com-reg.com closed down

It seems that someone has caught up with the people behind the Commercial Register Scam and com-reg.com has been closed down.

I have long been campaigning to ensure that as many Small Business owners are made away of the scam as well as reporting it to Action Fraud.

Why was com-reg.com closed down?

The actual reason for com-reg.com being closed down is unknown. Either the scammers had their hosting package and domain name shut down due to the nature of the scam, or they decided to move domain names due to the constant bad press associated with the com-reg.com domain name.

Helmut Marko threatens to leave Formula 1…again

Ever since he realised that Red Bull were going to struggle for years to compete with Mercedes, Helmut Marko has been threatening to leave Formula 1. Another year, another threat, because although the Red Bull chassis is excellent the customer Renault engine is crap.

It all started to go wrong in 2013 when a dominant Mercedes  was leaving the Red Bull well behind. Ever since, Dr Marko has done nothing but whinge and whine and makes threats to leave the sport.

The effect on Red Bull if Marko leaves

So what would the effect on the Red Bull F1 team be is Marko was to leave the sport?

Actually, not much.  Christian Horner would still remember how to manage a team, Adrian Newey would still remember how to draw, the engineers would still remember how to be engineers and the mechanics would still be mechanics. The tyre man would still know about tyres. The drivers would still be excellent drivers.

What about money to fund the team?

Anyone who follows Formula 1 closely knows that the real money behind the Red Bull Racing team is billionaire and co-founder of the Red Bull drinks company, Dietrich Mateschitz. With an estimated net worth of over $18billion, and the tax incentives from the British government to hosting his team in the UK, there’s still a bit of pocket money left to help the team along and a lot of reasons to stay in the sport.

Power unit problems

With Mercedes refusing to supply Red Bull with a customer engine, and Ferarri much the same, Red Bull have one major problem on their hands; an under-performing power unit. Whilst the chassis is quick in the twisty sections, it’s overall power is lacking which saw the car fall miles behind Ferrari and Mercedes in the 2017 Spanish Grand Prix.

The problem for Red Bull is that no matter how much they complain in the press, Renault are never going to give the team their upgrades before their own manufacturer team, which would make no sense as Renault try and drag their car near to the front of the grid. Unless a new engine manufacturer enters the sport Red Bull will struggle to find a different supplier.

Ecclestone to make F1 team return?

Meanwhile, former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone is making noises about starting his own team an recently made a suggestion that he would be willing to take over Force India with a “new Brabham team”. If Red Bull were to suddenly find itself in need of a new investor, Bernie might just be the man.

The nightmare of moving business premises with BT

In March 2017 we moved business premises and naturally a part of this process was to have our telephone and broadband internet services with BT moved to the new site. A quick phonecall to BT assured me that this was a simple process: they would simply move the services to the new site. It sounded so simple.

I’ve moved premises with BT before and expected a few minor problems. What I didn’t expect was the fiasco that would shortly unfold and leave my business without the correct services to almost two months.

Phone-line suddenly disconnected

Initially the BT Openreach engineer visited to install our voice, fax and broadband services and everything seemed to be working. That lasted for 3 days before our main business line would suddenly stop working for no known reason. It would be eight days and 3 separate visits from engineers before the phone-line was working. We never got an answer as to why

No PBX line for 7 weeks

Our phone system relied on a private branch exchange (PBX) line which BT sometimes call an “aux line”. Without getting technical, this is a that switches calls between internal lines while allowing all users to share a certain number of external phone lines. The idea being that if someone was already on the phone it would still ring rather than giving the potential customer an engaged tone.

We had 5 visits from Openreach for this. They installed a second physical line, removed lines, changed cables, changed RJ11 ports – the list was endless. We later discovered that this was simply an error on the part of BT for not activating the service.

Poor broadband speeds

When moved to our new premises we were told that we would be supply with a guaranteed download speed of 8.8Mbps. What we actually received was 3.9Mbps. At the time of writing that was still the case.

