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Andy Smith: On attempting to become a customer of Metro Bank

Tue, 15/04/2014 - 12:51

On the morning of Saturday 12th April 2014 I visited the Kingston Upon Thames store of Metro Bank in an attempt to open a current account.

The store was open — they are open 7 days a week — but largely empty. There was a single member of staff visible, sat down at a desk with a customer.

I walked up to a deserted front desk and heard footsteps behind me. I turned to be greeted by that same member of staff who had obviously spotted I was looking a bit lost and come to greet me. He apologised that no one had greeted me, introduced himself, asked my name and what he could help me with. After explaining that I wanted to open a current account he said that someone would be with me very soon.

Within a few seconds another member of staff greeted me and asked me to come over to her desk. So far so good.

As she started to take my details I could see she was having problems with her computer. She kept saying it was so slow and made various other inaudible curses under her breath. She took my passport and said she was going to scan it, but from what I could see she merely photcopied it. Having no joy with her computer she said that she would fill in paper forms and proceeded to ask me for all of my details, writing them down on the forms. Her writing was probably neater than mine but this kind of dictation was rather tedious and to be quite honest I’d rather have done it myself.

This process took at least half an hour. I was rather disappointed as all their marketing boasts of same day quick online setup, get your bank details and debit card same day and so on.

Finally she went back to her computer, and then said, “oh dear, it’s come back saying it needs head office approval, so we won’t be able to open this right now. Would you be available to come back later today?”

“No, I’m busy for the rest of the day. To be honest I was expecting all this to be done online as I’m not really into visiting banks even if they are open 7 days a week…”

“Oh that’s alright, once it’s sorted out we should be able to post all the things to you.”

“Right.”

“This hardly ever happens. I don’t know why it’s happened. Even if I knew I wouldn’t be able to tell you. It’s rare but I have to wait for head office to approve the account.”

As she went off to sort something else out I overheard the conversation between the customer and staff member on the next table. He was telling the customer how his savings account couldn’t be opened today because it needed head office approval and it was very rare that this would happen.

I left feeling I had not achieved very much, but hopeful that it might get sorted out soon. It wasn’t a very encouraging start to my relationship with Metro Bank.

It’s now Tuesday 15th April, three days after my application was made or two working days, and I haven’t had any further communication from Metro Bank so I have no idea if my account is ever going to be opened. I don’t really have any motivation to chase them up. If I don’t hear soon then I’ll just go somewhere else.

I suppose in theory a bank branch that is open 7 days a week might be useful for technophobes who don’t use the Internet, but if the bank’s systems don’t work then all you’ve achieved is to have a large high street box full of people employed to tell you that everything is broken. Until 8pm seven days a week.

Update 2014-04-15 15:30: After contact on twitter, the Local Director of the Kingston branch called me to apologise and assure me that he is looking into the matter.

About 15 minutes later he called back to explain, roughly:

The reason the account was not approved on the day is that I’ve only been in my current address for 7 months, so none of the proofs of address would have been accepted. Under normal circumstances it is apparently possible to open an account with just a passport. If not then the head office approval or rejection should happen within 24 hours, but their systems are running a bit slowly. Someone should have called me to let me know this, but this did not happen. Apparently approval did in fact come through today – I am told someone was due to call me today with the news that my account has been opened. I should receive the card and cheque book tomorrow.

I’m glad this was so quickly resolved. I’m looking forward to using my account and hopefully everything will be smoother now.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Martin Wimpress: LXC on Arch Linux

Tue, 15/04/2014 - 02:44

At some point last year I was experimenting with Linux Containers (LXC) on Arch Linux. I never finished the blog post but somehow it was briefly published and then unplublished. I have no idea how accurate this blog post is but someone did see it and bookmarked it. They recently emailed me to ask where the blog has disappeared to, so here it is in all its unfinished glory.

Install LXC sudo pacman -Syy --needed --noconfirm arch-install-scripts bridge-utils lxc netctl netctl Bridge

The guest containers will connect to the LAN via a bridged network deviced.

sudo nano /etc/netctl/bridge

Add the following.

