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The lights go off, broadband drops out, the TV freezes … and nobody knows why (spooky music) • The Register

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Something for the Weekend, Sir? Bzzz. The number of the incoming call is “Unknown”. I reject it, obviously. While I am intrigued by the idea of receiving mystery calls from The Unknown, they are disappointing to answer.

Bzzz. This guy’s insistent: it’s the fourth time he’s tried to call in the last minute. He must really want me to install that new kitchen / swimming pool / solar panels / conservatory / sheep farm / fibre broadband / large hadron collider.

Hang on. Fibre broadband… that rings a bell.

My doorbell rings. On the doorstep is an impatient broadband engineer holding a mobile phone with “Call rejected x 4” on its screen. I love it when idioms go literal.

He has come to look at my connection because there is a fault. I don’t have time for this: I have an imminent appointment for something or other coming up in my calendar. As if to prove it, I instinctively wake up my smartphone to show him, trying to act casually as I swipe away the “Reject call x 4” notification. See? I have an appointment right now.

It reads: “Broadband engineer visit.”

Ah yes, it’s all coming back to me. I had settled down to watch the final match of the postponed Euro 2020 football tournament on Sunday night and my cable TV service froze at the moment of kickoff. Well of course it did. I am used to this. My cable TV service delivers 900 channels of unwanted reality shite 24 hours a day in UHD without a glitch, but on the fleetingly rare occasions when I might actually want to watch something that interests me, it goes TITSUP*. It’s all part of the game of life.

Sod’s Law demands a prescribed process before arriving at an out-of-court settlement. First you have to restart your set-top box; when this doesn’t work (it won’t), you restart your router AND your set-top box; when this doesn’t work (it won’t), you switch off both your router and set-top box and disconnect the cables and wait for two minutes before reconnecting and restarting; and so on.

I eventually brought the TV stream back to life by switching off and disconnecting everything, turning out the lights, leaving the cold tap in the kitchen sink running, turning around three times while repeating the words “sempiternal acquiescent” aloud, stepping outside, locking my front door, unlocking my front door again, going back inside, turning around three times in the opposite direction while repeating “ornithological redamancy”, stopping the running tap, turning the lights back on, and reconnecting and restarting everything.

I actually had to do this twice as first time round I accidentally got the “turning out the lights” and “leaving the cold tap running” steps in the wrong order.

Ah, home fibre broadband. The service that’s open to all.

Photo of unattended roadside telecoms cabinet with its door wide open

‘Fibre broadband – accessible to everyone!’ Quite literally as you can see here.

Doing all of this at least salvaged enough miserable bandwidth to witness the second half of the match in SD, plus extra time and even the England team’s long-term contractual obligation to lose on penalties. Luckily, my team had already beaten Germany a week earlier, so I was spared from having to watch either of the team managers indulge in Touchline Scratch-and-Sniff. That kind of thing really puts me off my beer and Doritos.

On one of the two occasions while I was momentarily standing outside my own front door that night, some passersby looked suspiciously in my direction, so I pretended to be checking my smartphone for something that would validate my reasons for loitering on a doorstep while wearing pyjamas.

Brainwave. I decided to take the opportunity to report the loss of service to my fibre broadband provider via the wonders of 4G. I accepted the automatically assigned engineer appointment three days’ hence, and promptly forgot all about it somewhere between the latter part of extra time and Marcus Rashford’s dazzlingly improvised Riverdance during the penalty shootout.

Before that, the last time I sat down in front of the TV just to watch a sports final was for the Six Nations rugby competition in March. A mere three seconds into that match, the TV went blank. To be fair to my broadband provider, so did the lights and all other electrical devices throughout the house, and indeed the neighbouring streets.

I ended up watching the remainder of that match on my smartphone. I know da kidz prefer to watch movies and stuff that way, but not me. You lose some of the grandeur of a major sporting occasion when part of the chilli tortilla chip you’re munching falls onto the screen and obscures half the playing field.

