much faster than ADSL1! Less than 5 Mb/s while claiming 12 Mb/s is definitely fraudband, rather than broadband especially in light of the very much restricted available bandwidth (~10%) at the same price point.

Averaging download speeds (actual, not theoretical) indicate that the connection works at 3.1 Mb/s which coincidentally is equal to the average speed achieved in Australian homes with the NBN rollout barely begun. If you think of Internet data as water flowing down a pipe, then it should be obvious that increasing the diameter of the pipe when it is only a quarter full will have no noticeable effect on the amount of water flowing down the pipe. Indeed, there are NBN users on Whirlpool’s forums attaining download speeds comparable to those experienced by The Git even though they have purchased a 25 Mb/s connection.

Since something of this nature was predicted in the very first post The Git made on the subject of the NBN, why would he have switched early from his adequate and inexpensive ADSL connection to the somewhat faster, but much vastly more expensive NBN? The early NBN rollout areas in Tasmania are now two months away from having their copper disconnected. Only 55% of households in those areas are now connected to the NBN. The latecomers are being told they will have to wait for an NBN connection, possibly in excess of 12 months in many cases. The main subcontractor to the NBN Co looks like declaring bankruptcy as NBN Co put them on hold for many months while their repayments on millions of dollars worth of equipment kept on rolling in. Most of their subcontractors have fled for they could not afford to wait on the rollout recommencing.

The great pity in all of this is what could have been achieved by putting more than $AU5.5 billion where it’s needed, hospitals for instance. Providing every household in the country with three redundant ethernet pots when almost nobody has any use for them has to be one of the most egregiously stupid decisions ever made. But then it was presumably with the approval of the execrable Conroy when he was Minister for Communications. He never seemed to understand what the Internet was all about, or communication for that matter.

“The regulation of telecommunications powers in Australia is exclusively federal. That means I am in charge of spectrum auctions, and if I say to everyone in this room ‘if you want to bid in our spectrum auction you’d better wear red underpants on your head’, I’ve got some news for you. You’ll be wearing them on your head. I have unfettered legal power.”

Story here.

Thought for the Day

If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal. — Emma Goldman

NBN Redux Part 2

When The Git chose his fixed wireless NBN plan, he (in consultation with SWMBO of course) decided to go without a landline line telephone service (actually a Voice Over IP service (VOIP)) via the ISP. A closer reading of what’s being offered is that our landline copper service is the only way to have a landline service with Fixed Wireless. Since the copper is to be disconnected in 2015 (as per the agreement between the previous ALP government and Telstra), this seems to imply that the only way to have a landline service after the disconnect date is to have an agreement with an ISP none of whom seem to provide a telephone only service. There is a connector on the router EscapeNet supply for VOIP and that also has four 1 Gb ethernet ports and 300 Mb WiFi, a slight overkill for those not needing Internet.

Why did we decide to eschew retaining a landline? Two ANZAC days ago, at approximately 5 am in the morning, an American telemarketer phoned. “Why,” The Git asked this idiot, “would I purchase anything from a criminal?”

“I’m not a criminal,” he responded.

“First, it’s before 9 am. Second it’s a weekend. Third it’s a public holiday. Fourth this number is on the do not call list. That’s four crimes so far.”

The idiot replied: “Australian law does not apply to US citizens!”

“Oh goodie,” replied The Git, “That means I can tell the next American I meet, as I murder him/her, that I have it on good authority he is not protected by Australian law!”

Going without stupid telemarketers will be no hardship. BiilG once wrote that he thought we should be able to charge unknown callers thus reducing their number. Such a facility is presumably not too difficult to implement now that telephony is firmly controlled by computers. Of course there would need to be a way to cancel the charge if one decided that the caller really did have something important to say. Sadly, very few voice calls are worth the time they consume these days.

NBN Redux

The Git has commented previously on Australia’s NBN. When he received a friendly letter from NBN Co on February 21, he was very mindful of people wishing to be connected to the NBN being told that they would have to wait even though they are in regions “serviced” by the company. Up to 12 months in some instances. Apparently, even when an area is declared as having NBN, there are insufficient connections available to provide for everyone, even though some of these hopefuls are told that they will be disconnected from the copper network in a few months.

So, The Git (never one to be hesitant) began investigating the list of potential ISPs who supposedly provide Internet access to the NBN in his locale. Interestingly, all but two of these providers told The Git that he did not have NBN access, so they were out of the running. That left IINet and EscapeNet (who?) as the only potential candidates. A long and friendly chat with a knowledgeable person at IINet had them out of the running. The offer was 25 GB/month for $AU40 at 12 Mb/s, somewhat slower than the Gitling’s ADSL2, but it’s all The Git can afford. This included unlimited Internet gaming and ABC iView, but The Git’s use of these services is fairly minimal.

EscapeNet on the other hand were offering 50GB/month, same speed, same price, a far more realistic offer. So, The Git signed up. On 25 February, the order was confirmed (that is we did have access to fixed wireless broadband as NBN Co claimed). Three days later an email from EscapeNet confirmed that installation would proceed on 6 March between 8 am and noon. Oddly, the email contained both The Git’s username and password in plain text! NBN Co telephoned the day before to confirm that The Git would be home at the agreed time.

Somewhat after 8 am the NBN sub-contractor turned up and installed the NBN-supplied equipment and it was all done and dusted by mid-day. Here’s the evidence: Continue reading

NBN Update

Tasmanians are now enjoying the “benefits” of Labor’s NBN Plan. The NBN was rolled out here first and an important part of the plan was to disconnect everyone from the old copper network regardless of whether they had switched over to the NBN or not. While most of the mass disconnections are some months away, they have already started. One early adopter has said that they regret the decision; her NBN connection is far flakier than the copper network and often doesn’t work at all for days at a time.

The Lewincamps were disconnected a month ago. NBN Co say they can be interviewed about the possibility of becoming connected in January next year. People moving into areas with NBN access are being told that they must wait until December next year to be connected. And no, they cannot be connected to the copper network in the meantime; that’s illegal. The proffered solution is to use your mobile phone and wireless Internet at hugely greater cost than current copper solutions. That’s only going to work if there is decent mobile coverage. Several of those rural areas have patchy access to the mobile phone network at best.

[T]he Council on the Ageing says many elderly residents at Deloraine, Sorell, George Town, St Helens, Triabunna and Kingston Beach are not aware they need the NBN for a landline phone.

Sorell resident Marj Walker, who is in her 80s, is facing the prospect of losing her landline in six months.

Mrs Walker says she did not see a reason to connect to the NBN.

“All I need is a phone to keep in touch with family, I will never get a computer,” she said.

In the meantime, in a move that surprised The Git among others, Mal (The Builder) Turnbull has appointed three new directors to the NBN board. Surprising because all three have computer network/Internet delivery expertise. For example, Simon Hackett was instrumental in the deployment of AARNET as well as the founder of the very successful Internet Service Provider IINet. Predictably, the ALP has decried Mal the Builder’s decision claiming he’s just giving jobs to his mates.