The promised BT Infinity broadband speed was less than half of what was guaranteed.

Poor quality voice line

From the moment we started using the new phone line the sound quality was very quiet and customers often complained that they couldn’t hear our staff very well. We were told by Openreach engineers that this was because of an old telephone line going through the bridge of a major A road next to our property. This was scheduled to be replaced but, again, it was still faulty at the time of writing.

A Moving Manager without the power or knowledge to do his job

Having moved businesses with BT previously (and experience a poor service) I was quite pleased to see that the organisation had now appointed a ‘Moving Manager’ to oversea our move. I’d hoped that this would result in someone being able to take ownership of problems should they occur. It didn’t.

Although we had a point of contact, the Moving Manager was unable to deal with faults very well at all and it never felt like he was able to take real ownership of the issues. Quite often I would be told that the system didn’t allow him to do something or was out of is control.

In addition, the Moving Manager seemed to have less of an idea of the products available from BT than I did. For example, we wanted a recorded message placed on the old telephone number telling callers we had a new number. Out Moving Manager said this wasn’t a service BT offered – which most of us know is wrong as we’ve all heard those messages at some time or another.

Incorrectly billed

As the problems continued, so did the shock. I opened a bill from BT to see we had been charged over £1600 for “early termination” of our services. Of course, we hadn’t terminated our services we had simply moved them. This was later credited but it was another problem I had to spend over an hour sorting.

BT bill shocker – charged for cancelling service I’d never cancelled

Failure to deal with complaints properly

After 7 weeks of nothing but banging my head against a wall, I decided to place a complaint with BT. Following the procedure on the BT Business complaints website I outlined the details of my complaint.

Two hours later I received a call from BT telling me that I had to call them to report the faults before I could lodge a complaint; something I had already done numerous times already. At this point I lost the plot and hung up.

Call centre staff who could often be impossible to understand

I don’t have a particular problem with companies outsourcing their customer service to other countries. I do have a problem if the staff who are employed are difficult (or impossible) to understand. When you are stressed and feel like you’re fighting to get your services working it’s highly annoying to be faced with someone who you can’t understand or whom can’t understand you.

BT need to make some serious improvements

In my opinion, BT suffers because it is too big so the fact that Openreach and BT are being forced to seperate can only be a good thing for customers. I hope that it will make BT and Openreach more accountable, rather than passing blame. I also hope that it will allow me to move all of my businesses services to a new provider when my contract expires so that I can get away for the monotonous BT customer ‘service’.

 

NHS could be in breach of Data Protection Act over Ransomware attack

NHS ransomware

The recent ransomware attack on the NHS may leave the organisation open to prosecution under data protection laws.

Rumours are circulating that NHS Trusts across the UK are still using the outdated and unsupported Windows XP operating system, for which the creators – Microsoft – ended support in April 2014. Windows XP no longer receives updates from Microsoft including the crucial MS17-02 update which the company said “resolves vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows” the “most severe of the vulnerabilities could allow remote code execution if an attacker runs a specially crafted application”.

In effect, the NHS have left some computers open to attack by using outdated, old and insecure software.

Possible breach of the Data Protection Act

Under the laws of the Data Protection Act (DPA), Data Holders (in this case NHS bosses) are obliged to ensure that any personal data held in relation to patients is kept safe and secure to prevent it falling into the wrong hands.

If a computer system is vulnerable enough to allow hackers to encrypt data within it, then it may also be possible for hackers to obtain personal data about individual members of the public from that system. If personal information was to fall into the wrong hands it would be considered a breach of the DPA an leave the organisation open to prosecution. Historically, large fines have been issued by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) such as those issued against 11 large charities in April 2017.

ICO warned users of XP about data protection laws in 2014

The ICO warned companies against using Windows XP in 2014 in a press release. Simon Rice of the ICO said organisation should migrate away from old systems as quickly as possible as “failure to do so will leave your organisation’s network increasingly vulnerable over time and increases the risk of a serious data breach that your actions could have prevented”.