While I was thrilling at the sight of 30 tiny men battling over the one-millimetre ball on my smartphone, Mme D phoned the electricity company to ask when the power would be restored. They thanked her for letting them know there had been a power cut.

“Glad to be of service,” she said. “Contact me if you need further assistance, quoting the code YU55L355BGGR5.”

The power came back the moment the referee blew the final whistle.

Right now, though, the broadband engineer has finished resetting the line at the wall and my lovely personal two-way gigabit per second is restored. As he leaves, I ask him if the problem was due to something I had done.

“No.”

Did you have to replace any connectors or cabling? “No.”

Was there a local dropout at the provider? “No.”

So what caused it? “Dunno.”

That’s the problem with technicians: they try to fob you off with jargon.

I am reminded of the two occasions when I booked an appointment with my water company to fit a water meter. Both times they sent a contractor who asked me whereabouts the supply pipe entered the house. I told them I had no idea. Didn’t they know? Apparently not. So on both occasions they left without doing anything.

It was only later that I wondered what would have happened if I stopped paying my water bill. They’d send someone over to my house to cut me off, I imagine. They would ask me where the supply pipe entered the house. I would tell them, truthfully, that I still have no idea. Neither would they, of course, so they’d just have to leave, their grim task unfulfilled, and leaving me with free water forever.

Another part of the game of life, I suppose.

Still, my cable TV’s all sorted now. So I give you fair warning: if you hear about an earthquake, tsunami or aeroplane crash in my neck of the woods, it’ll be because I’m trying to watch the Olympics. ®

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Alistair Dabbs

Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling tech journalism, training and digital publishing. He is a floating sports fan who shamelessly flips his support between national teams according to convenience. This is what it is to be a Scottish Englishman living in continental Europe. More at Autosave is for Wimps and @alidabbs.

* Television In Total Suspension – Unavailable Picture



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CEOs told to ‘think before they tweet’ after Just Eat spat with Uber | Twitter

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Chief executives are being warned to “think twice before they tweet” after the boss of takeaway company Just Eat Takeaway was told his Twitter spat with Uber threatened to undermine the firm’s reputation.

Jitse Groen this week became the latest in a growing list of chief executives to be rebuked by customers, investors and even regulators over ill-judged tweets.

Cat Rock Capital Management, an activist investor which has a 4.7% stake in Just Eat, highlighted Groen’s Twitter battle with Uber boss Dara Khosrowshahi as an example of outbursts that damaged the brand. The investor said Groen’s tweets had partly led to the firm being “deeply undervalued and vulnerable to takeover bids at far below its intrinsic value”.

Earlier this year Groen had a rant at financial analysts on Twitter, claiming that “some can’t even do basic maths”. He tweeted that he was “amazed how bad these analysts have become … All of them mix up definitions. It’s unbelievable.”

Brand and marketing expert Mark Borkowski said Groen’s case highlighted the difficulty executives face when trying to engage with customers on the platform.

“Everyone sees Twitter as a huge marketing opportunity that can drive a business forward, and it really can,” Borkowski said. “But these bosses must stop and think twice before they tweet, as just one misjudged tweet can send their share price plunging.”

Possibly the most expensive tweets ever sent were posted by Elon Musk, the maverick boss of electric car company Tesla, in 2018. The US Securities and Exchange Commission fined Musk and Tesla $20m each after he tweeted that he had “funding secured” to take the company private at $420 a share. The regulator said the tweet, which sent Tesla’s share price up by as much as 13%, violated securities law. As part of the settlement, Musk was ordered to step down as Tesla’s chairman.

Musk’s tweets continued to anger some investors. Pirc, an influential adviser to shareholders including the UK’s local authority pension funds, last year recommended that investors voted against Musk’s re-election to the Tesla board because his tweets posed “a serious risk of reputational harm to the company and its shareholders”.

Pirc said his controversial outbursts on Twitter had cost Tesla millions of dollars in settlements, but Musk easily won the vote, and has continued to tweet several times a day to his 59 million followers.

