Category Archives: Uncategorized

A job I would really like to do, but…

So, today in my usual job searching on Jobserve I found a job that I really like the sound of, here are some of the highlights:

My client is looking for a Data Centre Technician on an initial 3 month contract based in Angel, London in the Financial, Data and Media Services Industry. Rate: GBP 20/25 per hour Ltd.

The Data Centre technician will be responsible for providing technical assistance and overall support to our customers providing 24/7 cover through a 12 hour shift pattern.

Shift Pattern: 07:00 and 19:00 start times, 12 hour shifts including breaks.

Week 1: 4 shifts (4 nights)

Week 2: 6 shifts (3 days/3 nights)

Week 3: 3 shifts (3 days)

Week 4: 1 shift (1 day)

The Data Centre Technician will also be responsible for the installation of racks, housing, network and computer equipment. Each Data Centre technician is also responsible for managing and implementing installations as required, including shelves, power strips, rails, cable management and customer IT equipment. When required identify issues with the hardware or cabling, which can include replacing internal components and testing, tracing and labelling of cabling.

So here we have a well paid job, very local to me (20mins or so walk) and it’s working inside places I really enjoy… Data centres.

I don’t know what it is about a data centre, but I just love the buzz of it, a huge building filled with computers, cabling and links to networks near and far. The noise inside these places is often deafening, but the plus side is that the air conditioning (which is there really for the machines rather than the humans) is incredible, so no baking in summer!

I have a fair amount of experience with servers, I can take them apart, replace components, set them up, etc… but I have only had one job working specifically in a data centre, which was 13 years ago and not specifically dealing with hardware.

People say to me in this situation, “why not, go for it, you might get it” and all that sort of thing, the issue is that these days unless your most recent jobs match very closely the job that you are applying for, then you can forget it, you aren’t what they want.

Lets look a bit further at the job spec and the things I do/don’t have experience with:

Suitable candidates will be able to demonstrate the following skills:

* Computer engineering experience and knowledge in order to achieve optimum methods of working

* Cabling experience and knowledge, in order to achieve optimum methods of working.

* Installation of rack mount kit including HP and CISCO

* Hardware maintenance/swapping of failed customer replaceable parts such as cache battery, HDD, Power Supply.

* Highly motivated individual, with a positive and pro/active attitude to work.

* Willingness to make changes to improve operational efficiency through innovation, process and procedures, adopting and adapting ideas and practices from elsewhere.

* Ability to act rapidly and logically under pressure and making effective use of others in resolving problems.

* Capable of working with the minimum of supervision.

* Good written and verbal communication skills .

* Good working knowledge of Outlook, Word and Excel

* Excellent team skills, with an ability to listen and contribute to discussions and meetings.

* Customer and service focused, with determination to meet their needs.

Also of interest to my client:

* ITIL Accreditation

* Experience of HP Service Manager 7

So, actually, looking at that spec, I can actually tick off most of those things. But it’s actually really hard to ascertain from a CV/Resume that you have actually got those “soft skills” like team working, being highly motivated, etc, etc…

Realistically I would expect this job to get a lot of applications and the people who get shortlisted for interview are likely to be those whose last two jobs have been working in data centres…

The question I want an answer to here really is how can we stop this kind of “unfairness” in the job market, here I think is a job I would be really suited to, but because my background is in desktop support rather than server support, I will not be considered.

Those of you who are saying “apply for it, you never know”, I can tell you I have applied, but I am willing to put £5 on never getting a call back from this agency about this position….

Some updates [September 2012]

Its been a while since I blogged, I have been busy! In the end I moved house at the beginning of August, yep, right in the middle of the Olympics! I now live in a basement flat on one of Hackney’s busiest streets. However, in trying to find a landlord who would accept housing benefit, I had to lower my standards a little bit.

Did I say a little bit? Well, who needs natural light in their bedroom, bathroom or kitchen, eh?! Who needs a kitchen that is actually usable?! Who needs decent sound insulation between you and the shop above eh?!

