Canonical Voices

Posts tagged with 'random'


I don’t write a lot on my blog about issues with companies, service providers, and otherwise, but yesterday my wife and I discovered something which I wanted to make people aware of as I don’t want you good people to fall into the same trap.

We have cable TV provided by DirecTV. We saw what seemed like a pretty decent deal in CostCo one day and decided to sign up. While the quality of the service is generally pretty good, there were a few surprises in there when we started using it.

A few of the services we were expecting that were sold to use by the rep at CostCo were not as he described, but after some frustration we figured, hey, we will keep going with them as they seem to provide a generally decent cable.

Yesterday the sound stopped working on our TV. Being of the geeky persuasion, it didn’t take long for me to have narrowed the issue down to the DirecTV box. I tested the TV, surround sound, cabling, networking to the box, and identified that there was no sound on either the live feed or DVRed programmes. We also had an issue with the DirectTV box in the bedroom which could no longer play DVR content from downstairs. I had reset the box multiple times, power cycled it, re-authorized it via the site and was confident we would need a service engineer to come our and resolve the issue.

I called DirecTV and they did some checks on the box. They triggered a remote diagnostic check and an error came up indicating that there was an issue with satellite dish alignment.

After these checks, it was clearly an issue with the DirecTV service/hardware.

I was then informed me that we would need to pay $49 to have an engineer come out to resolve the service issue.

Let me just take a second to re-iterate this…we were paying a monthly fee for DirecTV service using the rented equipment that they provide, their service was no longer working as expected, we had clearly defined it as a DirecTV service/hardware problem, yet we had to pay $49 for the issue to be resolved.

Naturally I was pretty unhappy about this. The manager who I escalated this to informed me that this was in the contract. She went on to say that DirecTV like to be upfront about their service provision and what is involved in the contract. Well, we were never informed about this, in the same way the other parts of the service I mentioned earlier were not communicated clearly to us either.

Now, I am not saying that Erica and I are geniuses, but I do think we are smart enough to understand the nature of a service offering, what is provided, how much it costs, ask about hidden fees, and be able to choose a service wisely. DirecTV were not clear about this.

It turns out that when you get your new DirecTV service installed they provide a 90-day warranty and then you are on your own. What happens after 90 days? Well, it turns out you need to have a “protection plan“.

Call me a cynic, but when a subscribe to a service, be it cable, electric, gas, water, or anything else, I don’t expect to have to take out a protection plan when the provider fails to provide that service to me. What is to stop DirecTV compromising our service to trigger future service calls at $49 a shot? I am not saying this is what happened here, but if they took responsibility for resolving their own service issues, I would know they would not do things such as that as the costs would be incurred to them, not their customers.

Now, if I screw something up and waste their time, such as if they come out to fix an issue that was unrelated to DirectTV, that is a different matter, but when the issue is clearly as part of their service provision, I think it is unacceptable to charge customers for you to resolve your own service issues.

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My brother, Martin, is working hard right now to prepare to set a new Guinness world record for the fastest land speed record for a car powered by coffee. Crazy, yes, awesome, definitely. I am so proud of him, my nephews, and the rest of the team. What’s better is that the car looks like something from Back To The Future.

They are going to have a first test attempt on the 10th August 2011 at Elvington Race Track near York, and the main record attempt will be on the 14th September 2011.

Be sure to check their website at and follow them on Twitter; they are posting videos about the technology and prep going into smashing this record. You can also donate to help them nail the record.

Here is a video introducing the car, starring the considerably-less-handsome-considerably-more-bearded brother in question.

Can’t see it? Click here

I am so proud of all of them, so be sure to follow them and track this awesome record attempt!

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On Zareason

These views are my own, and not necessarily those of Canonical.

Some time back the always awesome Earl and Cathy from Zareason loaned me one of their Strata laptops to play with. I met them at an event some time before, and while I had heard of Zareason, I really knew nothing about them. Since then I have learned about their work and played with the Strata. I just wanted to share some thoughts.

Zareason are a company that I think really gets Open Source. They are a small organization and incredibly supportive of Open Source in the local area and wider USA. They pre-install Ubuntu on their machines, focus on open hardware, and one really nice touch is that they include a small screwdriver with each machine because they believe that everyone has the right to be able to open up their machines and peek inside. In this age of screwless, inaccessible boxes and restrictive end-user license agreements, this is a refreshing change. Like most, I would never actually use said little screwdriver…but it is a strong statement of Zareason and their culture. Kudos!

So, as for the machine, it is a zippy little monster and works great. The pre-installed Ubuntu worked great out of the box, with pretty much everything running as expected. One thing that really struck me, is regarding build quality. I consider build quality an essential ingredient in a laptop. Laptops move around a lot, they get thrown into bags, and they get picked up, dragged around and balanced in precarious ways. The Zareason Strata I tried felt incredibly durable…as in…Thinkpad durable. I absolutely adore Thinkpads for this very reason, so again, Kudos Zareason.

Finally, a big decider for me in a laptop is the keyboard. There are many great laptops with horrible plasticky keyboards. The Zareason Strata has a really comfortable, useful, and durable keyboard. It feels strong but not difficult to use. Again, kudos Zareason.

