Internet & Related Stuff

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O.M.F.G.... Telecom follows all the other screwup companies that've sent their callcentres overseas. ('Telstra Customer Service' anyone?)

Ok, to be fair, they've said 'its only these two limited areas' (being their Mobile Prepay Helpdesk and their Xtra Dialup Helpdesk) but one does have to wonder if this is the start of a snowball or not.

Anyway, i'm glad I don't have cause to deal with either, I must say. And given Teletech have been a bit of an institution in the ISP tech support world since they won the contract all those many years ago, I wonder what'll happen now.... ther'll be a glut of wannabe helpdesk'rs I suspect? (Telecom may take some on into their second tier and broadband areas, but hmmmm....)

Edit: NZHerald says 70 staff from Teletech will go over to the broadband team. At least theyre keeping the guys employed, but still...

Coupla items of note.

1) Quicksilver Internet (for whom I used to work) has been bought out by Woosh. Heres the Press Release. A little sad, as QSI were always one of the independant small players on the market - the little guy is increasingly being bought out. Fact of life, I guess. Will be interesting to see what happens to the Quicksilver Brand.

2) Have noticed that the Centre for Critical Infrastructure Protection - a department or branch of the Government Communications Security Bureau - Have started including Open Source resources in their security mailouts. Especially noted issues with both Ubuntu and Mozilla Thunderbird were redistributed by them.

Major kudos to see a Government Department acknowledge the significance of Open Source to the IT community. Progress!!

Y'know, this probably only has amusement value for a certain percentage of the geek fraternity, but hey - typical screwup on the part of Telecom NZ, IMHO.

As has been noted in this blog recently, there has been much discussion around the use of SORBS for blocking spam, etc. Comment was made on NZNOG about it, even.

Anycase, an unrelated conversation on NANOG was discussing the issue of Botnets - that is - large numbers of rogue processes on 'drones' (hacked systems where the owner is unaware) being controlled via IRC. The post linked above, if you look at the quoted material, includes the following statistics (Forgive the screwed formatting, it was posted in a fixed-width font...)

> New compromised unique IP addresses (last 5 days) Tier-2 ASN
> +-------+------------------------------------+-------+
> | asnum | asname | cnt |
> +-------+------------------------------------+-------+
> | 19262 | Verizon Internet Services | 35790 |
> | 20115 | Charter Communications | 4453 |
> | 8584 | Barak AS | 3930 |
> | 5668 | CenturyTel Internet Holdings, Inc. | 2633 |
> | 12271 | Road Runner | 2485 |
> | 22291 | Charter Communications | 2039 |
> | 8113 | VRIS Verizon Internet Services | 1664 |
> | 6197 | BellSouth Network Solutions, Inc | 1634 |
> | 6198 | BellSouth Network Solutions, Inc | 1531 |
> | 9325 | XTRA-AS Telecom XTRA, Auckland | 1415 |
> | 11351 | Road Runner | 1415 |
> | 6140 | ImpSat | 1051 |
> | 7021 | Verizon Internet Services | 961 |
> | 6350 | Verizon Internet Services | 945 |
> | 19444 | CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS | 845 |
> +-------+------------------------------------+-------+

My recent experience on IRC has (again) caused me to reflect a little on peoples attitudes toward IRC - and Internet chat in general.

"Back in the Day" we used to marvel at people who got all emotional based on IRC happenings.

At the same time there is the obvious fact that it is yet-another way of communicating online... and at either end of the keyboard are people, with feelings, etc etc.

Some people are better at compartmentalising than others. The compromise seems to be that a line gets drawn somewhere, beyond which nothing is taken seriously.

But wheres the line?

Post my ban from #NZADSL observations were made about my blog entry. Assertations that my life must revolve around IRC and the chatroom, or something.

Truth is, it doesn't - obviously. Its 'just a chatroom' and my life doesn't end when I leave.

That said - at some level, things that are said affect you. Whether you admitt it or not. The degree obviously varies from person to person.

I'm not a particularly thick-skinned person; I guess a byproduct of my upbringing. Maybe then I overreact.

One thing I always have been, though, is straight up. People usually have a pretty good idea where they stand with me. I don't tend to harbour grudges - certainly not to a degree where I can no longer interact with them politely.

I fully accept responsibility for perhaps expecting similar of the people I interact with... the line with me is obviously not in the same place.

Thats fine, I guess. Life goes on.
I'm sure there are exceptions to my judgemental statement below, but i'm also sure that were I at the _other end_, I wouldn't have been takin such extreme measures as to say such nasty things. Not in my nature.

And my advice to those using online chat systems: Take everything with a grain of salt, and consider the impact of your words on others, even despite this advice.

M. got a bit of unexpected attention today with a post on NZNOG by Juha Saarinen - a notorious stirrer. The post, archived here makes reference to an earlier thread (first post here and attempts to draw comparison between my stated position (that businesses running mission-critical operations shouldn't be using a droplist such as SORBS to drop mail, and should instead be using it to mark-up mail as 'probable' spam using something like SpamAssassin) and the fact that uses the SORBS Dynamic IP droplist in production.

Such was the amusement in the #NZADSL Chatroom on Undernet that it was discussed for a significant number of pages..... with certain personalities deciding that I was 'pwned' quite hard by the irony of it all.