It seems that some NHS bosses failed to understand the seriousness of the threat.

How the NHS Ransomware attack occurred and how to prevent it

NHS ransomware

On 12th May 2017 the NHS was hit by a ransomware attack which bought many hospitals, GP surgeries and Accident & Emergency departments to their knees. The cyber attack locked thousands of NHS staff members out of computer systems and encrypted data so that records, emails and other documents could not be accessed. By the end of the day, one IT software company said that it had observed over 75,000 infections in 99 countries.

The attack had been predicted by computer experts for years and older technology used in the NHS system left it vulnerable to attack. The hackers initially used spy tool stolen from the United States called ‘Eternal Blue’ to deploy the ransomware.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a computer program which is inadvertently installed onto a computer running the Windows Operating System, usually by a user unknowingly opening an attachment in an email containing the ransomware, downloading it from an email link or by installing software from an untrusted source.

Once allowed onto the computer, the ransomware (in the case of the NHS called WannaCry, WanaCrypt0r 2.0, WannaCry and WCry, encrypts all of the users files and prevents access to the computer. It then attempts to move across a computer network and can infect other computers and file servers on the network as it goes.

Why did the NHS ransomware attack occur?

The cyber attack on the NHS was caused mainly by the use of out-of-date Microsoft Windows operating systems on computers across the country. Although the fight against the hackers who write ransomeware programs is often retrospective, Microsoft did release a security patch to prevent vulnerabilities within their operating system some months ago. However, the patch is unlikely to have been installed on all computers and left those machines open to attack.

This wasn’t a targeted attack; but it was entirely avoidable.

How is ransomware removed?

There are three methods of removing ransomware:

  1. Pay the scammers who installed the software – usually around $300 USD or £230 per infected computer to un-encrypted your files – a bad idea as will be discussed
  2. Remove the ransomeware manually – can be very difficult but is possible
  3. Format the computer’s hard disk entirely and re-install the Operating System from fresh – meaning any files which haven’t been backed-up will be lost

Paying the criminals who write the ransomware is a bad idea for a number of reasons.

Firstly, you have no idea who you are paying and what the funds will be used for. Sure, it might be going to a spotty 20 year old student but you might also be funding illegal activity.

Secondly, paying to have the malicious program removed this time will make you a target for the future; once the hackers know they can get you once they’ll try and get you again. There is also no guarantee that the criminals will remove the encryption once you pay.

Thirdly, there are people out their who can help you remove the ransomeware and you may even be able to do it yourself with a little research, time and effort.

How does an organisation the size of the NHS cope with a ransomeware attack?

The priority for the NHS will obviously be to get computers clear of the infection and files restored as quickly as possible. Presumably the NHS will already have a contingency plan in place for such an attack. If not, someone’s head needs to roll, because an attack of this type has been predicted for many years.

Going forward, every NHS trust will need to look closely at how it implements policies for preventing further attacks, including improving staff training and awareness, ensuring the operating systems are updated as soon as new patches become available and also by considering moving away from Windows operating systems in the future to a more secure system.

How to prevent ransomeware attacks

Ransomware attacks are avoidable and it’s actually very simple to avoid them. By following good computing practice you can protect yourself from becoming the victim of ransomeware:

  • Always ensure that you install the very latest in Windows Updates from Microsoft. Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10 should do this automatically but you can turn updates on manually – Microsoft released an update to prevent ransomware attacks in March 2017 but some users failed to install it
  • Do not use legacy versions of Windows such as XP which are no longer supported, especially of that computer is on a network on has access to the Internet
  • Use antivirus software – there are plenty of free applications available that offer a good level of protect – see do I need to pay for antivirus for more information
  • If you’re techie, consider using a different operating system such as Apple’s OSX or an open-source Linux system such as Ubuntu which are much more resilient to cyber attacks

Ingrown Toenail – living with the ugliest toes in the world

ingrown toenail post surgery

My ingrown toenail saga left me with some of the the ugliest toes in the world.