So, Zareason produce great, solid, hardware pre-installed with Ubuntu, they are actively supportive of the Open Source community, and they affirm openness in both the software and hardware. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me. :-)

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I don’t tend to blog about appeals, but I came across this terribly sad story and I really want to encourage you all too also pledge and support him. Here is what happened, written by a friend of Colin:

Colin & I have been close friends for 13 years when we started our MBA program together. We then both lived in London and our children played together. Colin moved back to his home town of Boston before I returned to the US and unfortunately he got divorced from his wife, an Egyptian national, in 2008. He was granted full legal custody by the US courts of his two young boys (US citizens). His wife created forged passports in a fake name and kidnapped his two children by illegally flying back to Cairo on Egypt Air. He hasn’t seen them in more than a year and she is in hiding.

Mirvat el Nady now has an arrest warrant in the US and is wanted by Interpol (see here). Colin is being supported by his Senator John Kerry and has received help from Vice President Biden and Attorney General, Eric Holder. The problem is that Egypt doesn’t support the Hague Convention and doesn’t have an extradition policy with the United States so they don’t recognize any of the international legal rulings in Colin’s favor. Colin has now won visitation rights in an Egyptian court, but Mirvat didn’t show up at the legally required meeting day / time in Egypt.

You can see an interview with Colin here about his ordeal.

I am not a father yet, but it doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to understand how painful and heartbreaking it must be to have your kids taken away from you and to have no idea where they are…and no way of getting in touch with them.

I wanted to encourage you all to show your support for Colin, and contribute to his legal defense fund. You can also show your support by joining this Facebook page; I am sure kind words of support on that page will be welcomed.

We pledged today, and with him aiming to raise $25,000 for the legal defence fund, if we all contribute a little this could really help this family. Thanks, folks.

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Proud To Be a Son

Today my dad was informed that he will be awarded a masters degree at Cambridge University where he has been studying recently. While I am overflowing with pride over his achievement, what really makes me smile is the incredible journey that led him there.

Born and raised in the Dales in North Yorkshire, he came from a frugal rural upbringing in a large working-class family. They didn’t have much, but he always made the most out of what he did have, never complaining, always dreaming, leading him on step by step through a range of adventures, each underlined with his phenomenal sense of values, and an unwavering commitment to family and hard work.

His life so far has been a rich tapestry of diversity, with just a few of his experiences including being a welder, running multiple car dealerships, managing a multimedia software project, being a hypnotherapist, a magistrate, a nightclub owner, a mayor, a pub landlord, and currently running an antiques business in conjunction with my mum who has embarked on her own incredible journey to become one of the top master restorers in England.

While his daily routine has differed over the years, his values have not. He is the purest definition of good person that I have ever met. He has spent his life committed to doing the right thing, often challenged by adversity. He has always defended those without a voice, often putting his own personal circumstances and comfort levels into a state of flux. He fought for voting rights for women in working mens clubs in the UK, campaigned for the safety of residents near rail crossings in the town I was born in, stood up against inferior safety provisions in his workplace to protect his workmates, he took his old friend Ray to the 50th anniversary D-Day memorial in Normandy and went to great lengths to obtain replica medals as Ray had lost his many years previous. These are just a few examples from a patchwork of experiences stitched together with kindness.

He has not only been the perfect father, but a true inspiration for a son. He taught me a strong set of values, each illustrated by his experiences; experiences shared but never lectured, and from my earliest childhood memory I can remember him and my mum both encouraging and defending my right to an opinion, under the premise it was shared fairly and with empathy for other people’s views.

So, while I sit here beaming from cheek to cheek with pride over my dad who started with nothing and made something while never compromising who he is and where he came from, it makes me realize just how incredibly fortunate I am to have been blessed by such an incredible mentor. I love you dad, and I have never been so proud of you as I am today.

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I Support Same Sex Marriage

I love being married, it has opened up an incredible sense of commitment and security in my life and my wife’s life. Love is love, and I would never want to prevent anyone from enjoying what I am afforded the privilage of enjoying. This includes gay people. As such, I have joined this Facebook group to get 1,000,000 who support same sex marriage. I usually hate these kinds of groups, but I think it could be interesting to visualize the support behind this issue. Worthy, methinks. :-)

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Yesterday a package arrived on my doorstep. Not just a package, but a big one, and I had not ordered anything that big to be delivered. Lo and behold, said package had my name on it and the sticker said it was from Pete Graner, who is my colleague at Canonical leading the kernel team. As many of you will know, he is one half of the Open Source Posh and Becks that is him and his awesome wife, Amber Graner.

So, I opened the box and to my utter astonishment I found an array of items all packed inside a patriotic hamper basket:

The box contains a quilt that Amber made with three books chronicling parts of the history of the United States. Laid on the top of the box was an awesome envelope with stars and stripes (even the envelope kept in with the theme) with my name written on it. Inside was a beautifully written letter saying some rather nice things about how I should apply for US Citizenship when I can, and how the things inside the box should help with this.

I was incredibly touched by this gesture from Amber and Pete. It is quite possibly the most thoughtful thing anyone has ever done for me, and I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to both of them. I first met Pete at a managers sprint in London and from the minute we got to know each other, I knew I had just made a lifelong friend. Little did I realize that when I met his wife, that I would get another. Thanks folks, you are both incredible. :-)

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One Year Anniversary

One year ago today, I married the love of my life, Erica. From the minute we went on our first date, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. We instantly developed a close connection; a bond that spans beliefs, interests, ambitions and tastes. Since that day we have not only carved out a life with each other, but grown a partnership that is strong and connected, underlined with a lust for life, experienced and shared together.

When it comes to relationships, I have always been inspired by my parents. They have been together for thirty years and they still hold hands, tell each other every day that they love each other, and put each other at the center of their lives. Erica and I found that connection in each other, and I look forward to spending the rest of my life with her. Bacon is happy. :-)

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