*shrug* Sure. However my position on it doesn't change - and this is why:

- is a not-for-profit service with limited subscribers. Its basically my personal MTA and guests of the service know this.

- Not only do I drop SORBS-listed Dynamic IPs, but I also actively block all mail from .kr and .cn assigned netblocks.

- The combination of the two saves me from upwards of 1500 messages per day that would in greater than 99% of cases be spam.

The problem with SORBS, though, is that they are a bit aggressive with the way that they list hosts in their database. And I suppose if you're that frustrated with spam - I sure am - the temptation is strong. The idea with the list that I subscribe to is that it is supposed to only list dynamic IPs... i.e. hosts which should never be doing direct SMTP anyway. (When they do, its because they're being abused as a mail relay or are infected with a virus... either of these being things you don't want to accept during the SMTP transaction.. !)

Even the NZ Herald has gotten on board of late:
(Last Night)
(Sunday... the day before)

Xtra aren't having a lot of fun, to be sure.
But theyre still falling down in the area of plain old communicating with their customers.

We can sit here knowing theres a problem, and their website ( will sit there saying:

Current Status
There are currently no known problems with the Xtra Network.

The problem, I guess, is that theyre hamstrung by their PR department.
Anything appearing on their website needs to have signoff from their Public Relations guys, or Lawyers, or something. To stop them inadvertantly saying something that could be used against em, I guess?
Problem is, of course, that the whole thing works against them.
Outage notices are vague and non-specific. They rarely appear on the site unless they are of significant duration - it takes that long to get stuff put up there. Occaisionally nothing appears at all - because the outage doesn't fit into the pre-scripted pre-approved content that they're allowed to publish.

In direct comparison, other ISPs (noteably Ihug) have a useful and informative "Message of the Day" system and if theres a problem, theres no issue explaining it and providing an ETR.
This has the useful side-effect of heading off a large number of Helpdesk callers.

Xtra, on the other hand, just let their IVR do the talking. Limitations there aren't quite as strict as their website, true. But that requires me to pick up the phone and dial... when they have a perfectly servicable website with a 'network status message' ... why???

Xtra's problems on Sunday were apparently attributed to a Router problem.
Last night, they were in the DNS - My Xtra connection was fine, and I didn't notice the problems - because I do my own DNS and don't rely on Xtra.

Telecom are not impressed... Website Article
(The main text below, however, a useful backgrounder is also featured on the beehive site)

New Zealanders can look forward to faster, better broadband Internet services thanks to the comprehensive telecommunications package announced today.

Communications Minister David Cunliffe says the package is a vital part of the Government's drive to transform the economy and push New Zealand's broadband performance into the top quarter of the OECD.

"Access to fast, competitively priced broadband Internet is vital for New Zealand to take full advantage of new technologies," Mr Cunliffe said.

"This package will help ensure we catch up and keep up with other developed countries."

Today's package includes:

* Requiring the unbundling of the local loop and sub-loop copper-wire lines between telephone exchanges and homes and businesses, allowing other Internet Service Providers to compete fully with Telecom to provide faster, cheaper broadband.
* Regulatory action such as information disclosure, accounting separation of Telecom's business operations and an enhanced Commerce Commission monitoring role in order to ensure improved competition.
* Removing constraints on the existing regulated Unbundled Bitstream Service to ensure ISPs can offer better and cheaper broadband at upload speeds faster than 128kps.
* Encouraging investment in alternative infrastructure such as fibre, wireless and satellite networks by measures including a review of public sector investment in telecommunications infrastructure to encourage a whole-of-government approach; reviewing whether Telecom’s ability to reduce local prices solely in response to new competing infrastructure investment should be constrained; developing a rural package and expansion of the Digital Strategy Broadband Challenge fund.

"We are continuing to look at whether additional measures are warranted, such as the structural separation of Telecom's retail and lines operations," Mr Cunliffe said.

As an afterthought to my previous article I'd ask as many guests as possible to answer the following polls:

What is your position on Xtra's shutting down of their Usenet server?

Explain your knowledge/usage of Usenet.

Would be very interested to gauge exactly what sort of impact this is likely to have....


Xtra will block email traffic on Port 25 from the end of this month in a bid to cut down on spam and virus-laden emails.

Port 25 is used by the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, or SMTP, which is commonly used by computers to connect to mail servers to send emails.

It is often used by spammers to send mail either using their own machines or hijacked "zombie" computers, as well as by mass-mailing worms and viruses to spread to other computers.

Not bad, I guess. I was suggesting they pursue this nearly 3 years ago!

Would be interested to see how they implement this, and whether its along the lines I had originally suggested (exceptions only for static IP customers [who can be policed individually as a block-and-exception or allow-and-police as required]).... I still use Xtra as my DSL provider, so the negative here will be an inability to test outbound SMTP to other MX's from home. Still, as a residential customer, thems the breaks... (how much spam comes from haxed boxen on residential links?)

[Edit: See also:]

Also found on the Xtra Website:

Xtra will prevent email traffic bypassing Xtra's anti-virus and anti-spam filters by filtering email that is sent using port 25. This measure is to reduce to the amount of spam being received or sent by Xtra customers.

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