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2 Years of Pandemic

About 2 Years Ago, in 2020, Everything Suddenly Changed

IT was not exactly planned that this blog (or “Web log” as I’ve called it since 2004) would publish so much on the issue of COVID-19. It just happened to be the case, especially because of the profound impact of this pandemic, and moreover because I don’t wish to put my personal views on this divisive topic in a site like Techrights or Tux Machines. I believe everything I’ve said and shown here was factual; some of it pointed out obvious misinformation from the mainstream media, a hypocritical instrument of projection (demonising those who dissent against a partly misleading or incomplete narrative). The corporate press isn’t lying all the time, but it habitually incites and this probably constitutes what politicians and social control media giants may deem “hate speech”. In any event, earlier today I posted about 130 photographs from our ‘Battle Station’ and ‘Corona Times’. My wife and I both work from home (we had worked from home long before the epidemic/pandemic even broke out), so the impact on us was almost minimal; the main impact was on our gym-going and the occasional visit to the nearby stadium (Manchester City Stadium).

Here's your coronaRelative to stories that I hear, we’re very fortunate. Staying at home even more time than before means that we can have more quality time, cook better, and so on and so forth. The photos that we uploaded today span about 2 years and maybe they tell a bit of a story. We try not to give away or give up on our privacy, but these photos received ‘clearance’ from both Rianne and I.

Happy new year! Let’s hope things will settle some time soon (I think it can take a couple more years).

e.ON or ‘E.ON Next Energy Limited’ Possibly the UK’s Worst Energy Supplier

Video download link | md5sum 29054acc51742e85c3b317abfd2fec10

LAST year we unwillingly (but not unwittingly) became customers of ‘E.ON Next Energy Limited’ — to use the legal/registered name — after they had bought our longtime energy supplier, a company called NPower. Things have been hectic since then because the price hikes keep coming, without any reasonable or defensible excuses, the customer support is truly awful (customer disservice), they barely take any meter readings, and they severely punish anyone still not interested in a so-called ‘smart’ meter. The video above summarises the past week’s experiences that I had with the company, citing along the way conversations I was having with them months ago when we inquired about change of supplier. Judging by about 100 bits of feedback I’ve collected online, many other people have similar complaints if not much worse.

Someone urged me to file a complaint with the ombudsman and given the way things have progressed so far, maybe I will. The way I see it, they never got my consent (to treat me so badly as a customer); heck, they merely copied my bank details and other personal details from a supplier they had bought. The acquisition should have been blocked; instead, now we have loads of clients being obstructed and subjected to gaslighting.

To be fair, I was forewarned several years ago when a good friend of mine ranted about his supplier (he said it was “e.ON” — a company I had not yet heard of). Whether they call themselves e.ON or E.ON Next and use greenwashing buzzwords like “sustainable” or “renewable”, remember they’re a truly awful company you definitely want to avoid.

Greetings From Manchester

Nice to meet you, I'm not meat
He’s no meat, he has feelings

A year ago Rianne became fully vegetarian (we had both been gradually stepping in that direction for about 3 years already) and last month we got to meet some adorable highland cows and sheep at the outskirts of Manchester.

Highland cows and sheep
Rianne feeding the sheep

Highland cows and sheep
That calf is truly adorable and he was bullied by the sheep

On Wednesday we went for a long walk in nature (about a mile from home) and passed by the construction site (less than half a mile from us) where there would soon be a new facility for sports and entertainment, right alongside the famous Manchester City Stadium. Mock-ups below.

Massive new music and sports arena next to the Etihad Stadium
Looking from our home’s direction

Massive new music and sports arena next to the Etihad Stadium
Looking towards our home

National Government and Local Councils Give the Middle Finger to EU Citizens Long Settled in the United Kingdom

SEVERAL days ago I wrote about difficulties associated with applying to remain in the UK. You must have a mobile phone, you cannot settle the matter in person, there’s nobody to speak to etc.

Here is the screenshot I showed of the support number they gave:


That exact same number is noted in many other places. So I’ve attempted about 12 times to phone Home Office regarding this. That was yesterday. Just to make the inquiry. But that number, which is widely advertised, never worked. And the response to it varied between 3 states (silent or two types of tone, depending on when you phone them). I thought their phone system was down and they later admitted this to me (when I finally spoke to them this morning). “Essential” service…

As for the Council, they did not respond at all since Saturday. I expect they will just ignore my very detailed E-mail. When dealing with Manchester City Council the experience was largely the same. They hardly give a damn…

The Home Office number was down all day or all afternoon yesterday. Now it’s back. Waiting on the line took ages, with me being in a queue (no ETA, no number in the queue stated) for a very long time. That in itself is bad enough, not to mention how options (even if carefully listened to and then selected) for how to route the call do not match what’s relevant as per the site where this number is advertised (as shown above). With only a few weeks left it should be expected that they will treat this as a high-priority thing.

After 20 minutes waiting in line I finally got to speak to an actual person, whereupon the Home Office told me that indeed their system was down yesterday (no calls could be made), and that moreover the number in the site is not correct and for the wrong department. Incredible. Truly incredible. Sheer incompetence. The correct number, they’ve told me, is 0300 123 7379.

