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Thursday, June 12th, 2014, 9:55 am

EasyJet Turns Away People With Tickets

EasyJet

EASYJET is an airline that should be blacklisted. It’s not just overpriced and does not arrange seatings; today it shocked my family when it turned down pre-booked tickets, saying that the flight was “overbooked”. Yes, apparently even when you book a flight with EasyJet (whose broken Web site makes it virtually impossible to check in) the airline can refuse to let the passengers board the plane. Even bus services don’t do such stuff!

EasyJet might be the crappiest airlines ever to exist. How can they legally turn back passangers with ticket they purchased for a flight? Way to ruin one’s vacation.

Sunday, June 1st, 2014, 3:58 pm

A Weekend of Wrestling With PHP

YESTERDAY I ranted about PhpWiki, blaming PHP for the most part. Why? My Web host has ‘broken’ a lot of the software that I run in this Web site. Some software has relentlessly and happily been running for a decade or more. It is a lot of software (all in all about 20 databases), some of which I have manually patched or changed/hacked whenever the host upgraded PHP. It is a lot of work. It is a lot of inevitable maintenance. I blame PHP. The latest upgrade is to PHP 5.3. The host reverted back to the older version (5.2) for two weeks (a sort of an ultimatum) to help me sort things out before this upgrade is permanently imposed. PhpWiki was not the only cause of issues, but it was part of it that took a whole noon plus afternoon (almost as much time as it would take to just rebuilt it all manually). While I was able to (eventually) make a minor upgrade (from a 2006 version to a 2008 version, not to the current or even recent versions) it remains unclear why PHP decided to not be backward-compatible. It is a total nightmare for sites for have a lot of PHP code, especially if their maintainers are not full-time PHP developers or are ingratiating components of software which is no longer actively maintained. PHP is risky to choose or work with. I learned this the hard way. It may be normal for proprietary frameworks to do this, but why FOSS?

Today I successfully upgraded two PHP-Nuke sites (thankfully there were upgrade scripts which worked reasonably well) and then I struggled for a whole with Gallery 2, where the upgrade process is complicated and very long, resulting in a sub-optimal outcome (e.g. no thumbnails and no tolerance of a perfectly fine ImageMagick installation). People without very advanced knowledge of UNIX and other such skillsets won’t manage to keep their photo galleries up to date. This is a real travesty. This is the catalyst of ‘Web rot’.

What I’ve identified and am eager to summarise after two days of frustrating work is this:

  1. PHP-based software cannot be counted on, especially if it’s intended to run for years (the long run)
  2. Choosing less established PHP-based software is risky as it might cease being maintained
  3. cPanel does give access to PHP error logs, but this is not too trivial to find
  4. Internal server errors can be due to restrictive Web hosts who deny access to scripts based on their UNIX-style permissions
  5. It is always better to install software from front-end scripts, such as those found in Fantastico
  6. Don’t use too many pertinent bits of software; diversity can be a nightmare to deal with
  7. When patching existing software, keep a log/record of everything that has changed
  8. If a lot of people across the Web complain about upgraders, importers, exporters, etc. then it’s better not to bother with them at all as they won’t work correctly and just waste time
  9. Check carefully and exhaustively a good test set of data following upgrade, or missing data will only be identified several years down the line when backups are too hard to find and revert to (I just found out that this happened to me)
  10. Use static HTML where you deem it suitable because the cost of maintaining/upgrading PHP is often too high to justify such a reliance

I am fed up with PHP. One cannot just install something and let it run along for years. It’s a lot of work to maintain and sometimes there’s loss of data, induced by improper upgrade paths and mistakes/accidents.

Saturday, May 31st, 2014, 4:11 pm

PhpWiki is Obsolete and PHP is to Blame

TEN years ago (or more) I installed PhpWiki. I used it to manage communications with family and friends (privately), then to collaborate with colleagues (I had co-authored papers at the time, so needed to manage version changes) in a publicly-accessible installation (my second installation) of an up-to-date version of PhpWiki. It was up-to-date at the time, but not anymore. I later installed PhpWiki once again in iuron.com. It was the main CMS there (my only site to be managed primarily by PhpWiki).

PhpWiki is an important piece of software because it was the first public-available piece of software running a wiki using PHP. It goes back to 1999 when very few people knew what a wiki was. Its authors deserves big thanks for releasing it under the GPL.

I have found that some people — like myself — had their data ‘locked’/’trapped’ inside PhpWiki and as PHP is not backward-compatible they sought a way out (PhpWiki just stopped working with an upgrade of PHP). Various bits of wiki software offer importers of PhpWiki, but they don’t deal with the database directly, they require exporting of data (which earlier versions of PhpWiki don’t appear to have, except perhaps from the command line). Upgrading PhpWiki is hard because my host for this Web site offers no access to PHP log/error files and things do not work as expected. The only way to really view the Wiki data at the moment is through PHPMyAdmin. What a mess.

