Since the majority of my work in centered around WordPress I was very interested in seeing developments around the State Department’s website, some of the issues below have now been fixed, or in the process of being fixed….slowly.
News started to come in about an odd change to Donald Trump’s biography on the State Department website. As far as I can tell Christopher Miller, who is a journalist with BuzzFeedNews, reported this first over Twitter:
Hey, @StateDept, what do you know that the rest of us don’t?
News of this spread quickly and over international media channels. It was reported that a disgruntled employee was to blame. It was yet another reason to laugh at the Trump administration.
The State Department then created, what looked like, a temporary 404 Page Not Found page as follows (maybe putting a 301 redirect from the Trump bio to this page):
Now, this was implemented pretty badly, because:
WordPress has version control and should have been easy to go back to a previous one with little difficulty. Maybe they had stopped version control?
It was very poorly designed with a broken image link to the State Department logo and no reference ID assuming one was supposed to be on there.
All 404 Page Not Found errors redirected to that page, not the usual page template. 404’s are like a portal to help visitors find what they are looking for on a website, this functionality was lost for some considerable time.
I am thinking they implemented this without thinking through the ramifications. Did someone with bad skills in WordPress have to deal with this?
State Department took down the above 404 Page Not Found page and placed a 301 redirect from Trump’s bio page, I am assuming, to the home page. The regular Page Not Found page returned as it should.
Will they reinstate the Trump biography? Who knows.
If you go to the URL state.gov/kittens you can see it does indeed go to a regular 404 error.
When a visitor searched on Donald J Trump the results page still showed that his term as ended, as follows:
This has been fixed and no longer showing in the results, as far as I can see.
All search fields had an auto-fill on them with some embarrassing results.
This one was fairly “tame”:
However, this one is particularly offensive:
This appears to have been fixed. However, the damage was done as many netizens had already discovered the above.
As I said, I am quite surprised it took so long to fix the above with them not even bothering to reinstate the Donald Trump biography. Maybe they plan to later on. Maybe it’s not worth it since they will be placing Biden’s bio up there soon. I’m not even sure what the value add is, why repeat what is already on the White House website. Like the UK the US government should consider having a more joined-up approach for its web assets. I wonder if they have devolved web editing and an approval process for publishing? We’ll probably never know.
Either way, this was an interesting, if not amusing, little episode.
We really enjoyed this movie, one of the best we’ve seen from Japan.
Kingdom is an adaptation of a Manga series of the same name which I believe ran into 3 seasons.
Shin is a war orphan and becomes a slave. There he meets Hyo, they have a close relationship for years, both who have ambitions to become “The Great General under the Heaven”. Hyo is then recruited by the Royal Army which sets Shin off on a dramatic path.
Well, I have limited down the amount of information about the plot, just wanted to provide a little taster.
Shin is played by popular actor Yamazaki Kento (山﨑賢人). His career started as a model but got his first acting roll in 2010 appearing in many productions since then.
Hyo is played by Ryo Yoshizawa (吉沢亮), another popular actor whose career started in 2011.
Yamazaki Kento interviewed by Netflix Japan, English subtitles are available:
I saw a little of the original Manga series and there are distinct similarities between that and the film, even down to the costume design. From what I can make out it’s a pretty good adaptation.
The production quality is very good, they appear to have gone all out to make this into an epic including the CGI work. I did notice an error with the CGI, in two scenes the army was cheering, however, I bet many people won’t even notice.
The storyline was solid and moved fairly fast with some breaks when they needed to discuss strategy. Lot’s of fighting and action scenes.
Yamazaki Kento made the movie, he was clearly the star, sometimes comical, delightfully over the top now and again, appeared to put a lot of passion into his role.
My only criticism, this was a movie about China but didn’t feel like it at all, only when they actually mentioned the country. The production didn’t feel “Chinese” at all from the costumes to the mannerisms. I guess it was like Chinese TV and films pretending to have a scene in England where a Russian actor is faking a British accent, which I see quite often.