So I phone that up. And guess what…

They don’t have a place in the queue, you cannot even wait and the queue and may need to call another time. So basically there is nobody to speak to. At a time such as this one has to wonder what went through their minds when they decided to turn away callers with queries, such as issues going through the process.

This leaves me having a pessimistic hypothesis affirmed. The government (both national and local) hardly cares about EU citizens, even those who are highly skilled and have been settled in the UK for ages. To them, we must be seen like a “burden”… I believe that the term for that is systemic racism.

Ongoing Investigation: Does the UK Home Office ‘Force’ EU Citizens to Carry Around Tracking Devices?

To fire this off amicably and constructively, I am going to disclose what was already mentioned here last year and earlier this year (at the expense of my personal privacy). Technically, even though I’ve been in the UK for over 2 decades, I never swapped my German nationality for British. Seeing the aftermath of Brexit, I don’t regret it either. There’s that sense that people will never see you as “true British”, even if you get naturalised as one. What was supposed to be more of a routine application to settle became more like campaigning, not truly out of choice but due to circumstances. As it turns out, settlement after Brexit seems somewhat conditional, for all sorts of hidden obstacles and weird barriers seem to exist.

In this latest round of Brexit bizarro world, it seems virtually impossible for EU citizens who are in the UK to settle unless they carry a so-called ‘mobile’ ‘phone’ (tracking device). Landline? Not enough! They want to know where you are all the time.

Following a related challenge at a local (regional) level, I’ve decided to step it up a bit by challenging this at a more national level. With only a few weeks before the deadline, no excuses like “coming soon” will be acceptable. Most people aren’t going to tolerate it, even if the site still says “BETA”. They need to get their act together to disprove this supposedly ‘laughable’ idea that we’re ‘second-class’ citizens to our government.

As a starter, here’s an E-mail sent this afternoon, along with a bunch of screenshots that I’m including in-line. The E-mail is self-explanatory, I hope:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am a resident of the UK and I’m based in Manchester. I need to apply for EU settlement but am unable to do so. The Town Hall does not offer the service anymore; I’ve exhausted my options there as they no longer offer identity verification and they blame COVID-19 for it (since over a year ago).

Looking at all the options online, I must have a mobile phone to use an “app” for it.



Alternatively, I can enter document details for documents to be sent to Home Office, but I cannot complete the process because this one too demands a mobile phone number.

Attached is proof that I cannot proceed with my landline entered. It must be a mobile phone number. I do not have that. In the screenshot I entered not my personal number (I tried the real one about 4 times already, from multiple computers in fact; my wife tried hers also) but a “4444444″ number, for the sake of protecting my number in this E-mail communication (it is not secured). It doesn’t matter what landline number is entered, it will always reject it.




So, looking at my options, when searching for my postcode, Salford, Trafford and Manchester aren’t applicable anymore. Halifax area is the nearest such service (to me), shown in the list from the official government site. Based on your Web site, you still offer this service.


I would like to book an appointment in which to settle this step. I do not intend to buy a mobile phone for this.

Your Web page at says:

“A mobile phone or other device that can receive text messages or email.”


I can bring one of my many laptops and, provided you have Wi-Fi, I will then connect to my E-mail account from my laptop and complete the process. You can see me in person, see all the original document etc. A lot better than “apps” that aren’t secure and not everyone can run (there are accessibility-related aspects as well).

I understand that this isn’t your ordinary kind of request (I am based far from you, but you are the nearest place that still offers this service, based on your site), but having spent a long time researching the matter it seems like all other options absolutely compel the applicant to have a mobile phone. Such a requirement would be in violation of a number of fundamental rights.

I look forward to your reply. The deadline for application is the end of this month (I have been trying for over a year, to the point of challenging the local municipality with a formal complaint) and it doesn’t look like any of the nearby municipalities entertains or facilitates this kind of service anymore.

I am actually rather shocked that less than 3 weeks before the deadline the site is still “BETA”. This means it will never be stabilised, it never actually reached maturity. I hope this isn’t meant to sent an discomforting message to EU citizens, who like myself lived and worked here in the UK for over 20 years.

Please get back to me as soon as possible,


I will follow up with their reply (if any). Failing that, I will speak to Home Office directly. They hide away the phone number, it’s hard to find a person to speak to, there’s no E-mail address, but there’s this generic number (not specific to this service):


10+ Years in the Same Company, Focusing on Free Software

Roy Schestowitz

DECADES ago somebody told me that changing employers very often is a sign of weakness. Several times later I’d hear the same thing, which follows common sense. Loyalty to an employer or devotion to some particular path shows both a careful choice (of employer) and persistence rather than adventurism. The same goes for housing or residency. Some people move from place to place very often, having to relearn locations of things, spending a lot of time on paperwork, having to meet new people (and losing touch with old friends and colleagues).

When it comes to my current employer, this past week marked 10 years of me working there. There were better times and worse time, both for myself and for the employer.

