Tesco Delivery Service

I originally tried to post this message from my mobile phone, on the journey back from Norfolk, but fucked it up and failed miserabley. So here’s a second attempt:

On the way back, in accordance with The Tradition, Claire and I visited Tesco in Wisbech (The Tradition dictates that any Aberite who leaves Aberysywth to visit a real town – defined here as a town that has a Tesco supermarket – they must bring back Tesco cookies [mmmm…] for the folks back in Aber). Well, we have. First come, first served. They’re good, by the way.

In any case, while I was at the checkout at Tesco I was looking at a leaflet which explained the terms and conditions of their “spend £50 on shopping and get it delivered free” deal. The deal states that tobacco products, and baby milk formula products, do not count towards this £50 “free delivery quota”.

Let’s summarise – here are some products available at Tesco, which are available either seasonally or year-round, which you could buy £50 of and have delivered to your door:

  • Fireworks
  • Painkilling mediciation (as far as I can tell, the limit on paracetemol purchases only applies to direct “over-the-counter” purchases, and delivery may provide a loophole)
  • Computer hardware
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Firelighting equipment, including highly-flammable petroleum blocks, firelighting bricks, and lighter fluid

Here are the things you can order online, but which do not count towards your “must order £50 worth of stuff” quota for free delivery, no matter how much of it you buy (even if you buy £50, £100, or £150 worth of a single product):

  • Tobacco
  • Powdered milk for babies

Is it just me that’s a little confused by this? Why can I buy £150 of, say, kiwi fruit from Tesco’s online store, and have it delivered for free to my door, but if I buy £49 of kiwi fruit and £150 of powdered milk, I can’t? But as soon as I replace my mammoth powdered-milk order with, say, nappies… or baby wipes… or jars of baby food… it’s fine?

Is there something about baby milk formula that I don’t know? Perhaps something it has in common with tobacco, that makes the pair of them completely unsuitable for transit to paying customers, regardless of how much they want? No – that can’t be it, because they will still deliver these things, just not for free unless you buy other things, too. Then perhaps it’s an economic thing, and they heavily subsidise their baby formula… but they’ll still let you buy hundreds of pounds of it in-store.

Really; this has me completely baffled: Claire and I talked about it for awhile, and we can’t think of a single reason why they won’t count the value of baby milk formula towards your minimum value for free delivery. So… if anybody can enlighten us, please do.

In other news, we’re back in Aber. Cookies are available. And we’re going to the Ship & Castle this evening and you’re welcome to join us for drinks, discussion about the film, and perhaps a game of Chez Geek or Chrononauts. See you there.

Great Melton and Little Melton

Thought I’d share with you all some pictures of Claire and her dad that we took with his camera while out and about in Norfolk. Click for larger images.

Great Melton and Little Melton

Little Melton

Great Melton

We’ll be back with you Aberites tomorrow evening. I assume that Andy’s blog post relates to Paul‘s inability (or discomfort) with writing lesbian sex scenes for the film script? Perhaps I should offer my services… or, perhaps better yet, JTA could – the man who made a living out of writing erotic literature at high school, I hear.

Long journey tomorrow, and I’ve got a few more bits and pieces to fix over here, first. <sighs>


Claire and I’s grand tour of the United Kingdom brought us yesterday to Terrington St. Clement, near Kings’ Lynn, in Norfolk, where Claire’s dad lives.

As I anticipated, this has resulted in me here, too, helping to repair computers. Claire’s dad’s PC was a mess – Ad-Aware reported 183 malware/adware programs, Norton Anti-Virus reported 10 threats (2 of which were actually installed viruses). I don’t know what the solution is to the problems caused by hundreds of thousands of new people – who do not know about the risks – appearing on the internet, but I hope that somebody works it out soon: even the BBC have started to take notice of the increasing problem of “zombie” networks, particularly in the UK, which lead to denial of service attacks, spam floods, breaches of privacy, and annoying pop-up ads.

And there’s no excuse, really – Windows users can get AVG (anti-virus), ZoneAlarm (firewall), Ad-Aware (anti-malware/adware), Firefox (web browser) and Thunderbird (e-mail client) and be safer by hundreds of orders of magnitude than they are with Internet Explorer and a wide-open pipe. And all of this software is free. With the increase of the awareness of this problem by mainstream news sources, you’d think it would spur people into protecting themselves (just like the coverage of the “War On Terror” by mainstream media made people paranoid about radiological/chemical/biological terrorist attacks). Ah well.

