Sip2Sim and the OnePlus Two

Andrews and Arnold do an interesting service where they supply a SIM card which connects to VOIP at their end. Annoyingly, they don’t have a sensibly usable set of 07… UK mobile numbers they can route onto VOIP to go with the service, but since my OnePlus Two has two SIM slots, that seemed like a way to give it a punt…

Double SIM carding it ... like a pro

Double SIM carding it … like a pro (this is the drawer from the OnePlus Two)

The particular variant of SIM I ordered (O2/EU Voice) doesn’t push out to Nano SIM, instead requiring a pair of scissors and a steady hand (or a proper tool, but who has one of those?) As you can see from the picture, I got away with the scissors and it even worked afterwards:

Custom network name and two signal strength indicators

Custom network name and two signal strength indicators

Android has some pretty impressive native support for more than one SIM, and shows two signal strength selectors as you’d expect. As you can see at the top left, the SIM networks (operator names) are shown with a pipe separating them. For some reason you can’t fiddle with this on the control pages, but you can set it when ordering and contact support to alter it.

I ordered a London number on AAISP’s VOIP service to go with the SIM, and that all works as expected. Texts are a bit clunky (presenting as from “SIP2SIM”), but it looks like that may be configurable/changable.

Mobile data appears to go via NAT and emerge from an IP address registered to Manx Telecom.

The two things I really wanted to play with are setting up my own Asterisk again, and using the roaming to get decent data on the train up north. I’ll report back when I’ve had a play.

Station parking

I’ve parked in the long stay at Didcot station a few times recently. It works well enough, but in common with the Oxford park and ride car parks, and many others, the payment mechanism feels clunky.

First time in, you fire up your phone, bash in a long series of numbers to give it your registration and card details, and pay. Second time, I think they’re slightly too paranoid – they remember the location and car (good) but want the last three digits off the stored card (sigh).

What really grinds my gears, however, is that all these car parks have enforcement based on ANPR. So why can’t I go to a website, bash in my car’s registration number, my card details and my mobile phone number, and tick a box saying “charge me and text me whenever I park at one of your sites”. No faffing around on the day, just turn up and park.

It couldn’t be because that would eliminate a revenue stream from mistakes and over-payment based on guesses about return times … now could it?

Classing up the kitchen, part 2

Following on from my first post on this, behold my classed up kitchen with LED worktop lighting:

IMG_20160717_213240

Looks great, instant-on, uses less power than the old fluorescents and leaves lots of space under the cupboards for the radio, hooks to hang things on, etc. I had to use superglue on the LED strips to make them stay put as the adhesive on them wasn’t up to it – but no real surprise there.

Bytemark charging for IPv4 addresses

We‘ve had a server at Bytemark for many years (since the summer of 2009). For the most part they’ve been good, Towards the end of last year, they started charging for extra IPv4 addresses. This came as no great surprise, given the near-exhaustion of this finite resource, but our modest /27 suddenly represented a 1/3 increase in the cost of our server.

Fortunately, Bytemark agreed to waive the increase until our next annual renewal, after I got a bit shirty about mid-term price increases. Which left us with the joy of consolidating our usage. They’re quite right to point out that the advent of SNI support in all modern browsers, and things like sslh mean we don’t need so many addresses any more, but having parcelled them out to my six users in blocks of 4 (making firewalling easier as everyone had a /30), I had a long and tedious consolidation exercise to carry out.

Happily, many reboots and much faffing later, we’re nearly there and should be able to hand back 16 addresses of our 32 next month, thus cutting our cost by £192+VAT/year.

This has prompted me to take a closer look at going all-IPv6. I’ve ordered a small IPv6 only VM from Mythic Beasts to play with. Teething troubles aside, it works quite well, with inbound proxying for the websites and NAT64 for outbound access to IPv4 services. Running just the one IP stack feels much cleaner and easier to administer, and opens up the possibility of using an IP address per website/service with no danger of running out.

Edit: Bytemark’s original announcement failed to mention that it’s £1 plus VAT for each IPv4 address. Sigh.

Classing up the kitchen, part 1

Since my kitchen radio is older than I am and has various bits missing, I got myself one of these to mount under the cupboards to replace it. This should also help reduce the amount of stuff on the surfaces and make it easier to clean. Of course, this is the obvious time to replace the flickery under cupboard fluorescents and their bulky fittings with a few metres of LED strip. Testing:

IMG_20160707_230817The hard part is going to be cleaning a decade’s worth of grime off the underside of the cupboards to make the surface clean enough for the LED strip to stick to, but the result should look properly classy. Update to come when I’m done…

The imminent demise of Sixxs?

As a long-term user of SixXS, I got an e-mail earlier this year about how I should stop using a tunnel for IPv6 connectivity and ask my ISP for IPv6. And they’ve got a point. After all, now that major bandwidth hogs such as Netflix and Facebook have IPv6 enabled, those tunnels must be shifting some serious traffic.

Having said that, Netflix have recently started proclaiming Sixxs is a “proxy service” which they can’t allow because it lets you pretend to be in the UK wherever in the world you are. Which is fair enough if tedious, and has forced me to move my TV-connected devices onto my guest WiFi network, where there is no IPv6.

I would call my ISP, but EE has been swallowed by BT, who seem to have finally got their act together on IPv6 – if the date comes true. But I’ll probably have migrated off to A&A by then.

Are EU ready for this? I’m not. Or perhaps I am…

Sorry, folks, but the time has come for me to write about the EU referendum…

Twenty-three days to go until the EU Referendum, and I still don’t know which way I’m going to vote. This might come as a surprise to my friends, many of whom consider me a hopeless evil right winger who is “obviously going to do the wrong thing and vote leave”. My sister finds it very unhelpful, as she apparently considers the opposite of my political decisions a good guide for her own.