“Twitter is all about personality,” Borkowski said. “While Musk’s tweets can be very controversial, they fit with his brand. Twitter is perfect for renegades, mavericks and disruptor brands. It’s much harder for well-established brands with solid reputations, if something goes wrong for them they risk damage to their hard-earned brand.

“People now think that to run a successful business, you have to be on social media and every brand has to have a Twitter account,” he said. “The chief executives see that the bosses of their rivals have a Twitter profile, and they feel they have to have one too.”

Borkowski said some bosses have been very successful at building a presence and personality on Twitter, and using their platforms to promote social issues such as LGBTQ+ rights and the Black Lives Matter movement (as well as promote their brand and products).

James Timpson, the chief executive of cobbler Timpson, this week celebrated passing 100,000 followers on his account on which he weaves photos of his colleagues working in shops with posts tackling tax avoidance and prisoner reform.

This week, he responded to Boris Johnson’s proposal to create “fluorescent-jacketed chain gangs” of people found guilty of antisocial behaviour with a tweet suggesting offenders should be helped into work instead.

Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple, has won praise for using Twitter to successfully pressure the governor of Indiana into revising proposed legislation that had threatened to allow discrimination against gay people on religious grounds.

Researchers at Harvard Business School and Duke University said Cook “effectively framed the debate using social media at a time when opinions were being formed and the impact went beyond the political”.

Borkowski suggested that before chief executives tweet they should “consider whether they have the personality and temperament to get the tone right each time”.

“There is nothing more inelegant than a chief executive going after rivals publicly on Twitter,” he said.

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It was exactly that sort of behaviour that Cat Rock had accused Groen of undertaking. When Uber Eats announced earlier this year that it would take on Just Eat in Germany, Groen lashed out in a tweet directed at Khosrowshahi, accusing him of “trying to depress our share price”.

Khosrowshahi replied that perhaps Groen should “pay a little less attention to your short term stock price and more attention to your Tech and Ops”. That sparked Groen to reply “thank you for the advice, and then if I may .. Start paying taxes, minimum wage and social security premiums before giving a founder advice on how he should run his business”.

Alex Captain, Cat Rock’s founder, said: “The response should not happen on Twitter. It should happen on a credible forum with the facts, data, and analysis that the company has at its disposal.”

A Just Eat spokesperson said: “Just Eat Takeaway.com has a regular dialogue with all its shareholders and we take all their views very seriously.”



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AWS to retire classic EC2 – the compute service that started the IaaS rush • The Register

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Comment Amazon Web Services has announced the retirement of its third cloud service: the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, aka EC2 Classic.

A July 28 post by AWS Chief Evangelist Jeff Barr explains that the service was superseded in 2009 by Amazon Virtual Private Cloud, then again by Virtual Private Clouds for Everyone in 2013.

Barr’s post explains that customers who signed up with AWS since December 4, 2013, couldn’t use EC2 Classic unless they specifically requested it. The bulk of AWS customers will not, therefore, be inconvenienced by the service’s retirement.

Those that do use the service need to be on their toes, because AWS has set a deadline of August 15, 2022 – after which it expects “no remaining EC2 Classic resources present in any AWS account,” and all migrations to something else will be complete.

As a reminder, on October 31, 2021, AWS will disable EC2 Classic for accounts that don’t use the service and stop selling reserved instances. Barr writes that AWS will work with customers to make those migrations as easy as can be.

“We don’t plan to disrupt any workloads and will do our best to help you to meet these dates,” Barr explains.

The AWS man also reminisces about how EC2 became a big hit, fast. “We helped Animoto to scale to a then-amazing 3,400 instances when their Facebook app went viral,” he writes.

AWS has scaled things rather higher since: in 40th place on the June 2021 update to the Top 500 list of Earth’s mightiest supercomputers was a 172,692-core machine that ran for just 24 minutes in the Amazonian cloud.

EC2 was AWS’s third service. It debuted in August 2006, after the March 2006 debut of the Simple Storage Service and the July arrival of Simple Queue Service.