For the first time in my life I can say that I’ve worked in the same company for over a decade. For just over a year (or about 2 years) I’ve been able to say that I’m the most “senior” (in terms of duration) regular employee there, sans the founder/CEO, who established the company way back in 1998. In a sense, this also means that when I joined the company (with about 20 people in it back then) I was the “latest recruit” and all those people whom I joined are now gone, except the CEO. It’s an interesting situation to be in.

Will I work another 10 years in the same company? It’s hard to tell. The thing I do like about it is that it respects my freedom of expression (it tells off Microsoft when they try to cause issues by phoning the CEO!) and software freedom in general. I realise that many people are forced to use Windows, at least sometimes, and not everyone is permitted to work from home all the time. I’ve worked from home for 14 years now.

COVID May Have Caused (or Helped) the UK Home Office and Manchester Town Hall to Violate Basic Laws or Fundamental Human Rights

The Manchester experience, going ‘online’ for ‘apps’ (so-called ‘self-service’) because who need services anyway?

Manchester Town Hall
With “mom” at Manchester Town Hall

FIRST time? My bad. Second? Your fault. Unlike the old saying, “fool me once, shame on you…” (twice… me)

What’s all this commotion about? Is it about privacy? Accessibility? Adherence to law? Or all the above?

Right about now many rules and laws are flouted and violated. In the name of “emergency”… a public health crisis. Perfect justification?

Courts have apparently decided that the equivalent of a telephone call is “trial”; governments are waging an accelerated war on cash, as well. I often wonder if here in Britain we changed the coins (rendering old ones worthless and obsolete) to artificially reduce the money supply; it would be helpful to know how many “old coins” there are compared to “new ones”. The thinking is, maybe they try to impose financial surveillance by “going digital” with scarcity of physical money added to the mix… or removed from circulation.

What’s wrong with digital payments? Apparently a lot of people don’t know or never really thought about it, even in this age of so-called ‘surveillance capitalism’ and mass surveillance without warrant, let alone suspicion or probable cause.

Many who reject digital payments (or “smart” or “touchless” or whatever buzzwords they make up next year) are being framed/painted and sometimes ridiculed as Luddites. That’s kind of funny considering the fact that it’s usually the most technical people who reject technology in payments (so-called ‘novelty’ like “swiping cards” that are little but a piece of plastic with a primitive, cheap chip glued to them). All that insecure chipping and pinning is hardly novel; it’s decades-old ‘technology’ (same for so-called ‘smart’ meters and ‘self-service’ checkout; it could be done decades ago, including the touchscreens, in effect an erosion of customer services or outsourcing of the work to customers).

In reality, it’s the ‘non-techs’ who swallow it all, thinking they’ll seem “techy” for swiping and paying $2,000 for a so-called ‘phone’, compensating for their lack of understanding of where all that data goes and how it’s (mis)used.

The deterioration of our lives is now driven by technology; we were promised technology would make things easier (like doing our laundry, shortening the working days/hours etc.) but in practice people work harder and for longer hours than ever before. People are even being contacted by their bosses well outside working hours. Is this progress?

This brings me to the latest rant. On December 10th 2020 my wife and I went to Manchester Town Hall (temporarily housed partially in Heron House across the road, below GCHQ, as he main building undergoes renovation/overhaul). We went to their office, as explained in the official site, at the specified time with all the documents and a laptop (as required for communication and exchange of details), only to be told the service is not available due to COVID but can instead be done at the Post Office.

Alright then…

So we went to the Post Office, only to be told they don’t do any of that and at least two people had been similarly misdirected earlier in the same day!

What on Earth is going on? ‘Ping-pong’ with people?

So we went back to Town Hall, only to face a different person, who barely even apologised for the misdirection and used “COVID” as a catch-all excuse, instead suggesting contacting the Home Office or urging us to use some Android “app” (which is out of the question).

What if we were disabled or blind? What about options that are paper-based?

This is a terrible regression which actually predates (in part) the pandemic. An “app-only” government would be a travesty for many reasons; like rendering you a non-citizen for refusing to carry around a so-called ‘phone’ that tracks your movement more closely than RFID.

Is COVID a valid excuse here? Hardly. Because apparently, according to information we received from a representative at the Town Hall, this has gone on since March and there’s no projected date or resumption. According to our solicitor, the whole “app” thing was already pushed well before March. They literally want people to take selfies of themselves and then send that to the Home Office, then send sensitive documents over ‘phones’ with back doors.

This isn’t the future; this is not “innovation” but degradation of services spun as “smart” and convenient.

Nothing is as convenient as an informed person interacting with you, dealing with the papers for you, checking the authenticity and ensuring everything is done properly right there on the spot.

I am not a lawyer, I don’t know the pertinent laws and sections, but I know enough to say that the government cannot demand people do those sorts of things with “apps” or digital devices. There must be a fallback. Leaving people ‘hanging’ for almost a year citing “health and safety” cannot be excused because of the COVID-19 pandemic; for several months during summer people could go to pubs and restaurants, so surely Town Hall could facilitate face-to-face (with masks on) meetings.

I will carry on chasing Town Hall next year and will report again.

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