Description="Bridge" Interface=br0 Connection=bridge BindsToInterfaces=(eth0) IP=dhcp ## sets forward delay time FwdDelay=0 ## sets max age of hello message #MaxAge=10

Enable and start the bridge.

sudo netctl enable bridge sudo netctl start bridge Creating Containers

I'm only interetsed in running Arch Linux or Debian containers.

Container Configurations

Each container should have a matching configuration file, they look something like this.

lxc.arch = i686 lxc.utsname = myhostname lxc.network.type = veth lxc.network.flags = up lxc.network.link = br0 lxc.network.ipv4 = 0.0.0.0 lxc.network.name = eth0
  • lxc.arch Architecture for the container, valid options are x86, i686, x86_64, amd64.
  • lxc.utsman Container name, should also be used when naming the configuration file
  • lxc_network.type Type of network virtualization to be used for the container. The option veth defines a peer network device. It is created with one side assigned to the container and the other side is attached to a bridge by the lxc.network.link option.
  • lxc_network.flags Network actions. The value up in this case activates the network.
  • lxc.network.link Host network interface to be used for the container.
  • lxc.network.ipv4 IPv4 address assigned to the virtualized interface. Use the address 0.0.0.0 to make use of DHCP. Use lxc.network.ipv6 if you need IPv6 support.
  • lxc.network.name Dynamically allocated interface name. This option will rename the interface in the container.

More example files can be found in /usr/share/doc/lxc/examples/. Find details about all options via man lxc.conf.

Arch Linux sudo lxc-create -t archlinux -n arch-01 -f ~/arch-01.conf -- --packages netctl

I am unable to get DHCP to work for a Arch Linux LXC container, therefore my dirty hack is to alway use a statis IP address in the netctl profile. There is also a bug (#35715) was helpful in narrowing down the problem, but wasn't the solution in my case. Use /var/lib/lxc/CONTAIN_NAME/rootfs/etc/netctl/example/ethernet-static as a template.

sudo cp /var/lib/lxc/CONTAIN_NAME/rootfs/etc/netctl/example/ethernet-static /var/lib/lxc/CONTAIN_NAME/rootfs/etc/netctl/static

Modify /var/lib/lxc/CONTAIN_NAME/rootfs/etc/netctl/static accordingly. Now create a hook, with the same name as the netctl profile.

sudo nano /var/lib/lxc/CONTAIN_NAME/rootfs/etc/netctl/hooks/static

Add the following.

1 2 3 4 5 6#!/usr/bin/env bash if [[ $(systemd-detect-virt) != none ]]; then BindsToInterfaces=() ForceConnect=yes fi

Start the container and enable the netctl profile.

netctl enable static netctl start static Debian Containers.

Install debobootstrap and dpkg so that Debian containers can be created.

packer -S --noedit dpkg debootstrap Squeeze

Create a Debian container, squeeze is the default.

sudo lxc-create -t debian -n squeeze-01 -f ~/squeeze-01.conf

Change the root password.

chroot /var/lib/lxc/squeeze/rootfs/ passwd Wheezy

Much the same as the Squeeze exaple above but use the following template.

Using containers

Start a container

sudo lxc-start -d -n CONTAINER_NAME

Connect to the container and log in:

sudo lxc-console -n CONTAINER_NAME

To halt a container cleanly by the containers initv-system:

sudo lxc-halt -n CONTAINER_NAME

Stop and remove your container always with the two steps:

sudo lxc-stop -n CONTAINER_NAME sudo lxc-destroy -n CONTAINER_NAME References
Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Steve Kemp: Is lumail a stepping stone?

Tue, 15/04/2014 - 00:21

I'm pondering a rewrite of my console-based mail-client.

While it is "popular" it is not popular.

I suspect "console-based" is the killer.

I like console, and I ssh to a remote server to use it, but having different front-ends would be neat.

In the world of mailpipe, etc, is there room for a graphic console client? Possibly.

The limiting factor would be the lack of POP3/IMAP.

Reworking things such that there is a daemon to which a GUI, or a console client, could connect seems simple. The hard part would obviously be working the IPC and writing the GUI. Any toolkit selected would rule out 40% of the audience.