We gave this move a 4.5 out of 5.
To Be Continued
There is no indication in this movie that there will be a part two, however, it’s definitely happening. Both Yamazaki Kento and Ryo Yoshizawa will be reprising their characters along with others. According to what I have seen Kingdom 2 will be released this year, 2021.
I wanted to spend some time sharing my personal thoughts relating to recent events in the US. Even though I no longer reside there I am still concerned as I have in-laws and friends living there whose daily routines have become quite stressful over the past few years.
From The Beginning
There has always been this underbelly of hate groups in the US, for example white supremacists, Nazi’s and those who abuse religion for financial gain. This hate and division came to the forefront due to one man, Donald Trump, a catalyst that has bought out the worst in society. Trump’s interference goes back as far as his racist commentary on President Obama, the birther conspiracy, which might have contributed to Republican’s refusal to deal with a black head of state, it seemed they would have rather of destroyed the country than agree on any law. The past four years, 2016-2020, has seen the deterioration of society norms and the breakdown of civil discussion as Trump would instigate hate across the nation and globe.
Assault on Congress
On Wednesday 6 January Trump supporters led an attack on Congress as instigated by the President himself. Supporters broke into the building causing havoc as legislators and their staff ran for cover in safe spaces. This assault was most likely to stop the proceedings in confirming Biden as the next President so Trump could continue on in office for the next four years. It was an attempted coup. However, the people who infiltrated the building were a rag tag bunch of protesters who quite clearly didn’t have a strategy given the chaotic yet uncoordinated effort into the building. They did cause a lot of damage, four people were killed, but at the end of the day it would not have been successful.
Clearly, the authorities were unprepared for this event and took the police and national guard hours to reach the building and this was after they had to be requested by leaders in the building. There was no excuse for the inadequacies of the authorities, there was plenty of chatter such an event would happen but no security forces were ready for this.
Over the past four years the Democrats have been calling out Trump for his vile behaviour however most Republicans refused to do so and it felt they were complicit in the Presidents actions. Some Republicans were co-instigators of the assault on Congress it seems. Obviously, these legislators should resign but they most likely won’t.
There are many Republican lawmakers around the country who have quietly lobbied and welcomed Trump’s support in their election campaigns as though getting his endorsement is the only route to success. So, they have literately got in bed with the devil to get into office, anything for power. An example of one such legislator is Claudia Tenney of NY22 who, a day after the assault on Congress, still hadn’t called out Trump for instigating the violence, she would rather condemn local community journalists than a demagogue. Ms Tenney is not alone as there are many other Republicans who also haven’t called him out although they did condemn the violence.
I can understand and appreciate why people would want to vote for Republicans, but their party has seen a significant deterioration since the days of the “Tea Party” and now Trumpism. Let’s be clear, Trump is a monster, the party has to evolve and can do better than it is now. The further apart both the Republicans and Democrats are the less likely they are to agree or compromise on anything.
For 4+ years netizens have been submitting their case for Trump’s removal from social media platforms, he breaks their rules on a daily basis, where others are locked out or suspended for much lighter reasons. The day of the assault Twitter and Facebook decide the time is up on him and have taken appropriate action. Given that Twitter is Trump’s main conduit of hate it would have been preferable to take down his account before now and as a result the assault may not have happened or at the least not such an impact as we saw. Continued scrutiny of these companies really need to be escalated in the coming months and years. As soon as Trump is no longer a President hopefully all social media will permanently ban him.
The US obviously made the right choice in electing Biden and Harris, this will set a new way forward. However, because Trump failed on so many levels, their portfolio of issues is huge, I don’t envy them. Some of those issues are:
Uniting the country
Repairing broken diplomatic relations
Rejoining organizations like WHO
Civil Rights ie equality for Black people, LGBTQ, women, Asian community etc
Even within the COVID19 project there are many sub-projects such as convincing people to wear masks, ensuring health care facilities have all the resources they need, ensuring a quick vaccine rollout, convincing deniers the vaccine is safe.