In any case: we’ve been traipsing around North Norfolk, meeting people and eating excessively. I’ve just about recovered from a minor leg sprain I sustained while ice skating in Preston earlier this week, and all is well.

Glad to hear that Sian‘s Troma Night went well (can’t remember where I heard that from). Missing all you Aberites. Hope to see you all soon.


Things achieved so far:

  • Got to Preston in three hours, which is pretty good going. We got stuck behind some idiots who seemed to think that “national speed limit” meant 30mph for awhile, but by the time we got to the big roads it was plain sailing. Without sails. Or a boat.
  • Fixed my dad’s wireless network. He has a wireless network comprising his desktop PC, each of my sisters’ desktop PCs, and an ADSL router. Having recently gotten a new laptop he wanted to connect this to the network, too, so he got an old USB wireless adapter he had and plugged it in. Hmm.. can’t seem to join the network: can see it, but can’t join it. So he goes and buys a new adapter – this time, one which was of the same brand as the ones of which his network was already composed. Nope, still nothing. Eventually, has patience at an end, he borrowed my sister’s adapter… and it worked fine.If you’re a network geek, see if you can think what the problem might be before you read on.

    The problem was that his network had been set up to use MAC address locking – preventing access to the router by anything but a list of particular hardware devices (or, for non-geeks: every piece of networking equipment has a supposedly globally unique number assigned to it when it is manufactured: my dad’s router had been configured only to allow particular numbers to connect to it ). So, it was a simple challenge to allow these new devices access to his network. The net result seemed to be that there was one useless wireless adapter.

    But here’s where things got really silly: it later turned out that his new laptop had a built-in wireless adapter, and he’d never known. All he had to do was actually install the drivers for it (to be fair, you’d think on a pre-built laptop they might have done that for him) and voila: he was on the network… two useless wireless adapters.

  • Installed Firefox as the default browser on all of the IE-default machines we’ve come across.
  • Met the puppies (4), the chickens (3½), the rabbit (1, with 3 others loose somewhere in the scrubland behind the house – kids on the neighbourhood sometimes catch one – at great risk and loss of blood [theirs’, not the rabbit’s] – and ransom it back), and the hermit crabs (2) for the first time. Re-met the dog (1), and the cats (4… 5…? 6??? who knows). My mum’s house is becoming quite the menagerie. I’ll try to get some pictures online before we leave here on Monday.
  • Taught my parents to play Fluxx. My dad turns out to be surprisingly… lucky… at it.
  • Drank mead from the holy isle of Lindisfarne, where my dad has recently been.

By the way – Paul: I’ve left a key to TheFlat with Bryn, so there’s no need to camp out at the cafe all day in anticipation of Troma Night tonight: have a good one, guys!

Right – off to watch Spongebob Squarepants.

All The Fun Of Aberystwyth

Aber‘s great this time of year – late enough that the weather becomes favourable, but early enough that the tourists haven’t arrived. Alec came down the day before yesterday for an interview for the PGCE course he wants to get onto, which was cool, ‘cos I haven’t seen him in a long while, and we barbequed some burgers and sausages on the beach.

Claire and I are off to Preston this afternoon: sadly my gran’s not well and can’t make it there, too, but it’ll be nice to see my family regardless… not to mention the new puppies. As usual, both my dad and Claire’s dad have got various technical things they need fixing while I’m visiting each of them; joy. You’d think going to see my folks might be a break from work, but never mind…

Quote of the day from Alex @ work: “This is Software Engineering…. it’s not… real life!”

Hide and Seek In The Castle

Yesterday, as Claire and I ate our lunch, we had an idea. It was a gorgeous Sunday, warm like Easter break should be, so we thought – why not gather those folks who remain in town for a big game of hide & seek in Aberystwyth Castle. This was great fun last Autumn and the easter before: childish fun, running, hiding, diving over rocks and injuring oneself… fab.

We were surprised at how many people were able to join us: Matt, Katie, Sundeep, Bryn (until he was called away by the prospect of a barbeque with some friends in Llanbadarn), Liz, Andy K (recently discharged from A&E after burning his hand with a frying pan, the idiot), Faye, Andy R, Sian, and a mystery girl called ‘DD’.

We played until the sun went down, which always makes the game extra-fun and challenging, then retired to Kanes’ for beer (or whiskey) and chit-chat. By the end of the evening, the pub was ours alone.