To tell you the truth all these things are driving me crazy… it started off when my cooker got condemned by the gas inspector. At least I got a new cooker, right? Well that then lead me to discover that the kitchen cabinets were rotting, which lead me to discover that the wall between the kitchen and the bathroom is damp…

I have been offered new kitchen cabinets, if I make the next rent payment at the end of the month on time! But to be honest, there would be little point in putting them in if they won’t last 5 minutes because of the damp. And not much point in doing the kitchen up if the ceiling needs to be replaced to properly soundproof the flat from the shop above, because all that is between me and them is a very thin layer of plasterboard. If someone sat down on the floor up there and farted, I am pretty sure it would make my walls rattle…

But what choice do I have eh? Here is a man who takes my £240 a week housing benefit and gives me somewhere to live. At least I have a roof over my head, unlike the homeless man camped out on the bench on the street outside.

Living in London

So I am now living in London with my old friend Ben A’Lee in a nice flat in Hackney, which isn’t the murders and rapist playground that people imagine. Hackney is a pretty up and coming place these days, just at the end of our road is the north-west corner of the Olympic Park and we can see the media/press centre being built from our window! I have gotten to know the area quite well and apart from free cash machines being a 20 minute walk away, all is good.

Last week I was quite shocked when someone actually offered me a job! Its been so long (15 months or so) since I have worked that I had really forgotten what it was like to be able to get work! I shall be working for a company called “Samvo” who provide online gambling services. They are very big in the Far East apparently, but most things are run from London. It will be a combination of Windows and Linux Systems Administration and I am quite looking forward to starting on 23/08/2010. My only issue is that my commute (the job is in West London) is about 1hr each way, although I guess that is London for you! Formerly prospective employers in the North West didn’t want to know if I told them I had no car or that it would take me an hour on the train to get to their office, so just shows you how things are different here.

I have just spent about 2hrs trying to migrate my lighttpd configuration back to apache, mostly because there are quite a few things you can’t do with lighttpd… If you are trying to get things working, make sure that your browsers cache isn’t caching your fails, otherwise things will take you twice as long – including firefox caching the fact that its being sent php before its been processed and therefore trying to download it!

Well I think I should try to sleep for a bit, got to get up in 2hrs to go to Royal London Hospital and hopefully have the rest of my tooth removed!

Where were you, dude?

it may be gray outside in Massachusetts — at least there are still rainbows in my soap bubbles – Star Simpson

I got back from a wet evening in Manchester and this quote made me smile. Its been been difficult lately…

For those of you who are new to the world of Seth, I have Diabetes and a messed up Pancreas, these health issues go back about 10 years now, before that I was skinny and had no problems. This is of course on top of my Asperger Syndrome and “additional mental health issues”…

The Pancreas issues started when I was 20, I suddenly got terrible pain in my abdomen and had to call an ambulance; this kinda thing went on for about 2 years, every few months or so. Removing my gall bladder didn’t help! The damage done to my pancreas by all these bouts of pancreatitis – basically the pancreas tries to digest itself – left me with a problem digesting fats… sometimes its better than others, sometimes I eat something with a minimal amount of fat in and minutes later (I kid you not) I am running for the bathroom.

When I was 24 I found out that not only had the enzyme producing part of my Pancreas messed up, but the Insulin producing part had as well and I now had diabetes. At first it was easy, I would ensure, no-matter what that I had my insulin pen and my glucometer with me and would always test and inject before meals. Then I got depressed, pissed off and I have never really gotten it right again for very long since about 2007.

Recently its been really getting me down, over the summer I had a blood test which seemed to suggest that I am making my own insulin and that my diabetes might be more like Type 2 than Type 1 – Type 2 diabetics produce insulin but can’t use it, Type 1 diabetics have no or very little insulin production. So I started taking tablets instead of insulin during the day and then I realised they weren’t working, so try a different tablet – last week I figure out this isn’t working either. Yesterday I realised I couldn’t bring my blood sugar down even by injecting an amount that would have been normal for me a few months ago.

