Foxtel iQ3 – The worst piece of technology this year?

Foxtel IQ3 Website
Ladies and gentlemen, it appears that we have a definite contender (and likely winner) of the 2015 Shonky Awards! When you pay a premium for cable television, it is every Australian’s right that, they get premium hardware… or that at least works… or that works on occasion… at least I now know, this was a woeful fallacy I was under.

On IT News (http://www.itnews.com.au/CXOChallenge/404155,innovating-for-your-life.aspx#ixzz3aeJON2n7) an article which seemingly Ms Nell Payne (Group Director Technology and Operations at Foxtel) had input into states the following:

“The company faced a bit of a hiccup when the iQ3 first launched over performance issues, though the cacophony of complaints has now hushed.”

To IT News (which was likely paraphrasing discussions with Ms Payne) and to Ms Payne herself, I provide the following response… I have an “iQ3 Saga File” My summary file on the saga currently sits at the following (time to grab some popcorn):

The first block is things that I have personally raised or have encountered myself. Wherever possible I have provided a link to at least one relevant forum post for the major items. I also highly recommend the “Overall less than spectacular operations during release” section.

At the very bottom (“Posts that say it all”) I have gone through the last two pages only of one of the forums (user feedback only, I figured this was more than enough to illustrate my point).

Throughout the process I have been very active on the forums (some of the post linked below are my own or posts I have been involved in), I like to think I am an extremely level-headed individual and I work in I.T. and know what system design, development, and testing is like… I do it day-to-day. This is one such post that I believe is quite level headed http://community.foxtel.com.au/t5/Foxtel-iQ3/class-action-regarding-IQ3/m-p/56879# (first reply).

The only way I have succeeded in using my box is to use it primarily for watching TV live or download SD catchup (recordings have been too flaky). I have been lucky enough that after much complaining and a formal complaints process, Foxtel agreed to re-activate my old IQ-HD box for 6 months at no cost until the issues were ironed out (I feel it is only fair to now let the community know) they also agreed to refund the full cost of install and the IQ3 (not all has been applied to my account yet).

The questions I ask of Foxtel are:

  1. Why have we gone just shy of 60 days since release with no update? Bundling everything into one will only likely cause new bugs rather than logical, incremental fixes with time to test in between.
  2. Why has senior management not addressed the Foxtel community yet?
  3. What will be done to compensate those that have suffered had crippled iQ3 boxes for two months (and counting)?
  4. What is being done to review your user acceptance testing plans and procedures? As has become apparent, the testing that the iQ3 was put through has failed to reveal an embarrassing number of issues.
  5. What plans are being put in place (if any) to put in place a sufficient beta testing program including real life users to test real world scenarios of future updates (to better put them through their paces)?

So feel free to vent and/or add your comments below is there anything I have currently missed from the below?

Cheers,
Stuart

My current outstanding list of bugs include:

User Interface Issues:

In some ways it has been a step backwards as well:

Overall less than spectacular operations during release:

Posts that say it all:

TorGuard Review 2015 – My VPN of choice as an Australian

TorGuard Website
Choosing a VPN provider can be difficult, you want one that provides great customer service, security, reliability and most importantly, one with servers close to you as well as around the world. When my account with Astrill came up for renewal recently, I decided it was time to review the field again.

For a limited time, due to Australia’s new Data Retention laws I have managed to get Torguard to provide me a 20% off any Torguard plan coupon for my readers. You can use this by heading over to Torguard and using the following coupon “AnonymousVPN”.

I use a VPN for a variety of reasons, I find them extremely handy for security reasons, I now have two static IP services with TorGuard so that I can restrict certain things I log into by public IP address. This also means that I can connect to these from anywhere in the world. As many Australian’s will know, they can also be used for “Geo dodging” services that are restricted to certain countries. Being a lucky user of Foxtel I personally don’t have that issue but if that is your end goal you will be happy to know that TorGuard has servers all around the world you can connect to. Lastly, they are handy for getting around firewalls when you are in a restricted environment (and have a legitimate reason for needing to get out of the firewalled environment)

The starting point is to find providers that have a good reputation, if Anonymity is what you are looking for you will probably be familiar with TorrentFreak’s roundup of providers that don’t keep logs (2015 edition). I checked out:

  • Private Internet Access
  • TorGuard
  • IPVanish
  • NordVPN

I came up with the above list based on those that have servers within Australia and will also note that some of these I have used previously. After testing the speeds of each provider, TorGuard turned out to be the best VPN for me as a Sydneysider. I am not necessarily saying that the others weren’t good, but I lost very little overall speed on my connection when using TorGuard, which was one of my primary goals.