In other news I'm stalling on replying to emails. Irony.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Martin A. Brooks: Buying a custom gaming PC from Overclockers UK

Mon, 14/04/2014 - 17:25

My current workstation and gaming PC is slowly disintegrating. I built it myself from components some 6 years ago and it’s simply wearing out.  Several USB ports don’t work and Windows sometimes bluescreens with errors that suggests bits of the motherboard are getting tired.  I don’t really have the spare time needed to build a high-end PC and make a great job of it, so I decided to treat myself to a pre-built custom system.   After hunting round, I settled on Overclockers as the company to buy from.

Their system configurator didn’t quite give me what I wanted, so I contacted them and asked if they could customise further which they could.   I put together my list of requirements, they send back a price.  I paid, cash wired to their bank account, upfront and sat back and waited for my new shiny liquid-cooled PC to arrive.

The system shipped.  It shipped to the wrong address.  I had provided Overclockers with a billing address and a shipping address.  They shipped to the billing address which is almost guaranteed to be unoccupied during regular working hours.

A simple mistake.  It happens.  I contacted the courier who were unable to redeliver again that day, but promised they would deliver it to the shipping address the next day.

Next day, my new shiny PC arrives.  I opened the smaller of the two boxes, one for spare components and so on, and immediately see a problem.  The spares and cables and whatnots are not branded with anything I specified, wrong motherboard and wrong graphics card.  I call Overclockers who suggest that the component boxes may have been mixed up and can I please open the main box and check. I do.  It’s someone else’s computer.  I later learn that my system has been shipped to somewhere else.  Overclockers’ mistake?  Courier’s mistake?  It doesn’t really matter. Overclockers have a courier come and pick up this system.

Meanwhile, my system makes its merry way back to Overclockers’ HQ and I, confusingly, get an email asking what I’d like done with it.   I suggest shipping it to the shipping address and could I please have an AM delivery so I don’t potentially waste a whole day.  I offered to pay for whatever that was going to cost.  Overclockers said it was no problem.  Super.

My PC finally showed up at Friday 8pm.   The more astute amongst you will spot that 8pm is not exactly an AM delivery.  Overclockers’ mistake?  Courier’s mistake?  I have no idea, the question has not yet been answered.

I unpack my new PC.  The first thing I notice is that there is a bolt rolling around in the bottom of it.  Stuff can come loose in shipping, so what.  I find that the bolt belongs to a radiator housing in the bottom of the case, there’s a hole, a loose radiator and tool marks around the hole.  Not ideal, but the system’s not going to be moved around much so no big problem.  Despite being an SLI system, there was no SLI cable installed linking the graphics cards.  Simple to fix, but a silly thing for an expert system builder to miss.

One of the customised things I asked for was the pre-cabling of some SATA drives bays: one for a blu-ray writer and two for a pair of big SATA disks I use for bulk local storage.   None of these were done.   I call Overclockers about this, and the loose bolt, and they say there’s not much that can be done without returning the system to them.  As I’ve no interest in another game of couriers, I grumble a bit but then do the cabling myself.

Over the next day or so I had almost no chance to really push the new system.  It ticked over happily, was lovely and quiet and lovely to look at too.  On Sunday night, though, the headphones went on, the office door was closed and I got on with a bit of GRID 2, with all the visual effects turned up to maximum.  I settled down for a couple of hours of hard racing.   After about an hour, the screen froze, went black, and all the system fans kicked into life.

I powered off, reached for my mini-torch and opened the case.  What I saw sickened me: liquid coolant leaking from the CPU block, down onto a graphics card and spilling on to the motherboard.  It was impossible to tell whether the CPU had simply thermally shut down or if the coolant had shorted something expensive.  It kind of didn’t matter.

The next morning I called Overclockers who arranged to pick the system up.  I asked if they could sort of the cabling and the loose bolts while they were at it.  They agreed.

A couple of days later, I got an email saying the system had been repaired and was on its way back to me.  The next evening I get a call from the owner of the billing address saying that a courier had tried to deliver something with my name on it.   They had shipped to the wrong address. Again.