So it seems for the past few weeks, my blood sugar has been sky high, I have spent the best part of my waking life on the toilet, but I am still alive I guess and not going blind, etc, yet…

The weirdest part is that you can have these problems with blood sugar, but not really feel any different. Granted I want to sleep a lot – which has kinda messed things up: On Thursday night I was supposed to take my Intermediate Amateur (HAM) Radio License exam. I got home from University and all I wanted to do was sleep, I could not contemplate getting on 2 buses, taking the exam and getting home… I turned my phone off and went to sleep. Now I have voicemails and emails to deal with – “where were you?!”. Today I wasn’t at my lectures – the most boring ‘crossover’ module on “The Engineering Environment” is shared with mechanical engineers and mostly seems to be about writing about your favourite dead engineer – I have chosen Alan Turing, although I haven’t started writing the essay yet.

So tomorrow I will go in, I will go to bed in a minute and I will try my hardest to get up at 7am, shower, do the things normal people do and sit for 3hrs soldering my function generator project together and hopefully have something I can test at the end of the lab session.

So I hope that explains “where I have been” these last few days…

Tips and Stuff

I have recently moved to a new virtual server hosting provider, Linode have hosting centres in 4 locations in the US and allow you to pick which centre you would like your server in. They have a great web user interface and are cheaper than my previous provider, Slicehost. So now I am paying about half what I was for hosting. I have also got away with using a lot less memory for my virtual server, by implementing some different ways of getting around spam.

Realtime DNS Block Lists (DBL)

DBL’s store a list of known IP addresses which should not be trusted when receving mail, either they are IP’s assigned to home machines (DSL/Cable clients) or known spammers caught out by traps. There are a few DBL’s, but until now I have only been using one – Spamhaus, but sadly this doesn’t catch most spammers. I have now been through my configuration and included a few more DBL’s which are listed below. The advantage of this is that looking up an IP in a DBL is not processor or RAM intensive and does not require an external program – like Spamassasin. I have also implemented a few features in postfix which allow the looking up of hosts who try to exchange mail with my server, if the hostname they are giving doesn’t match their actual hostname or they have no A record or MX record for the domain they are using, postfix will end the connection.

smtpd_recipient_restrictions =

It is very important that “permit_mx_backup” goes at the end, because I am finding that spammers will take advantage of backup MX servers to get their spam accepted in some way, which then causes a lot of dead return to sender messages in your queue later.

With the “reject_rbl_client” lines I have in this config, I don’t have to use Spamassasin or other spam anaylsis programs at presnt, the few spams I am getting are minimal and may have been things I accidentially signed up to in the past! was blocking Google Mail last night, which is why I have blocked it. requires that you sign up to use their service first.

Moving MySQL

I have to admit that I am no programmer; Systems Administration, Network Administration and troubleshooting come fairly easily to me, but programming has always passed me by. I have often just blindly copied something someone else has done to get by and I remember when I was young spending hours typing in source code from magazines to see try out programs and stuff!

So when it comes to SQL people say “well its not that hard, its mostly english!” but you have to remember the order things go in and weather a line needs a ; at the end, etc… I have tried to get into PHP and stuff, but I just get really bored and give up. I have a load of programming books on C and PHP if anyone is interested!

I use some SQL on my server – WordPress, which makes this blog work uses MySQL… but to keep it going I had to move it from my old server to my new one.

I followed the usual instructions, to backup your databases use:

mysqldump -u root -p --all-databases > database_backup.sql

And then to restore:

mysql -u root -p < database_backup.sql

Then presto and everything is back, but is it working? Well it might be a good idea to try:

/etc/init.d/mysql restart

Because when you import your old databases, you overwrite the passwords for the users that are stored in them. In the file /etc/mysql/debian.cnf there are settings for a user called debian-sys-maint which is setup when you install MySQL. A password is generated for this user and then stored in the file, when you import all databases you overwrite the users database which then overwites this password, causing debian-sys-maint to be unable to access the database and a failure when you try to start MySQL, although the daemon is running.

phpMyAdmin is your friend here, because you need no knowledge of SQL commands to go in and change the password for a user, therefore fixing this nasty problem! Once you’ve done that you can then use this command to stop MySQL (as /etc/init.d/mysql stop won’t work):

kill | cat `/var/run/mysqld/`

Then go ahead and start MySQL as normal:

/etc/init.d/mysql start

Uninterruptible Power Supplies and their lack of Uninterruptible-ness

An Uninterruptible Power Supply or UPS is a big battery that will keep your computer running if the power goes off, it will also protect it from surges and incidents when the power dips to what it should be. They are very useful for when you need to move things around or if you have electricity that you have to pay for in advanced (and will therefore be switched off automatically if you have no credit).

