ShoreTel LLDP Followup

A while ago I wrote a post about the experience I had setting up LLDP on Cisco switches with ShoreTel phones. Since then I have learned a trick or two and though I’d give a little update.

In the post I mentioned changing the configuration files for the phones on the ShoreTel server in order to correctly set the language and country, thus making the dial tone etc sound correct to end users. Unfortunately, this approach is broken. While it works to start with, we found that ShoreTel overwrites the configuration files periodically and removes the custom settings enter, which is a pain un the UK when the default country for ShoreTel is USA.

To get around this, there are some other configuration files which I was made aware of by our ShoreTel partner. Fortunately though ShoreTel provide some custom configuration files for each phone which are included in the main configuration file. The table below shows which custom configuration file you need for each model of phone.

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So within the c:\inetpub\ftproot\sevgcustom.txt file for the IP 230g phones we use, all we have to do is add the following to the file.

# Please consult Shoreline support before editing or deleting this file

Include “Country_7.txt”
Include “Language_4.txt”

And done. If you reboot a phone, you will see it downloads the sevgcustom.txt file from the server and the language and country settings are all correct.

Don’t forget to change the configuration files for any other model phones you have!

tado – An Honest 1 Year Review.

A little over a year ago I was excited to receive my new tado smart thermostat. When it dropped on the doorstep I couldn’t wait to get it installed and it was actually up and running in less than half an hour before I had to go to work. The instructions provided were tailored to my setup based on the boiler and existing thermostat and were easy to follow, although an “expert” mode would have been nice as I’m familiar with central heating wiring to start with. The included extras were a big plus though, including everythin one might need for the installation. 

Configuration of schedules isn’t as simple as I had imagined it would be. Having to add new sections which tweaked the sections either side of them, which made the process quite tedeous. The only real positive was the fact you only need to spend the time once when first setting up the tado. 

Location based control using the family’s phones worked suprisingly well and was pretty accurate. Not having to worry about turning the heating off before leaving the house was very convenient and having the house warm when we returned improves the whole coming home in the dark after work depression. It also worked well for when the kids return from school before me and the wife, not having to worry about teaching the kids how the heating system works was great.

The thermostat itself is pretty vanilla looking which I suppose makes its integration into your room decor pretty pain free. Unfortunately though, the thermostat isn’t particularly user friendly or responsive. I seemed to find myself standing in front of the thermostat far longer than I used to with the old thermostat, just to turn the temperature up a degree or two. 

Unfortunately the experience continued to decline from there. Tado promised apple HomeKit integration “soon” which was one of the selling points for me personally. There was also talk of an Apple Watch app too, which could have been excused if HomeKit integration was available. After a year of “2nd quarter” then “third quarter” and so on as a release date though I pretty much gave up on HomeKit integration. Then I received an email claiming it would be available within a month and to contact support to arrange a replacement tado bridge to enable it. Then the release was delayed again. Then again. I wish I was exaggerating. It’s even more insulting that they have managed to release radiator valves in the same time frame.

Then came the fabled savings touted on tado’s website. According to their website a house the same age and same size as mine should see over €1,000 saving. I knew this was far fetched, but I wasn’t prepared to see the actual savings I made on gas over the period of 12months. £33. Again, I wish I was exaggerating but unfortunately not. This means my tado cost me £110 in the first year. Nothing like what was implied on tado’s website. 

Last week I received an email from tado reminding me that my next annual subscription was due, which is upwards of £100. After contacting tado to voice my concerns and receiving no reply other than automated “we’re sorry it’s taking so long” messages I was fed up with tado’s customer service. I then emailed them again to tell them to cancel my subscription and send a box to return my tado. I’m yet to receive a response three weeks later. 

While I like the idea of smart thermostats and understand the concept of energy efficiency using technology, tado isn’t a product I would endorse. Don’t get me wrong, it has worked reliably since the day I got it, but the lies, broken promises and lack of customer service to back their technology leaves me disappointed at best. Since central heating is imperative to the comfort and health of my family, tado is now back in it’s box waiting to be collected and there is a nest on my wall in it’s place. At the end of the day, the nest was only £30 more to buy outright than the next annual tado subscription, so it was a no brainier really. Plus it looks way cooler. And it’s easier to use. And the schedule is far superior. 

The Pirate Bay; The Lesser of Two Evils

A few years ago the courts in the UK Ordered that UK block access to the popular torrent site; The Pirate Bay. Fair enough. But was that a wise desicion, or one made by dinosaurs that don’t understand the current digital landscape?

Torrent sites like The Pirate Bay have been an effective distribution vector for malware for years. Non-savvy consumers often Google “(latest movies here) free download” and end up at a site such as TPB to download the latest flick. Unfortunately deviants (pronounced Dick Heads) took notice of this and started seeding infected wares to build their botnets or extort money out of unassuming folk using encryption to lock their baby pictures and cat videos. 

So blockin access to TPB was a good thing, right? I don’t think it was. 

Now when people try to obtain illegitimate copies of software, movies, music etc, they end up at smaller torrent sites, a lot of which are funded by the same deviants that used to target consumers through TPB. 

For slightly more savvy users, TPB is still accessible by googling “TPB proxy” and choosing one of the many proxies available for free. The problem with these proxies is that they too are riddled with malware nasties trying to take advantage of people looking to save a few quid.

So, with Sony’s PlayStation Network sustaining massive DDoS attackes on a regular basis, I can’t help but think that the majority of the infected nodes in the botnet are probably as the result of consumers trying to circumvent the UK TPB block and ending up on a less reputable website. I bet Sony didn’t consider that when they approached the courts to ban TPB. 

This is all speculation of course. I’d bet my last dollar on it being at least partially accurate though.  