The worst of the US has been on display over the past four years, everybody should realize what the issues are, ensure it doesn’t happen again, learn many hard lessons and pave the way for a better future ensuring this disaster never happens again. Oh, ensure Trump and associates are prosecuted to the full extent of the law, this is the only way to stop it from happening again, no one is above the law and actions = consequences.
I would really welcome a day of mourning to show respect to the victims of the pandemic. Too many have been lost. I am still pleased I left the US, very pleased, even if Biden is President that might be good in the short term however what will happen after that? Another person like Trump? I hope not but I couldn’t take the risk in staying there and going through that again.
I had low expectations for good customer service due to the pandemic and impact it had on all companies. However, those companies that were good remained good and those that were bad became worse. So, let’s go through the issues I had during 2020.
I hope never to have a customer service issue, I don’t like calling them, but if there is a problem I prefer to resolve it through their self-serve website. If I have to talk to a human there is a problem. If I have to go on social media that means I am seriously not happy.
A domain supplier and web host.
Probably the easiest company to deal with this year. Virtually 100% uptime of my website. When I had a query it took longer to answer than it normally did, about an hour or so, but that is certainly better than any other company I have dealt with.
There were some hiccups when they migrated from cPanel to their own Site Tools which took me a little while to resolve. See this post.
HSBC UK and Canada
I’ve had issues with HSBC before but on the Canadian side, I haven’t had any problems with this year. Since I can talk to someone directly it has certainly helped a lot.
On the UK side, it’s very unfortunate that they rarely respond to me and don’t have a point of contact in the same way I have in Canada. It’s quite unfortunate that I have to struggle when they could make life easier with one 5 minute telephone call once or twice a year.
HSBC generally has a bad reputation globally due to some actions they have taken over political circumstances so I’m just wondering what the future holds for them.
Shaw is an internet and Cable TV provider in Canada, we cancelled our service with them as they were so bad.
Shaw has certainly declined over the past 3 years. This is what I have found:
Internet speeds jump around from what they are contracted to supply to me from 300Mbps down to 65Mbps. It’s unpredictable what it will be from one day to the next. When I called once they fixed it within 2 minutes. But, when I bring the issue up again they either ignore it or say something bizarre.
We’ve had ongoing issues with the breakup of picture and audio on numerous TV channels. They will either dis-believe me it’s happening stating there is no issue (when there is) or never fix it.
Their TV system is called BlueCurve which they contract out from Comcast/Xfinity. Within BlueCurve you have apps such as Netflix or YouTube. Via BlueCurve, Netflix is not displaying subtitles correctly, other Shaw users tell me this is affecting everyone plus also other cable companies that rent the same system from Comcast. The problem is, Shaw will not admit to me there is an issue at all, they have even lied about it. I just don’t understand why they can’t be honest and forthright with their customers. Bizarre.
Shaw Business have a web hosting option and through a client, I had the misfortune to have to use their system. I have never seen a clunky mess in all my life, probably the worst web host, and I’ve experienced some bad ones in my time. Their cPanel was a mess. Information wasn’t feeding into the cPanel correctly. PHPMyAdmin wasn’t installed. Didn’t display the domain. They had an outdated version of PHP. A simple customer service query took over 1 week to answer as they outsource the whole function to another company. I’m beginning to wonder what else Shaw outsources, maybe their project management of these companies are bad?
The final bill came after we cancelled, and they couldn’t even get that right.
So, the result of the above has been our move to Telus Internet and TV. Telus installed fibre in our area and their Black Friday/Cyber Monday deal was too good to pass up. We shall see how that goes.
Domain and web host.
Three of my clients use the GoDaddy system, they are not as horrible as Shaw (see above) but they have issues I wish they would resolve.
Too much downtime on their system, often it doesn’t meet the uptime as their contract promises customers. This is something I am closely monitoring.