I have had small UPS’s for a few years which are about enough to keep an average desktop PC going for about 10 mins if the power fails. However, I have recently had to start dealing with them at work, since we have moved away from Co-located hosting to hosting our servers at our office. When you are running UPS’s commerically, the need for power cannot be overstated – you need things to be as overkill as possible! Most UPS’s (anything designed for keeping more than just one PC going) will have overload detection and if the UPS detects an overload, it will start to shut itself down – because if the power were to be lost, the batteries could not take the load and the servers connected would not be able to shutdown gracefully.

However this means that mains power is lost to these connected servers and hence zap – no power… Well, in our case it means a 50% reduction in power as the servers have 2 PSU’s each which are redunant. However, it is not so easy to build redundancy into a network, and taking out the UPS that the network switches are connected to will take down the servers as they can’t talk to the outside world… resulting in my mobile phone ringing and someone giving me grief that they can’t do any work!

Teamed Network Cards are network cards that can run in pairs (or more) providing greater throughput or redundancy if they are connected to different switches (in different UPS’s!) however my employer apparently has little interest int he redundancy aspect of this and uses teaming only for throughput… why have 1Gb/s when you can have 2Gb/s?!

After this happening twice today, I had to bypass the UPS’s entirely as they were getting less reliable than the service from the electricity provider!

Whilst I like my job, I hate the fact that my employer prefers to buy his parts on eBay and expects great performance from a limited budget!

Well, I think that is all for tonight… until next time (in the imortal words of Sara Cox) – “rave safe kids, rave safe!”

No user serviceable parts inside MEANS NO USER SERVICEABLE PARTS INSIDE!

I know I don’t blog often enough, but I have been fairly busy for the last 6 months having gotten a job, moved to Preston, etc… Anyway, so I have recently joined the Preston freecycle list – it was to get rid of 2 TV’s, an ink jet Printer and some other stuff I didn’t need any more. However I hadn’t reckoned on what people might offer on there, although most of it is clothes and furniture, one guy advertised a large colour laser printer – a QMS Magicolor 2 Desk Laser…

If you think this will fit on your desk, you’d be mistaken, it is huge and probably about 10 years old. Getting it home proved to be a problem when we realised it wasn’t in Preston, but in Garstang (half way to Lancaster), but Garstang has a PR3 postcode!

Tuesday evening I started to play with it, I plugged it in and immediately it told me there was some kind of jam, then it told me that something else was wrong, when I finally got it to the point where I thought everything was OK, it said “Call Service F5 Charge HV”, I figured that HV is High Voltage and that this had something to do with the fuser – the bit of a laser printer that heats up the dust like toner to make it stick to the page. But the fuser doesn’t seem to be a part you can take out easily. I undid one screw then another, pretty soon it was just a massive collection of plastic, metal and circuit boards on my floor….

It went from this:

(Admittedly I stole this photo from the Interwebs because I forgot to take a before shot!)

To this:

At which point I decided I couldn’t be arsed if I could get it to work or not, I probably couldn’t get it back to being one piece again!

When I was a kid my Aunt brought me this book called “Miles and the Screwdriver”, Miles got a screwdriver for his birthday and then started to undo all the screws he could find… until he nearly undid the world… at this point “God” was angry with him… yeah, so that is quite believable, right?! But I guess I am kinda like Miles, I just can’t stop undoing those screws; It could be a metaphor for my life really!

I think my Jawa days are behind me, either that or stuff just isn’t as fixable as it once was!