I had now run out of patience and I asked for a full refund.   To their credit, Overclockers didn’t argue on this and they said one would be arranged.  As it was convenient for me, I asked to keep the Windows 8.1 licence and the SSD.   As it was convenient for them, I agreed to pay for these again separately, they would then issue a refund for the full amount of the original transaction.  I didn’t ask, but I kind of expected they would simply wire the cash back to my bank account.

After 3 days or so, nothing had showed up, so I called and they said that processing a refund might take up to 7 working days.

Today, 10 days on, nothing had showed up, so I called them and they said a cheque had been issued on the 4th and had been sent to……. you guessed it, the wrong address.  The owner of the address had not had a cheque arrive.

They offered to send a new cheque to the right address.  I suggested they simply wire the money to my account, I was told this was impossible due to the people who would have to do that being in Germany.  No, makes no sense to me either.  I asked if the cheque could be sent by special delivery, for which I was happy to cover the costs.   This was, of course, not possible.

So, 5 weeks after placing a cash order for a high-spec custom PC from Overclockers UK, I have no PC and they have a large amount of my money.

Please consider this post next time you’re thinking of ordering from them.

 

(Update: 15/4/2014:  A handwritten cheque arrived from Overclockers this morning. )

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Debian Bits: DPL election is over, Lucas Nussbaum re-elected

Mon, 14/04/2014 - 07:10

The Debian Project Leader election has concluded and the winner is Lucas Nussbaum. Of a total of 1003 developers, 401 developers voted using the Condorcet method.

More information about the result is available in the Debian Project Leader Elections 2014 page.

The new term for the project leader will start on April 17th and expire on April 17th 2015.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Steve Kemp: Putting the finishing touches to a nodejs library

Fri, 11/04/2014 - 15:14

For the past few years I've been running a simple service to block blog/comment-spam, which is (currently) implemented as a simple JSON API over HTTP, with a minimal core and all the logic in a series of plugins.

One obvious thing I wasn't doing until today was paying attention to the anchor-text used in hyperlinks, for example:

<a href="http://fdsf.example.com/">buy viagra</a>

Blocking on the anchor-text is less prone to false positives than blocking on keywords in the comment/message bodies.

Unfortunately there seem to exist no simple nodejs modules for extracting all the links, and associated anchors, from a random Javascript string. So I had to write such a module, but .. given how small it is there seems little point in sharing it. So I guess this is one of the reasons why there often large gaps in the module ecosystem.

(Equally some modules are essentially applications; great that the authors shared, but virtually unusable, unless you 100% match their problem domain.)

I've written about this before when I had to construct, and publish, my own cidr-matching module.

Anyway expect an upload soon, currently I "parse" HTML and BBCode. Possibly markdown to follow, since I have an interest in markdown.

Categories: LUG Community Blogs

Steve Kemp: A small assortment of content

Thu, 10/04/2014 - 16:34

Today I took down my KVM-host machine, rebooting it and restarting all of my guests. It has been a while since I'd done so and I was a little nerveous, as it turned out this nerveousness was prophetic.

I'd forgotten to hardwire the use of proxy_arp so my guests were all broken when the systems came back online.

If you're curious this is what my incoming graph of email SPAM looks like:

I think it is obvious where the downtime occurred, right?

In other news I'm awaiting news from the system administration job I applied for here in Edinburgh, if that doesn't work out I'll need to hunt for another position..

Finally I've started hacking on my console based mail-client some more. It is a modal client which means you're always in one of three states/modes:

  • maildir - Viewing a list of maildir folders.
  • index - Viewing a list of messages.
  • message - Viewing a single message.

As a result of a lot of hacking there is now a fourth mode/state "text-mode". Which allows you to view arbitrary text, for example scrolling up and down a file on-disk, to read the manual, or viewing messages in interesting ways.

Support is still basic at the moment, but both of these work:

-- -- Show a single file -- show_file_contents( "/etc/passwd" ) global_mode( "text" )

Or:

function x() txt = { "${colour:red}Steve", "${colour:blue}Kemp", "${bold}Has", "${underline}Definitely", "Made this work" } show_text( txt ) global_mode( "text") end x()

There will be a new release within the week, I guess, I just need to wire up a few more primitives, write more of a manual, and close some more bugs.

Happy Thursday, or as we say in this house, Hyvää torstai!

Categories: LUG Community Blogs