Their customer service:
Makes a promise and doesn’t deliver, doesn’t meet the expectations they set themselves
Provides contact for further queries but that person never responded to emails
Logging into their cPanel is very problematic, keeps logging me out whenever I try and do something.
FTP doesn’t work properly on all plans.
We have been with Telus Mobility, the mobile phone part of their company, for about 3 years now.
The good news is that I’ve never had to contact them about anything in 2020. Yay.
The installation of their TV and Internet service went well, see this post, the network seems more stable so far. The Telus guy who performed the installation did an excellent job, ensuring we had everything we needed. So, as I said, we’ll see how it goes.
Earlier in the year I had an altercation with a member of staff at Costco. They had implemented social distancing but couples of course could stick together. We were told off by an employee for not social distancing, straight couples weren’t being told off, only us, a same sex couple. This is the first discriminatory statement anyone has made to us in years and I was pretty angry by it. After a while the employee was made to apologize to us. I hope he learned a lesson.
Generally Costco staff are very good and jolly so I was taken aback by this incident. I did write to Costco about it to provide feedback in a constructive manner but they never replied, this told me a lot on how they handle cases of discrimination against their customers…ignore it basically.
I haven’t had any issues with Amazon this year, I try to avoid doing business with them anyhow, I don’t like their brand but unfortunately for some things, there are no competitors with the products I need.
One incident concerned me, a delivery arrived at about 9 pm and the member of staff had been out since 11 am without a break and nothing to eat. I find this quite troubling and another reason why I don’t like to give business to companies who treat their staff so poorly.
I engaged them to print off our annual Christmas newsletter. Unfortunately, they messed it up but I really couldn’t be bothered to ask them to fix it. I just won’t use their printing service again. The customer service person there is never happy no matter how cheerful I approach them. I have used UPS for printing before so I will go back with them in 2021, never had an unsatisfactory service from them.
We went into Staples a couple of other times, for non-print services, and they were ok.
There are other companies that I haven’t mentioned here, supermarkets have done particularly well during the pandemic, most staff have managed to cope despite members of the public’s bad behaviour towards them.
Good and bad spots like other years but as I said my expectations were much lower this year.
This will be a very short review since I only managed to get through 15 minutes of this movie.
According to the summaries of the movie, two boys from a Christian School during martial law in Taiwan are let out for a day and experience the world like they haven’t done before. Both are gay but despite this one marries a woman. The two meet up after 30 years of not seeing each other than reflect on the past but will they rekindle a romance?
I do seem to be in a minority of people who didn’t appreciate the film so I would recommend checking it out for yourself.
The point at which I turned the movie off was the abuse scenes in the locker room. I’ve seen the same old stuff repeated across many LGBTQ orientated films and didn’t really want to re-experience it again. I also saw much of this in real life during the 1960s/70s and quite frankly I just need to move on from those dire days.
The LGBTQ community is becoming more represented in TV and film but the characters are focused around drugs, violence, drunkenness, sex and poor behaviour. I tend to see this a lot in western productions and seem to have better luck with Asian programs focus on a story that aligns with my thinking.
Based on what I saw I just give it a 1/5.
This is the first Taiwanese production, TV or film, I have not enjoyed. I guess there is always a first time.
I thought Brain Man would be a cheesy superhero type adventure, given the odd title, but it turned out to be quite the opposite.
Brain Man (脳男) is a Japanese movie released in February 2013. A serious of random explosions occur which leads the police and psychologist Mariko Washiya to come across Ichiro Suzuki. Ichiro is also known as “Brain Man”; he is without emotion, doesn’t feel pain, and has extremely high intelligence.
The film is 2 hours 5 minutes in duration and is 18+.
Ikuta Toma plays Ichiro Suzuki
He was very convincing in this role, his character was kind of frightening and every small move he made, and the way he did it, was very important for the part. Toma started his entertainment career in a child band called Strawberry Parfait but was more widely recognized in the 2007 Fuji TV drama Hanazakari no Kimitachi.