Apologising for my failings

Some of you might know that this past week I lost a job for not turning up for work. It had been my record of 6.5 days for 2008 – previous jobs were 4 days and 3 days respectively, so not a very good year. In 2006 I managed to work for 3 months and in 2007 I did approximately a month’s work.

I have decided to try to apologise to my former employer, because it was a family run firm who were employing me directly and they were actually quite nice people to work with. I had informed them about my condition and given them leaflets from the National Autistic Society, but I could tell that since they didn’t want me on a permanent basis (they wanted me to work shifts starting at 6am, which I could not get to without a car), that it would be difficult for them to be any more understanding and lenient towards my condition.

So this is my letter to them, tell me what you think….

Dear Mrs Shannon,

I would like to start by apologising for not turning up for work this last week and also for not calling in to tell you why I was not at work. I will try to explain my actions and hope that you can understand why. As you know I have Asperger Syndrome, when I was at work I know that I came across as a very confident person, however this exterior masks a person who wants to try, but is mostly lonely and misunderstood.

Working at Deltor was an enjoyable experience but very much a tiring one. Most nights when I got home from work I would take a nap for a few hours even before I had dinner, then sleep for 6-7 hours at night. Putting on such a confident facade is very tiring, but I knew that you did not want someone who kept taking time off. When I woke up on Wednesday morning I really wanted to go into work, but I felt so tired it was difficult to get out of bed. I realise I should have called in when I could, or answered your calls to tell you where I was. However, confrontation is a big issue for me and delaying things just made it worse. I was racked with guilt those days for what I had done, but my fear of confrontation made it very difficult for me to do anything about it. I was even scared to listen to the voice messages left for me.

I appreciate that by now you must be understandably very angry with me and I am not looking for any second chances, clearly the position at Deltor was not for me. I hope that I have not burned any bridges for anyone else with Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism who might seek to apply for employment with you in the future. Most of us are actually very reliable people, who just aren’t very adept at communicating.

I would be very grateful if you could acknowledge this letter either by post or email so that I have something to show to the JobCentre as proof that I am no-longer working.

I would like to thank you for your time and understanding. Please pass on my apologies to my co-workers, especially Carole.

Yours Sincerely,



Well, after many hours of phoning around to discover that the metal clip in the flesh just below my breast bone is probably made from titanium, the radiographer’s at UCL decided it was too risky and didn’t carry out the scan.

It would have been fun – I have no idea why, but I seem to like no invasive imaging – its kinda cool to think that you are inside a scanner which costs millions of pounds and has some of the most powerful computers making it work.

Anyway, so they paid my travel to London, so I wasn’t out of pocket.

I did a little bit of sightseeing in London before I came back to Plymouth. In London it was dry and fairly Sunny. In Plymouth it is cold, wet and horrible! Why on earth did I move here?

The MRI that wasn’t!

Well, in the end,the MRI didn’t go ahead tonight.

In 2001 I had a Laparoscopic Cholecystomy which to the layman means I had my Gall Bladder removed using key-hole surgery. Because they needed to check that the ‘plumbing’ to my pancreas was clear before they let me home from hospital, they left a little tube in place – through the skin, secured by a metal clip. The day after the surgery they used a fluoroscope (think live x-ray) and injected some dye into the tube to make sure that the ducts were clear. This was fine, so they removed the tube, but the clip remained.

Now, as you probably know, MRI scanners use the most powerful magnets on earth and the scanner that I was due to be scanned in this evening was even more powerful than the scanner at the hospital I was last scanned at to look at my pancreas (3 Tesla compared to 1.5 Tesla). This scan was taken after the surgery and I had no problems with the clip. However, since this scanner was at a research facility and without medical backup, they didn’t want to take the risk.

Anyway, tomorrow they will call their radiographer and ask his/her opinion as to weather they should take the risk of scanning me. I have also said I will phone the surgeon who put the clip in to ask him what type of metal it is. If they know that, then they can be more sure of the risks – not all metals are attracted to magnets!

So maybe tomorrow I will get what I came for!

Good night and good luck!