Reading a Friend’s Book

Recently a colleague of mine published a short book which he mentioned in passing. I think he was angling for a review. Or maybe it’s a few quid out of my wallet he wanted via Amazon. Either way, the idea of reading a friend or colleagues book got me thinking.

What if I read the book and think it’s shit? Do I tell him to save him the time and energy of writing another book? Or do I spare his feelings and tell him I liked it regardless?

And then there’s the method of obtaining a copy of the book. He obviously has a printed copy of the book for himself. Can’t I just borrow that? That’s what friends and colleagues do with books isn’t it? Or am I expected to go and purchase the book from Amazon at full price to help a budding author on his way to fame? Then is the Kindle edition the right choice being more than half the cost of the paperback? Or will I be considered a cheap skate?

All of these things take time to process before making a decision of whether to read the damned book or not. Maybe I could write a short book about the thought process behind reading a friend’s book.

Did J.K. Rowling mention that she was writing a book about a wizard to friends and family in passing. Did she expect them to buy a copy of the book? Or to review it and tell her it’s shit? If she had, and they had, would one of the most iconic book series of modern society have ever hit the shelves? Would Daniel Radcliffe be on the dole? Would Emma Watson be lusted after by hundreds and thousands of men around the world?

The predicament goes on. Is it really fair to mention things like a book to friends and family and colleagues? Or am I being stupid?

In the end I borrowed the book using the Kindle Owners Lending Library I get access to through my Kindle and Amazon Prime subscription. Oh well Peter, I’m sure Amazon will give you something for the inconvenience. Sorry mate.

As it turns out I though the book was funny and well written and I enjoyed reading it. Although knowing the author is weird. It was almost as if a miniature Peter was in my head reading the book to me. That probably added to the witty nature of the book though. I may suggest an audio book…

If anybody fancies reading about the misfortune of the bloke who is married to a horse lover, the book is called So, The Other Half Wants a Horse… and can be “acquired” from Amazon here.

Why I Like Monzo

I don’t usually like “trendy” companies. I’m not averse to modern upbeat companies in the slightest, it’s more their marketing strategies that I sometimes find obnoxious.

Monzo (Formerly Mondo) is a different kettle of fish though, if you can see past all the emote’s in every single communication released by the company. For anybody that doesn’t know who Monzo are, they are a new banking startup here in the UK looking to revolutionise the was people do banking. You can find more information at their website if you are interested, but I’m going to go through my favourite bits right here.

At the moment Monzo only offer a pre-paid MasterCard that can be topped up via the companion app on my smart phone. This is a reasonable stop-gap until they obtain their full banking license and are allowed to offer current accounts as it gives users an opportunity to explore their app and some of the features they think will change the payment card industry. It also allows them to gather feedback from the community about what they want from a bank.

Instant Transaction View

First of all, within seconds of me making a payment using my Monzo card, the transaction appears in the app. The payment also includes details of where the transaction was made on a map and gives statistics on how much has been spent in total with the retailer. In comparison, my current account with another leading UK bank doesn’t show me debit card transactions in their app for 5 days. They are quick enough to deduct it from my available balance though.

Notifications

The Monzo app sends me notifications for every transaction made using my Monzo card, wether it was in store or online. It event tells me if a transaction was declined for whatever reason, which helps to keep other accounts in order. Notifications seem to be pretty instant too, which is good.

International Usage

Using my card when I travel abroad is great. Instead of my bank charging me a percentage of all transactions plus extra charges for cash in a different currency, Monzo charge me nothing. Not only that, you get a favourable exchange rate as well. In fact, I withdrew €200 while in Amsterdam and I was told the exchange rate instantly. By the time the funds cleared though the exchange rate had fallen, so Monzo gave me the better rate without me even knowing about it. You can’t argue with that sort of service.

Card Freezing

The app allows me to instantly freeze my own card whenever I like. Wether I’ve lost my wallet or simply don’t want somebody skimming the contactless chip in my pocket. This is a very handy feature. I can also defrost my card in the same way when I want to use it.

PIN Reminders

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably forgotten your PIN for at least one card in your lifetime. Usually that involves calling the bank, waiting on hold for 45 minutes, answering your security questions which you have probably forgotten, and then waiting 5 days for a new pin to drop on your door map. It’s just not that tricky in the Monzo app. Simple login, Go to your card settings and click PIN. After presenting my fingerprint to prove it is me, my PIN is shown on-screen. I’d say biometric authentication is more secure than a peice of paper handled by hundreds of hands to get to me any day.

Magstrip Security

Everybody knows the magstrip is the least secure part of a payment card. That’s why it’s disabled by default on Monzo cards. Due to issues with international travellers not being able to use magsrtip only ATMs however, Monzo have added a cool feature in the app to enable the magstrip for 24 hours. Now that an ingenious solution to an outdated technology flaw that won’t go away because of the unwillingness of ATM owners to update their ATMs.

Location Based Security

Another cool feature to help protect users is Location Based Security, Which would help if your card was cloned. Basically, whenever a transaction is made with the card present, Monzo use the location of your smart phone to determine if it was made by you or not.

Conclusion

I think Monzo will do well in the current banking landscape. It’s about time a bank came along that didn’t rely on ancient mainframes, batch processing payments and taking days to clear funds. It’s 2017 and that just isn’t acceptable any more. I noticed some of the big banks claim to not be worried about Monzo. I’m sure Research in Motion said something similar when Steve Jobs announced the first iPhone, and look where it got them.

Personally I can’t wait for them to launch their current accounts so I can lose my legacy banks and start banking in a smarter manner. Let’s just hope they keep to their promises of reasonable charges and fair practices.