Matsuyuki Yasuko plays Mariko Washiya
She played this role very well too. Yasuko is an actress and singer with a very decent career in TV and film.
This was a “who is right” and “who is wrong” type of drama, I won’t give anything away.
It was fairly violent, not too bad, and that usually turns me off a movie as I do prefer cute and cuddly. They probably could have made the movie without it but may not have been so intense as it was supposed to be.
I don’t think there was anything spectacular about the cinematography apart from the scenes showing “Brain Man” in his isolation and how they focus on his every move to make him a little scary or mysterious.
There were surprises throughout the movie, including at the end as well. I notice on Asian forums that many ask what the ending is like to determine whether it’s worth watching, this one won’t disappoint.
I felt the script left things open for a potential follow up movie, but there wasn’t. I would rate it as 4/5, the markdown was the violence and maybe the overtop acting of one of the characters.
Maltesers is one of the most popular brands of chocolate in the UK, owned by Mars Inc, since 1937. I picked up a Maltesers Buttons product when visiting a local British store recently, here is a quick review.
It appears they product two of the “buttons” product, the original and the mint flavoured. I only saw the mint flavoured available so I bought that one.
It was a 32g bag but for the mint flavour, they produce 102g packet as well, not sure if they do any other sizes.
As you can see from the photo it has the original Maltesers branding but with add-ons. The product description is “Mint flavoured milk chocolate with honeycombed pieces”.
The bag is pretty stuffed with decent size buttons so I’m happy they didn’t put it in an extra-large bag to make it looks as though you are getting more than anticipated.
Mint is the most prominent flavour, it’s quite powerful. It wasn’t until a bit later that I actually noticed the chocolate but I’m pleased it’s there. The mint could be toned down a bit so you can taste the chocolate more. It will take me a little while to get through them as they do taste fairly sweet, 3 or 4 at a time.
Netizens who have reviewed them rate them highly, they say “great tasting” and “good value form money”.
Here in Canada, they cost me CAD$2.00 which is about GBP£1.16. A little bit more expensive than it would cost in the UK but not too bad.
I would give them 4/5 and wouldn’t eat them on a regular basis.
Telus is a supplier of mobile, internet, telephony and cable TV services here in Canada. After some issues with Shaw, we decided to move our internet and TV services to Telus.
Why Did We Cancel Shaw
I will cover this in a later post reviewing overall customer service experiences during 2020. We have been with Shaw for many years but notice their service hasn’t been so good lately so we decided to go with Telus.
Everybody complains about the cable company they are with so it’s tough to get a full and honest review of them as different people have different experiences. Initially, we had a great experience with Shaw but in the past 3 years, it was becoming an overhead to retain their services.
Telus laid fibre optic cables in our area for which everyone told me was very much a more stable infrastructure.
Why Didn’t We Move to Telus Earlier?
We could have moved to Telus about a year ago in the initial wave of locals moving to them.
The reason we didn’t was due to their hard sales approach, the company outsourced this sales function to another company who I felt was pressing us too much without the information I needed to know to warrant the move. So, we just left it until now.
I wanted to wait and see what their Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales included, and we did find a very tempting bargain that, in the initial 2 years of the contract, would in fact be cheaper than Shaw. Obviously, the charge will go up in 2 years time but we can review what our requirements are in the meantime.
The offer was only good online but their website wasn’t cooperating in order to make the transaction to happen. So, we started to get frustrated and for a short while almost didn’t take it any future. We phoned them up and said they would honour the deal online. When adding a service they go through another credit check. Because we are already a mobility customer we got a discount on top of the Black Friday deal.
This went very well and the engineer that came to our home was quick and thorough providing us with the training necessary.