That all three sparked a vast and important change in business computing is not in dispute. Service providers had previously rented remotely-located compute and storage, but AWS made them more accessible and scalable than predecessors. AWS prices were also shockingly low – in a good way – and its services took off.

The Register cannot think of an enterprise computing product or vendor that has not been influenced by AWS and EC2. Makers of on-prem IT have all striven to become more cloud-like ever since EC2 debuted – both in terms of the user experience and by charging for consumption rather than up-front. Whole new software development and deployment practices have emerged to take advantage of elastic resources sold as-a-service.

EC2 has also left a cultural footprint, as the likes of Netflix realized that cloud computing offered previously unavailable possibilities.

AWS brings in more than $50bn of annual revenue, and is widely regarded as the dominant force in cloud computing.

Barr’s post states that AWS will give EC2 Classic “a gold watch and a well-deserved sendoff!”

The service deserves that, and more. ®

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Got an idea for the future of science in Ireland?

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The Creating Our Future initiative is seeking 10,000 ideas on which to base Ireland’s next science and research agenda.

The Government of Ireland is hosting a ‘national brainstorm’ to guide the future of science and research in the country.

First announced last month, a nationwide conversation about research and innovation has officially kicked off today (28 July) at CreatingOurFuture.ie.

The online portal aims to collect 10,000 ideas from a broad section of the Irish public. It will be open for submissions from now until the end of November.

‘Nobody has a monopoly on good ideas’
– SIMON HARRIS, TD

“Covid-19 has highlighted, like never before, the vital role that research has played in mitigating challenges facing the country,” said Minister for Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD. “But we have many more challenges and opportunities that research rigour and analytical excellence can help us with to build a better future for Ireland.”

Harris added: “Good ideas and curiosity are the starting point for most research, and nobody has a monopoly on good ideas. So, we are asking everyone to submit that idea that they have been thinking about, or have a conversation with their neighbours, host an event with a researcher or in your local community to think about what might make a difference and let us know.”

Events will be held across the country until the Creating Our Future ideas portal closes, inviting and encouraging citizens and communities to engage with the project.

The national initiative is itself an idea borrowed from similar efforts in other countries. A key inspiration was a programme driven by FWO, the Flanders research foundation. Launched in the spring of 2018, its Question for Science campaign received 10,559 responses, and has returned answers to more than 1,500.

These questions formed the basis of the Flemish Science Agenda, a strategy for science and innovation that is built on societal issues and citizens’ curiosity. Questions asked of FWO included ‘What is the effect of the 24-hour economy on psychological health?’ and ‘How can we avoid war and violence?’.

The Irish effort is hoped to deepen relationships between the Irish science community and the public it serves, and the resounding call from organisers is for all to participate.

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“This is an important opportunity to contribute to shaping future research. I encourage everyone to get involved,” said Taoiseach Micheál Martin, TD.

“This isn’t for any one section of society, we want to engage everyone in conversations in communities across the country, to inspire curiosity and generate ideas for research that will shape our future.”

All responses submitted to the portal will be collated and shared with an independent expert panel of researchers and civil society leaders.

There is also a Creating Our Future advisory forum chaired by Nokia Bell Labs global head of external collaboration programmes, Julie Byrne. In this role, Byrne brings researchers together for collaborative work and she herself has almost 30 years’ experience in engineering, tech and research.

“Over the coming months we will have many conversations about research across the country to gather ideas from our communities that research can tackle to create a better future for all of us,” she said. “I encourage everyone to get involved so that we capture ideas from all communities across the country.”

The results of the campaign will be published in a report by the end of 2021. This will go on to inform Ireland’s future strategy for research, innovation, science and technology.

Previously, Science Foundation Ireland’s director of science for society called on Irish citizens join a mass public debate about lessons learned throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr Ruth Freeman spoke at Future Human in 2020 about the importance of including the voice of the public in shaping the future of science.

“Giving people more of a say in their future is clearly the right and democratic thing to do, and it might just make for better science as well,” she said.

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