After testing and selecting TorGuard, it was refreshing to see most things included. Astrill offers upsell after upsell (even for example if you want to use more than a single device), the only thing I have had to pay for extra so far with TorGuard is my static IPs (which are not a necessity for most people). I have found the service to be exemplary, support tickets are answered promptly, the service is solid as a rock and I have stayed connected for days at a time (usually only losing a connection when my ADSL drops sync… still hanging on for this NBN we keep hearing about).

The OSX client that comes with TorGuard was easy to use, I opted to purchase a full Viscosity license to get the latest version and configure it myself, I am stoked with it as a VPN client, however you will be happy to know that the clients that TorGuard offers are simple, easy to use and sufficient for 99% of all users needs.

So if you are looking for an anonymous VPN service that has endpoints in Sydney, has anonymity as a priority, is affordable, reliable, doesn’t require long contracts and above all… JUST WORKS! I can happily say that TorGuard is well worth looking into.

As always, when I review a service that I love, I have put an affiliate link here in the post. If you would like to visit the service directly please visit http://torguard.net.

SpamTitan AntiSpam Appliance – It saved my inbox!

SpamTitan Website
The SpamTitan anti-spam appliance has been a godsend for me over the last year. As a heavy user of all things I.T., including email, I found that more and more I was becoming inundated with constant spam filling my inbox.

I had tried several hosted services to attempt to cull the spam from my life, but alas none seemed able to fit the bill or offered the level of customisability that SpamTitan has.

So with thanks to TurnkeyInternet for my hosting servers, and SecureSoft for helping me get the SpamTitan license, I was able to spin up a SpamTitan anti-spam virtual appliance. The SpamTitan server now sits in front of my main web server and protect both incoming and outgoing email.

The Stats:

Since the appliance was brought online on February 04, 2014, there have been 131889 emails that have passed through, and these have been broken up into the following:
RBL Rejections – 53.5%
Clean messages – 25.1%
Other Frontline Rejections – 16.4%
Denied Relays – 3.3%
Invalid Recipients, Banned Attachments and Virus Messages making up the remaining 1.7%
(see image for further details).

More about SpamTitan:

The SpamTitan appliance comes inbuilt with both the ClamAV and Kaspersky antivirus scanners that together provides a reliable antivirus platform. Luckily, I can safely say that I have only had a single virus email which has been a blessing, which was blocked immediately by the appliance.

I have found the appliance to be hugely configurable, both system-wide as well as down to the domain level. SpamTitan provides the ability to configure different outbound disclaimers, daily report settings, spam thresholds and so on all on a per domain basis (and much more).

The appliance has also been remarkably robust, with the exception of requiring reboots for ESX updates, I have never found a need to restart the appliance itself. Stability is crucial, and it has been a blessing to have the SpamTitan server in front of my main server on the odd occasion it has required maintenance so that mail is still received and queued for delivery.

SpamTitan for me has mostly been a set and forget adventure. When one of my domains started receiving a significantly heavier amount of spam, I did perform some tweaking of the Bayesian filter settings, but for the most part it happily takes care of itself.

Who is it for:

I could see the self-hosted appliance (or the SpamTitan hosted offering) being of great use for anywhere from small businesses with 10-50 users too much larger, even enterprise organisations. At this time, the smallest license you can get is 50 users, so there are no single user options at this time, but I would love to see an offering like that in the future.

What I would love to see:

While the whole experience has been overwhelmingly positive, one thing I would like to see improved is the way a user can mark a false negative (i.e. spam that slipped through the cracks and was marked as clean). At the moment, a user has to log into the web interface, find the email (that can sometimes be difficult without the Quarantine ID), and then mark it as spam. I would love to see a simple “forward to a particular email address” that the SpamTitan server would then check periodically to re-classify those emails as spam.

Also it would be great for an administrator to have the ability to review the quarantine and have an integration with the SpamCop service which would enable the bulk submission of spam (via email) to the service to help report those that have slipped through the cracks.

Where can you get it?

If you are in Australia, you can speak to the team at SecureSoft who are the local distributors, they are a great bunch of people and have great and helpful sales and support staff. Otherwise, outside of Australia, you can check out SpamTitan to check out who your local reseller is.

Some Screenshots:

Administrator Dashboard for the SpamTitan anti-spam Appliance
Administrator Dashboard for the SpamTitan anti-spam Appliance

 

SpamTitan Anti-Spam RBL Configuration Screen
SpamTitan Anti-Spam RBL Configuration Screen

 

SpamTitan Anti-Spam Greylisting Configuration Screen
SpamTitan Anti-Spam Greylisting Configuration Screen

 

SpamTitan Anti-Spam Example Daily Quarantine Report
SpamTitan Anti-Spam Example Daily Quarantine Report