After playing rugby from the age of 11 and having my feet stamped on various times I eventually ended up with ingrown toenails. This would eventually become infected despite my best attempts to keep them clean. The red, swollen skin surrounding the toenail became angry red and eventually turned into a puss-pumping, stinking mess. Gross.

Not only did they look and smell terrible, but they were also very painful to walk with. At times I could feel the nail cutting into the infected flesh at the sides of my toe.

The first attempt at fixing one of the ingrown toenails was at my local GP surgery. It was a time when doctors still carried out minor procedures at their surgeries and after injecting me with anesthetic in both sides of the toe 14 times (which was extremely painful), the doctor placed an elastic tourniquet around my toe and sliced along the edges of the toenail. He then pulled out the offending nails either side and burned the nail-bed with some sort of acid. The release of pain was instant.

Sadly, the toenail would later grow back – wonky and also grow upwards from my toe!

 

 

Brights pub, Colchester – Memories

I was recently reading a history of Colchester pubs on the Camulos website when I noticed a brief listing for ‘Brights’; a pub which was situated on Straight Road.

The pub had a relatively short life compared to others being open for just 12 years from 1884 until 1996 when poor trade let to be being demolished to make way for a number of homes on the site.

My memories of Brights

Brights was a really important place for me because it’s where I discovered my love of live music. At the age of 12 I saw my first ever live band – Blade Chain – and was instantly hooked (I’ve since gone on to front a number of bands myself).

I was also the first place I discovered being served alcohol underage, the Landlord when I was 12 seemingly careless about servicing me bottle of Kay’s Cider after I’d played along to a song with the band during an interval!

Sadly, however, a lack of business and complaints from local residents eventually resulted in the demise of Brights.

What are you memories? Leave them below…

 

Amazon value of the month – April 2017

This month, Amazon have had their usual crazy offers. Here are some of the best purchases I’ve made:

Lenovo Ideapad 15.6 – loads of great features in this laptop, with Windows 10 and a decent sized 500GB hard drive for just £249, delivered free with Amazon Prime membership.

 

 

The Moonli Multi tool – everything you need for your every day carry and in a sturdy, strong design. Not bad for less than a tenner.

Hoaey shower head review – the cheapest way to transform your shower

Hoaey shower head review

When I first read about the Hoaey shower head I was very skeptical about the claims made by the manufacturer. However, once I read the reviews, I figured that hundreds of positive comments couldn’t be wrong.

Our old Triton enrich really wasn’t up to producing decent pressure anymore

My electric shower was a few years old but like many cold-feed showers was pretty useless. I had thought about fitting a power shower but this would involve lots of new pipework in the bathroom as well as the installation of an electric pump. I could probably manage this myself, but to be honest, I couldn’t be bothered.

So when I saw the Hoaey (and bearing in mind Amazon’s really easy returns policy), I thought I’d give it a go. At the price is seemed a no-brainer not to.

What the manufacturers say

The manufacturer claims that the Hoaey shower head can do lots of things. It claims ionic beads which can remove the chlorine from water and all sorts of other things about better skin.

The Hoaey shower head appears to improve water foaming

I can’t be completely certain about this, but I feel that the Hoaey shower head improved the foaming action of my shampoo. I live in a hard water area where it’s known that certain products struggle to foam, but I feel that there has been an improvement.

Pressure feels much better

Changing the shower head hasn’t altered the pressure that the shower pumps out, but it has improved how the shower feels. And that’s what it’s all about, right? The holes on the Hoaey are much finer than the conventional shower head and that contributes to the perceived pressure feeling much more improved.

Hoaey shower head

Does the Hoaey shower head work on electric showers?

Yes, it does. I found fitting the Hoaey shower head to my Triton Enrich really improved the perceived pressure and gave a much better spread of water. You can also use it on a mixer shower if you have one.

Easy to fit

It’s really easy to fit the Hoaey shower head – it just twists on to the existing pipe with a standard thread and all washers are provided.