Having spent several hours wrestling with this issue of no upgrade and no export available (I checked numerous importers), I am left with no choice but to manually migrate the data to some other Wiki software. I have already set up FOSWiki and MediaWiki before, but I might be curious enough to try something ‘new’ (or exotic) like PmWiki, DokuWiki, WikkaWiki. The problem, however, is that they too might become deprecated/unmaintained one day in the future, leading to the same problem I am having right now.

PhpWiki is still being developed (just not frequently) and there are newer releases. I will always fondly remember the one Wiki software that I set up and used before people knew much about Wikis (except perhaps the example of WikiPedia). Here are some final screenshots of the Wikis that will soon go dark, despite the fact that I customised them a great deal and modified the code to suit my needs.

If only PHP was eager to keep old software functional (compatible with newer versions of PHP) this wouldn’t have happened. I still have several other CMSs to go through, trying to upgrade, hack, or export from. Why? Well, because a forced upgrade to PHP 5.3 will kill them. I mostly blame PHP here. It’s an applications killer. It didn’t have to end like this and I am not the first to complain about it.

PhpWiki

PhpWiki private

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014, 3:56 pm

Cleverboxes is Rubbish and Tesco Direct Should Dump Them

THERE IS a company in the UK called Cleverboxes. Its name may sound innocent and its Web site gloats/boasts about a relationship with Tesco Direct. Well, this is a warning to anyone who considers buying anything from Cleverboxes.

Cleverboxes is a dysfunctional business. It does not communicate with so-called ‘customers’, it does not deliver, it does not even properly cooperate with Tesco, it makes false promises, and it generally makes Tesco look bad. Well, Tesco is bad for having such a terrible partner.

Almost a dozen calls later (at cost of money and time to us) my wife and I cancelled our order, which was made through Tesco to Cleverboxes.

To be fair to Tesco, their staff was quite responsible and was eager to pressure Cleverboxes to deliver; it was seemingly the fault Cleverboxes alone. Do they have have staff there? Is that a real business?

Save yourself the disappointment and avoid Cleverboxes. It deserves to lose Tesco as a partner immediately because all it does is rubbish Tesco’s name.

Sunday, May 25th, 2014, 7:11 am

Avoid EasyJet

Very hard, not easy

EasyJet

EasyJet’s utter incompetence has wasted not only hours of my time but also a lot of time of several relatives (with computer science degrees). Their site is broken and only a fool would trust the company to keep an airplane up in the air. Their customer support is too hard to reach and would probably be useless in this circumstance.

Save yourself a lot of headache by never even visiting the site of EasyJet. This airlines, EasyJet, is technically defunct.

Friday, May 23rd, 2014, 1:06 am

EasyJet Crashes… Into Worst Airline Position

EasyJet

Over the years I have flown with over a dozen different airlines and never did I have as much problem as I am having with EasyJet these days. Their Web site is broken by design, their customer support is understaffed (been waiting for a long time before just giving up and hanging up), and anyone who considers flying with EasyJet should definitely think twice before doing anything. Upselling, spam, advertising of malicious software is all one ends up with after suffering bad IT and customer service.

EasyJet, based on my experience, is the world’s worst airline.

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014, 8:22 pm

BT is Phasing in Internet Censorship of Totally Legitimate Sites

Today I received yet another SPAM E-mail from BT, this time too promoting censorship of my connection under the guise of “Parental Controls” (which I guess means Cameron and his cronies are our parents who try to control us). The key content of the E-mail was as follows:


Hello,

We take online safety very seriously, so we’ve designed BT Parental Controls to help you stay in control of what your family accesses on the internet. It lets you block unsuitable websites and filter content you don’t want your children to see. And it’s free for all BT Broadband customers.

Setting up BT Parental Controls is quick and easy, and there’s no software to download. You can choose from three pre-defined filter levels: strict, moderate or light. Or you can customise it and pick individual websites you want to block.

To set up your filters, click ‘yes’ below, and you’ll go through to My BT where you can also update your settings at any time.
If you don’t need this service, click ‘no’ and we won’t send you this message again.


This mail did not specify what would happen if I did not press “no”. One day they might change the wording further to make censorship enabled unless requested otherwise. Worse yet, maybe new BT subscribers now have censorship on by default, as some sources seem to suggest. One sure thing is, Internet restrictions are on the rise here, and this has nothing to do with crime prevention or even decency. It’s all about control and maybe this is why the term that they use (“control”) is appropriate. It’s not you who’s in control. It’s BT and the government which it serves, also when it comes to surveillance and drone strikes (assassinations), as recently confirmed by the mass media.

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