Other people have things to say about the evening, too:

Dan And Claire’s Grand UK Tour

Well, the plans are set now.

On Thursday night (or Friday), Claire and I will be travelling up to Preston to spend the weekend with my folks. Hopefully my gran will be able to make it down, too. We’ll also get a chance to look at the new puppies (pic 1, pic 2, pic 3), who’ll be barely two weeks old by that point.

Then, on Monday, we’ll travel down the country to Norfolk and spend a few days with Claire’s dad, returning to Aber on Thursday (31st March).

Of course, this means that we won’t be around for Geek Night on Friday (which is cancelled) or Troma Night on Saturday (which Paul is taking charge of).

By the way – you’re (probably) looking at the new ‘style’ of my weblog. Comments welcome.

Seymore Butts

Is this actor real? Seymore Butts (say it out loud) is listed on the IMDb, director of such films as Anal Surprise Party, Female Ejaculation Review, and Tongue In Cheeks, as well as over 60 other films. Also performed in 50 films… most of which don’t have an IMDb score…

…so it’s an anonymous pornstar with a thing for doing it up the arse, big deal. But here’s the interesting thing: he was most recently in a film called Slaughter Party, which also starred… Lloyd Kaufman.

The world is a funny place.

In related news, you can read the full story of Will Keenan‘s appearance on the Troma Night bulletin board, including a video we sent back to him and Lloyd, thanking them, on a special thread we set up. Have fun!

The Starling

I have a hard time believing that this story is true: it’s just too crazy – but the photos are good and hard to forge without more resources than your average internet prankster. So, here’s the tale as it was told to me…

There’s a company in the States that sells automatic car washers as a complete solution, including the washing system, cash box, installation of the building, etc. These are completely automated: you drive up, put your money into the machine, then drive through.

In any case; after the installation of a particular one of these machines, the owner noticed that the return from the machine was not so much as should be expected. Diagnostics were run and the cash processor seemed to be okay, so everybody was at a loss. The owner even went so far as to accuse the supplier’s staff of having keys to his cashbox, and returning to the scene to steal the money.

Eventually, at his wits end, the owner set up security cameras to try to catch the thief in the act. Here are some stills from the footage:

Starling on the coin return slot.
The first image. Yes, that’s a starling that’s just landed on the coin return slot.

Starling entering the coin return slot.
And there’s the starling, wriggling in to the coin return slot, where, presumably, it’s pushing it’s way up into the cash box through the return chute.

Starling with coins in beak, leaving the coin return slot.
The starling with some coins!

Starling wriggling free of the coin return slot.
The starling’s dropped a couple of coins, but is still wriggling to get free of the slot with it’s remaining prize.

Apparently, they later determined that it was not one, but several, birds who were robbing the car wash. Following them discovered a cache of loose change on the roof of the car wash and beneath an exposed root of a nearby tree.

So; what do you think – real or fake?

Physical Device Fingerprinting Over TCP

A PhD student in San Deigo has written a fascinating paper which will spook internet anonymity freaks – Remote Physical Device Fingerprinting – which describes how a physical computer can be uniquely identified on the internet, regardless of operating system, IP address, or data sent, just by looking carefully at it’s TCP packets (which contain the data for a large amount – perhaps a majority – of the internet’s traffic, including all web and e-mail traffic).

The technique works by observing the deviation in the timestamps sent (in accordance with the widely-adopted RFC 1323: TCP Extensions for High Performance, specified back in 1992). Each computer’s hardware clock is made from a separate piece of quartz, and each quartz crystal is unique in it’s imperfections. By measuring these imperfections across the internet, it’s possible (with enough sample data) to identify a computer individually, which has implications both good (computer forensics) and bad (anonymity).

The paper itself [PDF] is well worth reading. And, for those that are paranoid about their anonymity online, here’s how to “turn off” this feature of TCP for Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Linux:

  • Windows 2000/XP – Run RegEdit; navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\Tcpip\Parameters; add (or edit, if already present) the DWORD “Tcp1323Opts” to 1. This disables TCP timestamps, but leaves Window Scaling (a really useful TCP/IP enhancement) enabled.
  • Linuxecho 0 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/tcp_timestamps

Of course, the absence of timestamps from your machine may, if you’re in a small enough sample group, single you out even more, but at least you’re not globally unique any more; which from an anonymity perspective is a really good thing.