Summary

If you’re looking for a low-cost and effected method of imrpoving your shower experience, or looking at a way to update your tired old shower, you need to buy a Hoaey shower head. They really are worth the money.

Why you should Stop reading Parenting books

Why you should Stop reading Parenting books

As a father of two children, one of whom is soon to become a teenager, I’m always surprised by the shear number of books available for expectant mothers and confused fathers. I’m also utterly flabbergasted by some of the utter trite the authors peddle which is why you should stop reading parenting books immediately.

Some of the advice in these books is quite unbelievable, so I’ve decided to use my parenting experience to dispel some of the advice.

Playing white noise to help a baby sleep

This is, in my opinion, utter bollocks. The idea was suggested by a doctor who published a book (obvious money-spinner) and decided that white noise is great for babies as they are used to noise and don’t like quiet environments.

I can count on one hand the times that we struggled to get our children to sleep and when we did have a problem we just played a storybook on a CD player in the bedroom. This would very quickly lull the baby/toddler to sleep; it worked like a charm and I regularly suggest it to new parents who report great success.

Some parents, however, decide to adopt the idea of playing white noise to help the baby sleep. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of hearing one of these devices you’ll know how annoying they are. The baby sleep and everyone else has to put up with a terrible hissing noise that sounds like a 1940’s wireless.

Instead of subscribing to this idea, just make sure you don’t make your home silent when your child goes to bed. Keep the TV or radio on. Have conversations. Cook and do the washing up. Your baby will quickly adapt and as they grow they’ll be used to sleeping in an environment where the rest of the family doesn’t have to tiptoe around as soon as the baby goes to bed.

Setting an ‘optimal’ temperature in the babies bedroom

There are thousands of parents buying baby monitors which not only allow you to talk back to your child but also to consistantly monitor the temperature of their bedroom. This does very little other than add completely uncessary stress to the parents who end up walking around looking at a temperature read-out every 5 minutes.

Throw the thermometer out of the window – you don’t need this overpriced piece of paranoid crap. Humans have this thing called a central nervous system. This built-in system makes you know if you are hot or cold. Walk in the bedroom. If it feels just a tiny bit chilly that’s OK – your child is wearing clothes and has covers on them. If the room feels too warm then the room is too warm; turn the heating down.

It really is that simple and another reason why you should stop reading parenting books.

Don’t leave your baby to cry to sleep

I find this one very interesting. Apparently an ‘expert’ decided that letting a baby cry themselves to sleep will result in separation anxiety or in the child hating you in later life. This theory is now being peddled accross the internet leaving yet more parents in limbo with some parents calling the practice “Victorian”.

Now of course you don’t want to leave your baby to cry if you’re unsure they are safe. Crying can be a sign of pain or illness. Remember though that your baby learns very quickly and will soon realise that if they cry they get attention.

There comes a point where all parents will have to decide whether to let the baby cry it out or not. My advice is this: of you know the baby is doing it for attention then leave them alone and let them cry it out. Yes it’s hard and no one likes to do it but if you don’t then you’ll always be running into the childs bedrrom every five minutes and they will wrap you round their little finger before you have time to realise what’s happened.

There is evidence to support this. Marsha Weinraub, Professor of psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia found that babies should be left to go to sleep on their own, even if that meant they cried for a bit, after conducting research on the sleep patterns of 1,200 children from birth to 3 years.

There is no rule book for parenting.

The above are just some of the reasons why you should Stop reading baby and toddler parenting books. Most of them are written by people to make money, nothing else. Each author is looking for that next trend (fad) to help promote sales.

Instead, use common sense. Speak to friends. Ask your own parents or family. There is no rule book when it comes to being a parent and billions of babies have grown into adults quite safely without silly noises and ridiculous monitors.

Stop buying into these ideas – stop buying the silly books – Why you should Stop reading Parenting books – stop adding unnecessary pressure to your life.

Be a parent. Enjoy it. Don’t stress it.