The above happened while I was working from home, having started work at 6 am and was about to knock off for the day.

The problem is that this is a regular occurrence with my neighbours who leave their dogs in the house all day. I’d come home around 8pm and their dogs will bark and howl until about 10 pm when they come home. While that’s a perfectly normal thing for most dog owners, I’m sure the barking and howling isn’t – and is likely due to behavioural elements that could be improved with training.

I’ve said nothing so far, but I feel it’s about time I said something, as it’s entirely possible they don’t even know this is happening.

Could be worse, though. I remember when the former occupants were doing up the place and I had to suffer through the following (a remix from various sound that I turned into an iPhone alarm):

Yesterday, Hive Home suffered a major outage which prevented control of Hive systems remotely (from the app or the web site). Symptoms included being unable to log into the Hive web site and the app being able to control individual products.

Update: information on the recent outage can be found at The Register. I never received the apology email. No, it did not get sent to Spam. Checked G Suite’s email log. Nothing except the semi-regular updates which had been flowing normally since 14th March.

As you can see the Hive Home status page (which took them a while to update), it has been a rough ride. But thankfully the thermostat and the receiver continued to work manually. The lights? Not so much. Even now, the group of lights which I’ve allocated to my living room doesn’t appear in the circle view (yet they do in the list view) – but then again, I had to recreate the group because whatever is causing this problem nuked my groups.

Given the number of problems I’ve experienced with Hive Home over the past month or so, I am increasingly concerned that my decision to swap out my thermostat with the Hive system (which cost me £50 more than the quoted repair from British Gas) was a bad one.

Speaking of Centrica’s muck-ups, did I mention that I should have HomeCare with my boiler? I don’t appear to because:

  • No documentation was ever sent in the post, with the exception of confirming of cancellation of another HomeCare account which was created in error due to the circumstances of the thermostat being broken and they had to charge £99 for the call out first. It took Centrica THREE months to get that cancellation confirmation out.
  • No direct debits have been taken in respect to any HomeCare subscription, and never has any Direct Debit been established.
  • No options within my British Gas account as to any options relating to HomeCare.

The irony of all of this is that I’ve switched to a British Gas product with basic boiler and pipe protection and having had all this confirmed in emails, would suggest that HomeCare was never truly established on my account in the first place. Even worse – when the tarrif change was confirmed, the emails neglect to publish my address properly – having had previous British Gas correspondence sent to the wrong address in the not too distant past, this worries me.

In short: Centrica – sort your systems and processes out. They’re buggy, inconsistent, and horribly unstable.

In other news: I shall be shortly shouting big time at Sky who have charged me an early termination fee for Sky Broadband despite telling me by phone that I would not be charged an early termination fee for cancellation because (a) I was out of the minimum contract term and (b) I was eligible to cancel without penalty anyway because they announced price rises for their broadband.

Is it just me? As technology marches on, it gets buggier, less reliable and ultimately becomes a burden. It’s like a stupid SkyNet. Terminator 27: Stupid Day.

I like technology when it works. But when it doesn’t, which is often, I feel the time and money spent on it could have been put to better use.

For the past couple of weeks, my British Gas Smart Meter has been somewhat unreliable. One evening it disconnected itself from the network. I assume that there was a problem with the 3G connection which caused the problem, but it was off for a good number of hours. It came back online the following morning, thankfully.

The same thing happened yesterday, but it also took down the Hive system too. Okay, I doubt is what actually happened, but it’s very spooky that both issues happened at the same time…

The computer says no…

When I went to check the boiler, the Hive receiver had a right light..

Choose life. Choose a replacement thermometer from Worcester Bosch. Choose a Hive thermostat from British Gas…

What followed was a series of multiple reboots of the Hive hub, multiple re-pairings of the receiver (shown above) and the thermostat, and while the receiver and the thermostat eventually talked to each other again, the app/hub wouldn’t acknowledge that the heating system was online. The app kept showing heating as being offline, but I could still operate the thermostat directly.

So I had to work from home today to give Hive technical support a call. They had me go through the same process, but they had to get the Hive hub (which is connected via ethernet via a switch which, in turn, is connected to the Netgear router) to re-pair as well. I’m not sure whether this is something that only Hive technical support can do, but there certainly wasn’t any user instructions that I could find to do this.

And this leaves me rather concerned. Hive technical support can look at my existing devices and turn them on or off. You are effectively handing control of your home to a third party. I’m now quite concerned about taking out any additional Hive products – especially the security cameras.

Anyway…

The technical support agent got everything re-paired again. Only to find out later that the app was out of sync with the thermostat. So I called Hive technical support again and was advised to reboot the hub. Which resolved the issue. They also upgraded the firmware of the hub. Which involved another reboot. But – touch wood – this has resolved the issue and everything is working as before.

