Demon Internet ‘tenner a month’

It occurred to me today that I couldn’t remember the last time I had received a bill from, nor indeed how I was paying for my original dial up Demon Internet service.

Back in 1993 I signed up for their then pretty revolutionary ‘tenner a month’ dial up IP service.  The legendary events surrounding the birth of Demon Internet are told in detail here.

In those days I was using an Amiga 1200, a US Robotics Modem and browsing the then limited Internet with NCSA Mosaic.

Demon was very successful and quickly established itself as the UK’s largest ISP.  In 1998 it’s founder Cliff Stanford sold the company to Scottish Telecom, a subsidiary of Scottish Power.  Scottish Telecom was subsequently rebranded as Thus and floated on the stock exchange.  More recently (2008) Thus was bought by Cable and Wireless and is now branded as Thus, A Cable and Wireless Business.

During all these changes over the past 17 years I have also moved house twice, had numerous different computers, and of course no longer use the dial up service although I’ve never cancelled the account due to the amount of services where I use the associated e-mail for log in and partly through absent mindedness.

A quick scan of my bank accounts and there of course was the direct debit, now £19.99/month the reason I hadn’t noticed it, apart from being a dufus was I also have a Demon Broadband account for work and simply hadn’t noticed there were two debits going out each month.  So I headed over to http://www.demon.net to see if I could log into my account and see what details were lurking there.

However I was unable to find anywhere to log in so I called the customer services number.  Armed with, well nothing really apart from my user name I spoke to a very helpful chap.  It transpired that the address they had on record for me was the original address I had given in 1993 and hadn’t lived at for 12 years and the phone number was similarly out of date.

After updating my records the chap advised me to call another department as he believed as a long standing customer I should be paying less for my service and he was right.  I’m now paying £4.99/month as a loyal customer as opposed to the £19.99 I was paying, quite a saving.  I was also able to retrieve my account number and set up my ebilling account and view some invoices, unfortunately they only go back around 12 months.

I now wanted to discover when the price increased to £19.99/month.  I noticed on the bills that I could now access that the description of the product supplied was SDU/Premier Connect PLUS (UPGRADE.)  So I entered this into Google and found the following page.

Which contained the following information:-

If you are an existing SDU customer, you will need to register in order to take advantage of Demon Premier Connect Plus. In future you will be billed £19.99 instead of the £11.75 that you currently pay for your SDU account.

I do not remember asking to be upgraded to this service so I feel another call to customer services is due.

And then there’s my Pipex Dial account…

WUArchive is no more.

I noticed today, rather sadly that WUArchive is more.  I don’t know the exact date it was retired, on the site it simply says 2010.  Some of my earliest experiences of the Internet were rooting around on this resource using Gopher.  No doubt there are mirrors of the site still out there, but presumably they will slowly disappear as the original has.  The holding page to be found at the original address is a little sad though it does display the following rather limited history of the archive’s hardware.

In December of 1992, it was a DEC Alpha AXP 3000/400 workstation, with a 64bit 133Mhz 21064 Alpha CPU.
By 1997, it had 65GB of space, and 192MB of RAM.
It was a Sun UltraSparc 2, with dual 200Mhz CPUs, 512MB of RAM, and 180GB of disk in 2001.
It retired as a dual Pentium 4, with 1 GB of RAM and 1.2 TB of disk.

Things move on but there’s a strange situation with the on-line world and equally electronic game worlds both on and off-line, we inhabit these places  and remember them as we do places we have physically lived or visited and yet whilst we can return to towns, cities, schools and so on once these digital worlds are dismantled or the hardware no longer exists to recreate them they are lost forever.

As more people lay down roots in the digital world it seems more people are destined eventually to be cast adrift and unable to return to those worlds as they remember them.

I often wonder for instance just what proportion of family photographs of children’s first steps, their first days at school, weddings and so on will be lost to future generations as they exist only in digital form and are subject to inevitable hardware failures and obsolete technology.

My friend Mark recently introduced me to the story of the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project.  A classic example of huge amounts of important data that could quite easily have been lost.  It’s an extraordinary story and well worth a read and shows quite clearly the effort that can often be required to recover data stored on obsolete formats.  There is clearly a window of opportunity for such projects to succeed and fortunately for the LOIRP they were just within that window.

I have today been messing around with a Vic 20 that I bought from ebay which came with the infamous Datasette.  With little optimism of success I put a game cassette in, namely ‘Wacky Waiters,’ typed Load, pressed play and… it loaded with no problems.  All the subsequent tapes I have tried have also worked, not bad for hardware that’s the best part of 30 years old!

As I write this entry my mind has turned to Aminet, the online repository for the Amiga community, and yes it’s still going strong, a quick root around and a couple of images I uploaded 18 years ago are still present.

The first was a render of a 3D model created by G.Dean of the 92/93 Williams Formula 1 car.  Rendered with Imagine 2.0 the image took 40 minutes to complete on a 50mhz 68030 Amiga A1200 with 4 meg of fast ram.

The second image was a montage of 256 colour stills from Star Trek captured using an Amiga A1200 030 and Vidi Amiga12.  The image source was a paused VHS cassette on a Panasonic NV-65 video recorder.

New Mac Mini, No Blu-Ray

Amidst the fanfare and media frenzy that was the iPhone 4 launch, Apple quietly slipped out a new Mac Mini.  Redesigned to fit in with the uni-body design of the Mac Book range the unit is sleeker and more attractive than its predecessor.  Predictably it also has a faster processor, more memory, a larger drive and faster graphics hardware.  Now costing £649 the model has moved on from its original brief as an entry level Mac to tempt users aware from Wintel to an altogether more powerful and capable device.

With an HDMI port as standard the Mac Mini will do excellent service at the center of your home entertainment system.  Of course Apple have deigned to ignore Blu-Ray and include a DVD drive.  With the format war between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray now over in the latter’s favour, the platform now pretty mature and the huge library of films now available it’s an irritating omission.  But of course Apple want to sell and rent you films via iTunes, so where’s the revenue stream for them with Blu-Ray? What a shame, had the Mini included a Blu-Ray drive I’d have bitten Apple’s fingers off to get one having thus far resisted the charms of the HD format.

With the inclusion of HDMI and its smaller size the new Mini is now stepping on the toes of the arguably unloved Apple TV (certainly unloved in this household, more on that later.)  It’s interesting to note that on visiting the UK Apple online store the Apple TV is now nowhere to be seen on the front page, I don’t think it will be long before its current incarnation is retired, there are already rumours abound of a new model.  The existing model is however around a third of the price of the new Mac Mini so opting for the Mini over the Apple TV is certainly a much more expensive proposition.

I’m not sure exactly what the story with the Apple TV is, I’ve often heard it described as a ‘hobby’ project for Apple, it’s certainly the least ‘Apple-like’ product I own.  Mine crashes regularly, is worryingly hot when running and still annoyingly warm when on standby.  I therefore refuse to leave it turned on all the time, cutting the power regularly, whether this is the reason for its unstable behaviour I’m not sure but it has certainly disappointed me on a number of levels.

For me one thing would save it from becoming an expensive toy and that would be a stable interface for the BBC’s Iplayer.  I’m aware that you can via a hack coax it into accessing the service, but I want a proper implementation, with access to the BBC’s HD content.  As far as I can tell there is some sort of issue with DRM between Apple and the BBC although I have been unable to find any official statement.  Of course using the new Mac Mini this would be a breeze but that’s a pretty expensive route into the Iplayer particularly when you consider it will be coming via Freeview before too long and given that Project Canvas has been given the go ahead.