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Archive for June, 2014

The Darker Side of the Three Towers and RMG


USUALLY, the Three Towers are a good place to be. The residents are quiet, the place is relatively clean, but RMG tends to neglect it, leaving the gates, for example, unfixed for years.

It is also very hard to communicate with RMG, which refuses to provide basic information and impressively enough offers zero cooperation in case of serious incidents.

RMG is ruining what could otherwise be decent. The utility company (with a monopoly on the service) is apparently connected to the building’s operator (an incestuous relationship), so a form of corruption is likely, too.

Today I wish to deal with more serious matters and put them out there for our own safety, as well as to warn others.

Crime in our building recently took place, but RMG seems apathetic and unresponsive about it. I don’t believe we were personally targeted, but just in case something happens, I believe RMG should be held partly accountable or at least liable. No company should follow the example of RMG.

I am hereby, with some hesitation, writing regarding a very serious matter which seemed more serious after the police had reported gunshots near our apartment in Christabel (this was confirmed by the police in a letter).

The gunshots happened a short while after my wife was assaulted inside our building, Christabel. Two young boys stalked her in the elevator and then followed her into the bin room. When she entered they locked her inside and propped the door locked with a broom. She yelled for help and a nearby neighbour came to the ground floor and scared the boys away, after they had admitted (to him) they did not even live in the building. How did these boys get inside?

My wife was horrified, but this was never investigated. RMG did not even bother looking at the CCTV footage that it had captured. What is CCTV good for if one can’t be bothered to even use it? The individuals probably cannot be identified, but the way in which they infiltrated the building matters. RMG does not seem to care. Yes, they let it slide.

A couple of hours later we both saw two dodgy-looking people in their 40s or 50s hanging about in a nearby apartments building (marionette) which are still waiting to be demolished. Their behaviour could be described as odd and we thought about calling the police though saying two people are “up to no good” is a spurious complaint (the police would not appreciate it). I had other menacing incidents like this in the past, but never a gunshot (domestic violence across the hall, intruder in my house, and the nearby building routinely had ambulances and police vans next to it).

At 11PM gunshot was fired at a window (the police confirms this) and the following morning the road below us was closed by the police with two vans, including TAU (special police unit in Manchester), parked at both ends. One of the guys we saw last night (one of the two dodgy-looking one) was carried to a police van in a wheelchair. The police does not say much about the incident except the gunshots. This is far from reassuring. We now feel unsafe even inside our house.

I demanded that RMG should investigate all these incidents and inform residents what exactly was happening. They failed to do so, so in my view they are now liable and I decided to spread the word about what happened in this area, holding accountable those who are not doing enough to protect the residents (we pay a lot of money for RNG to do so every year). There is a risk to life here and since intruders assaulted my wife inside the building we cannot tolerate this.

Cooperation with the police has proved useless in the past (in fact it put me at risk because the criminals then perceived me as their enemy), so I was approaching RMG first. RMG should have extensive CCTV footage inside the building and around it. Given the separation of just 4 hours between these events there is likelihood that they are related and one took place right inside Christabel. Why did RMG never investigate or even respond? Total neglect. Even criminal neglect.

I asked RMG not to share my identity with the police (it would most likely not help as much as a testimony to RMG).

I recently thought about buying a property here, but after these incidents I have other, less favourable plans.

People’s safety seems to be at stake, not just RMG’s reputation. For what it’s worth, avoid RMG, wherever they are. All they’re good at it collecting money annually.

Update: three hours after I published this post (on a Sunday even) RMG contacted me and said they had forwarded the case, well over a week after the CCTV footage got taken (the rotation of footage may mean that relevant footage might already be erased). It would not be unreasonable to suggest that this post had something to do with their late reactions.

Update #2 (30/6/2014: Today I was issued the following face-saving response:

Dear Dr Schestowitz,

Thank you for contacting RMG recently.

Unfortunately, our CCTV expires after 14 days and we are unable to access footage after this point. We are now unable to access any CCTV from 16th June or before.

Having spoken to the Property Manager, she has made us aware that was onsite, and visited apartment [redacted] the day after the reported assault, but was not at that point made aware of any allegations. At that point, Claire would’ve been able to access any CCTV footage required.

Additionally, if there are any future queries of this nature, we would strongly recommend that you contact us over the telephone rather than via email. Over the phone, we will be able to assist instantly.

Most importantly, if there are any further crimes at the property, you would need to contact the police as the first matter of course, especially considering the nature of the reported crime.

If you have any further queries, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Thanks, and kind regards

It is regretful that CCTV footage was left to expire and response over E-mail was so slow, probably due to bureaucracy. I will keep this in mind in the future.

EasyJet Turns Away People With Tickets


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.

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.

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Original styles created by Ian Main (all acknowledgements) • PHP scripts and styles later modified by Roy Schestowitz • Help yourself to a GPL'd copy
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