When I left university, my first job was working at a local company in Norwich that specialised in building, selling and repairing PCs. I learnt to build a PC from scratch – installing the motherboard, CPU, RAM, hard drives and CD-ROM drives and how to diagnose problems with existing systems. But the overall goal was to set-up a local Norwich dial-up ISP and offer other services such as web design and hosting. Thanks to having some experience with Linux, I got the job of running the ISP. I did the lot: building servers, running them, writing software for dial-up set-ups, providing technical support and finally web design for clients.

Norwich’s third ISP, Albatross Networks Ltd.

At the time (this was around 1996/1997), there were a few big national ISPs. Demon Internet was one of them. It was a techie’s dream ISP in many ways – it offered unfettered access to Usenet, gave you a static IP for free, provided a comprehensive internet web/email client (Turnpike) and a subdomain of your own choosing in which you could use to receive email to as many email addresses as possible.

For example, if you had a username of wibbler, your hostname would be wibbler.demon.co.uk. You could have [email protected], and you’d be able to use Turnpike or some other third party email program to filter incoming mail. This was all before spamming and phishing became a real problem.

Albatross’ front page. Which I designed. Badly. Hey – computers had much lower resolutions in those days, and you wouldn’t have seen that overlap! 😉

I implemented a similar system at Albatross (no static IPs though). Demon was the ISP that I wanted to emulate. And as of today, Demon Internet has been given its death sentence by current owners, Vodafone. RIP, Demon.

It’s almost everybody’s New Year resolution to get fit. Stay off the booze, eat more healthily, etc. etc. But in my case, it’s truly a resolution that I intend to keep.

For most of my adult life I’ve always been quite “bulky”, but over the past few years I’ve been putting on the pounds. And it has been worrying me.

The good old days when I used to speed walk to Woking (3 miles)

This wasn’t always the way. When I was working for my last employer, they very kindly provided an electric pushbike that I used extensively during the time we were based in Guildford. I lost a lot of weight and was much slimmer than I am now – and before that too.

2018. Scruffy fat git.

But in the remaining year or so at my last employer, and the first year and a half at my current employer, I must admit I haven’t been looking after myself as much as I should be doing. Though the weight hasn’t been that much of a change, I have gone up several sizes in T-shirts and trousers.

So towards the end of last year, a work colleague prompted me (and others) to start getting into shape. We started a 5K club. The 5K being steps, not mileage. The aim is to walk at least 5k steps at lunchtime – preferably at a fast pace. We had a couple of sessions and I must admit I found it a bit of struggle at first.

So this prompted to make additional changes – I’ve completely cut out soda. I’ve been a long term drinker of Diet Coke and Pepsi Max. Rarely drunk tea. Drunk lots of Starbucks and Costa Coffee daily. I gave up regular coffee shop drinking long ago (when I added up how much I was spending!), though I will admit to having one or two very infrequently. I now stick with tea, regular shop bought coffee (and even then, it’s occasional), and water. Fizzy spring water is acting as a go-between while I readjust to non-sparking spring water.

As the work 5K club has gone on, we’re supporting each other more. Another work colleague has recommended Berocca (or the Boots equivalent, Revive) which provides a bit of an energy boost as well as providing vitamins and minerals. It comes in tablet form and dissoves into water. So I’ve had that every day for a week now. I also take cod liver oil tablets and Glucosamine Sulphate for joints.

This along with walking up a steep hill every day, along with getting out and about more has really been helping. I’ve been feeling great over the past few days and hope to keep it up. In terms of meals, I’ve cut potatoes out as much as possible and have increased things like carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and green beans. I’ve also added baked beans into my diet more too. I have two meat dishes per week, with the rest of the meals using meat substitutes. I also have rice, often from an Uncle Ben’s packet. Breakfast is usually Chocolate Shreddies (yes, I know) and lunch is home made sandwiches (ham, roast chicken, Quorn chicken slices or similar) along with a couple of satsumas for deserts.

This is quite the far cry from takeaways of the past (one of the 5K club members has had similar experiences). On-call is such that it isn’t too much of a problem anymore. I work from home one day a week.

I monitor my progress through my Apple Watch series 4 watch which records the steps and calories. My Withings Body smart scales record weight and send it through to Apple Health so I have a complete record of activity throughout the day.

Hopefully we’ll start to see improvements over the next few weeks and months. My colleague has already said that she’s seen an improvement in me since we started, so I must be doing something right! I’m aiming to get a pedal exerciser or even an exercise bike so that I can do some workouts at home (and at work – pedal exercisers are cheap and portable).

At the age of 42, staying fit and healthy is now a priority if I’m likely to see 43, 44, 45, 46 and so on. I can only see now that it doesn’t have to be terrible – and having a support network around you only boosts and helps you get better at it.

Here’s to a healthier 2019!