We got two-wire connections, one for the TV and the other for my computer. For my computer, this provided me with a 990 Mbps download and upload speed. All I need do is turn my wifi on when I print and airdrop. I found the connection with Shaw was unpredictable, 300 Mbps would go down to 60 or 90 which was tough when trying to hold meetings online over Skype or Zoom. Since I’m not using the wifi bandwidth other devices would have a better connection. The Wifi speed is around 600 Mbps Upload and Download.
Rather than a desk modem, the Telus device sits in a closet where the wire comes into the home. This is so much more convenient than taking up room on my desk, so much better.
The only problem I experienced was not being able to send jobs to my printer through wifi, I have no idea why that happened but I managed to resolve it in a couple of days.
The internet is very stable, no mass fluctuations like Shaw. Still around 990+ Mbps on wire and 600+ Mbps via Wifi upload/download.
The TV quality is so much clearer and stable than Shaw. Over Shaw we had quite a few visual and audio difficulties that were so annoying, haven’t seen this yet over Telus. We also have access to more channels including overseas news. No problems with Netflix as we had through Shaw.
What We Are Enjoying About Telus
Some quick bullet points detailing what I like about the service:
Speed of internet, both Upload and Download are virtually the same
Access to more TV channels that I want to see especially news
The system seems a little bit more advanced than anything we have been on before
I am happy with the switch over so far, no doubt there will be issues and I hope they address them more professionally than Shaw did.
In 2019 cPanel announced a price increase which I assume is the main reason why hosts are considering a move away from the company. Siteground, the site I have this website on, did just that. Here is a review of that process for me.
Prior To The Move
I’ve only been with Siteground a little while after experiencing mutant agony from Hostgator. However, I seem to have been down the list of people to migrate to Siteground’s new platform which they have called Site Tools.
I’ve had two clients which I have recommended Siteground to and while they got the new Site Tools platform I was still on the old cPanel version. It was quite difficult for me to recommend Siteground since I never had access to what Site Tools was actually like. I might have recommended to others if I had earlier access. I had delegate access from the clients and could see the basics of what clients might be receiving but not everything.
They didn’t inform me by email notification that the move was going to take place, that surprised me a little bit. I only noticed when I logged into their account area that it was planned.
The move took place over a 24+ hour period, during the process I wasn’t able to access the cPanel, the main reason I do that is for spam messages sent to SpamExperts. That didn’t worry me too much.
My website was down for 30 minutes, this was from midnight Pacific Standard Time. At least it was out of office hours for me but during a busy time from a European perspective.
I noticed the following after the migration:
My website appeared to work without any issues.
When I logged into WordPress there were some settings that I needed to fix.
The RSS feed had stopped working.
Prior to the move websites for other domain were under a folder of the main domain, as pre-structured by Siteground. However, they are now in separate buckets, I wasn’t expecting this at all although I expect it makes sense. I wish I had known though.
Email working ok and didn’t need to change any settings.
My FTP account had been deleted, not migrated, and needed to create another one.
No Backups had been carried over (if anybody is going through this migration process it’s worth doing a backup prior to the move just in case something goes wrong).
Everything I had entered in IP Deny in cPanel hadn’t been migrated over.
I’ve experienced two internal migrations with GoDaddy and in comparison, the Siteground one was less stressful even though the communication piece was missing.
Site Tool Review
It’s ok. Nothing fabulous. It feels like a slight backward step from all the functionality of cPanel.
Probably the biggest missing piece is Softalicious that installs web apps. Siteground have what they consider popular apps but none of them relevant to me. If I need to re-install an app I have it will have to be done via the long method creating a MySQL database etc. A bit of a nuisance.
The most poorly designed interface is accessing SpamExperts especially if you are managing several domains. As each domain has its own Site Tools functionality there are more steps as you have to go into each to review spam that way.
Despite this move, Siteground is still one of the best hosts I have been with:
WordPress and other apps are extremely fast
There is no downtime.
They are expensive (see below) but you pay for what you get.
From a price perspective, Siteground is expensive. However, time is money and I spend many frustrating hours trying to resolve issues with hosts like GoDaddy it’s worth paying more for that quality of service.