Here’s the thing: almost all the information I have received (without asking for it) has been a bit dodgy. First there was HM Government’s leaflet about why we should stay, complete with pictures of imports from China. The sincerity of this “government publication” was also undermined by the way senior members of the governing party are campaigning for the other side. The Tories have been fighting each other about Europe since before I was born, and they seem no closer to resolving their differences now than they were in 1988.

Then there was the leaflet from Stronger In Europe, carefully printed to look like some kind of official expert opinion rather than propaganda from one group. Most of the faces on it, as trade unionists of one sort or another, were not people whose opinions I give much weight to. But aha! Martin Lewis, there’s someone whose views I’ll trust. Except it turns out he didn’t give them permission to use that quote, and isn’t explicitly backing either side. Bother.

Dr Boris Adryan’s article on The Register today was interesting, if a bit rambling, but I find it hard to take anyone seriously who asserts that “to get into Oxford and Cambridge, you need to have money and the ability to speak and handwave in a very articulate way … you better had [sic] training from an expensive school and come from the right family background”. As I’ve written here before, my personal experience is that this just isn’t true. I’m sure some class-based elitism still exists in corners of Oxbridge, especially in arts subjects, but the scientists were definitely being admitted based on ability when I started, a decade ago this autumn. And if that ability is more frequently found in richer areas of the country, that’s more a reflection on our school system than Oxbridge.

Back to the subject. I instinctively dislike the EU. Its existence above government and outside the laws of any one nation allows it to behave in a similarly distasteful manner to some government departments in the UK, especially when it comes to not being held properly accountable for fraud and material error in its accounts. Companies have to be accountable to their shareholders and obey company law in their country of incorporation, but government departments and the EU can do what they like (comparatively).

I also feel like a net contribution of £163 million per week (source) is an awful lot of money, and I have no clear idea of what it’s funding. A fraud rate of 0.2% means £326,000 a week of our money is being wasted, though to be fair, I’m sure our own government is wasting much more.

NATO has done well at keeping the relative peace in Europe in recent history, and it would be a shame to upset all the other members at just the same time as Russia seems to be rattling its sabre the loudest since 1991.

Immigration is, in my book, largely a positive thing, and with our ageing population, having a net inward flow of young workers seems like a good idea. I think successive UK governments have done a pisspoor job of managing immigration, but that largely seems to be their fault, not the EU’s – as is the severe lack of housebuilding and the price bubble it has caused.

TTIP scares me, and the EU’s participation in the negotiations is a large black mark against it.

One of my pub one-liners about the EU is apparently out of date: the tampon tax is set to be scrapped, so at least someone in Brussels or Strasbourg is applying a bit of common sense.

All things considered, I’ll probably vote to stay. I’ll have to pinch my nostrils with distaste as I do so, but I doubt whether Britain is going to achieve a better quality of life for anyone if it leaves, and our own government will almost certainly waste any savings made.

Perhaps the biggest fault lies with Us The People, and we should be more politically engaged in holding both our government and the EU’s feet to the fire over issues which matter to us. I’ve got a bet on that turnout in the referendum will be lower than the last general election. And I really hope I lose it.

Raspberry Pi print & scan server

I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was (with a bit of Googling) to set up the Raspberry Pi 2 I’d had gathering dust on my desk as a print server. My increasingly venerable USB-only Canon MP480 works just fine under Debian, but having to boot my desktop to use it was becoming tedious – much of what I get done these days is laptop-based or even done on my phone.

Having set it all up, I can scan and print from any Linux box on the network (theoretically from Windows too, only I have none of those left), and, with the addition of the CUPS Print app, I can print PDFs and the like directly from my Android phone.

Update – putting some IPv6-only DNS on the Pi and pointing a Windows 10 VM at it via IPP, printing Just Works. Even more impressively, Windows drivers for your printer do not need to exist, as long as they exist for CUPS on the Pi. I just chose the generic HP PostScript printer suggested in the article and it works perfectly, which is handy as Canon have no intention of providing Win10 drivers.

Digging up the road

Virgin Media’s work in my street reminds me of the poor state of broadband in the UK

A few weeks ago, I awoke to find my street being dug up by several pneumatic drills simultaneously. We’d seen the markings sprayed on the pavements some time previously, of course, but I had no idea what they were. Couldn’t be cable TV – Virgin Media, as far as I knew, never laid cable of their own – they just bought up all the other companies who went bust under the cost of doing so.

It turns out I was wrong, though, as our road now boasts a shiny new cable TV cabinet, and connection points for every house and block of flats. There was an outraged article in the local paper about how this work was done with zero notice to residents; we were indeed given no notice, but given that I was gone for work on all but a couple of days when the work was taking place, I didn’t mind too much. I can understand those who actually spend their days here being upset, though.

Given that this street was built less than ten years ago, it seems a bit screwed up that Virgin are digging it up now – surely they should have tried to co-operate with the developer at the time and saved making a mess of our pavements after the fact?

Whatever the ins and outs of that, it feels rather sad that the cables being pulled are presumably copper coax rather than fibre. Come to that, it feels backwards that BT are still laying copper and not fibre to new-builds. For all their clever research on delivering data at high bandwidth over copper, surely having fibre to the individual houses is the only long-term solution.

One of my neighbours is quoted in the article saying he’d be surprised if Virgin got custom from his neighbours. For sure, I’ve never been a fan in the past, but the offer of a 200 megabits per second connection for £44 per month is hugely tempting – particularly when all the providers operating over BT’s infrastructure can’t match that speed, and most of them are participating in a race to the bottom where competition on price leaves no money to spend on providing a decent service.

If our pavements start sinking, of course, I might decide otherwise.