Virgin Media – What a Joke!

Having given Virgin Media one last chance to redeem themselves before cancelling their Cable Broadband service due to the inability of their engineers to attend an appointment on time (or at all – see https://alanhardisty.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/waiting-in-for-virgin-media-this-time/), they were scheduled to arrive today between 8:00am and 10:00pm (I advised them I would only wait in until 10:00am – although their appointment was until 12:00pm), it is now 10:10am and I have now cancelled my account with them.

I may just wait in for the next 2 hours for a laugh to see if they do actually show up!

So – if you decide to opt for any of the Virgin Media Services that they offer – don’t be surprised if you keep having to take time off to stay in at home to wait for their engineers who simply won’t turn up when they are supposed to.

Things don’t seem to have moved on since the days of NTL and the service that they provided (which was also lousy), so you have been warned.

If on the other hand, you like staying in at home, having taken time off work to wait for one of their Engineers, then great – I hope you have plenty of tea / coffee on standby and enjoy the peace and quiet.

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Waiting in for Virgin Media (this time)!

Having decided to switch broadband from copper to cable – the only choice was Virgin Media, so I signed up on-line for their 30Mb service which provided me with a Virgin Media Super Hub (whoopee!! – but I wanted a Modem as a hub would not allow me to use my own router to link up my home to my office via a Gateway to Gateway VPN).

So – the appointment was scheduled for the 5th July 2011 between 8:00am and 1:00pm. So I sit at home and wait for them to turn up.

Come 1:05pm – I call them up and ask them when the engineer might appear and provide me with my broadband. After being put on hold for a while, they come back to me and advise me that the engineer was being a bit delayed but would be with me in about 40 minutes to an hour.

At 3:00pm and no sign of their engineer – I call them again and get put on hold yet again. Magically as I am on the phone, having held on for about 10 minutes, a Virgin Media van appears outside and I then end the call to their telephone support.

About 15 minutes after the 1st engineer arrives – two more appear and the three of them then work until about 4:20pm until my service is up and running. So far so good, but for an 8:00am to 1:00pm appointment – it is now 4:20pm and my whole day is wasted.

The 1st engineer advised me that he didn’t even have the job to get me installed that day and the others advised that an engineer was off sick and everyone had to re-arrange their days and rally round to get the work done – I feel so lucky to have such diligent engineers!!

Having then spent the evening trying to get the Virgin Media Super Hub to play with my own Router and establish the IPSEC VPN between the office and home, I give up, knowing that it wouldn’t work in the first place, but felt that it was rude not to give it a try.

The following day I borrow a Virgin Media Cable Modem from a customer who no longer is going to use the service and plug the modem in at home and try to get it working. Lo and behold – it doesn’t – so I call Virgin and ask then if they can make it work. Short answer is no because it is still registered to another customer and also because it won’t work on a 30mb service – I need to downgrade to a 20Mb service – so I downgrade and they promise to send me a new modem in a couple of days.

2 days later – as promised – the modem arrives and I plug it in – call them up – activate it and all works happily.

So that evening I again try to get my own Router to work on their connection and establish a VPN connection – which turns out to be impossible, although it should work.

On the Sunday I call them up and check to see if they are blocking any ports or restricting the service in any way and they advise me that they are not, but check the connection and advise me that it was a bit noisy and might be the cause of the inability to get the VPN working, so they schedule an Engineer to pay me a visit today between 12:00pm and 4:00pm (can you tell where this is heading yet?).

So, I get home today at 12:00pm and sit at home working remotely and doing what I can awaiting the engineer. I finally get a call from Virgin Media at about 3:30pm advising that their engineer isn’t able to make it today – some sickness again apparently and can I make another appointment. I advised them that I had already wasted 3½ hours of my day and that their offer of £10 compensation wasn’t going to cover the time I have wasted so they advised me to contact customer services – to which I replied – you can call them because I have better things to do with my time and whilst calling them, please cancel the contract as clearly this isn’t going to be a long and happy relationship if their engineers can only book a 4-hour slot and then fail to arrive 100% of the time within the agreed time-slot.

Be warned – if you decide to opt for a Virgin Media Service – make sure you have plenty of spare time on your hands as you will need it.

Sadly the alternative of Copper broadband involves BT at some point in the loop – who are equally as bad at turning up when they are meant to – so if you want broadband – make sure you have plenty of tea / coffee handy and something to occupy your time – you will need it.

BT Should Stick to Telephones and Not Configuring Mail Servers!

Having received a call from a customer today having problems receiving mail from their customers via our Mail Servers, I looked through our Anti-Spam logs (Vamsoft ORF) and filtered the logs to show rejected mail for them and then I looked through the rejected mail for the problem sender and checked out the details of the sending server, which turned out to have the following Fully Qualified Domain Name:

HESA01UKER.HE.LOCAL

The related IP Address was 213.123.26.92 which is a BT IP Address. I then re-filtered the logs to show all mail from servers with an FQDN of *.HE.LOCAL and there were about 60 entries all coming from similar named servers:

HESA02UKER.HE.LOCAL
HESA03UKER.HE.LOCAL
HESA06UKER.HE.LOCAL
HESA06UKER.HE.LOCAL
HESL01UKER.HE.LOCAL
HESL02UKER.HE.LOCAL
HESL04UKER.HE.LOCAL

Well – all the related IP Addresses are BT IP Addresses and half of the sender addresses were *@BTCONNECT.COM addresses, which would suggest to me that they are all BT Mail Servers.

So – what’s the problem? Well, the problem is that any mail server that is configured with an FQDN ending .LOCAL is not RFC Compliant (email standards) because the FQDN must resolve back to the IP Address that the server is connected to the internet with but a .LOCAL FQDN cannot be resolved as .LOCAL domain names are only resolvable internally and thus when a receiving server sees a .LOCAL FQDN, then server may reject the connection attempt because it cannot resolve the FQDN in DNS and thinks the server is a spamming server.

So – BT need to get their act together and configure their servers properly as their customer’s emails will be getting rejected by some other mail servers (including ours) and as usual, the people sending the emails will think that it is a problem with the receiving server, which it isn’t.

British Telecom (BT) Bureaucracy Over Reverse DNS Record without MX Record

During a recent installation of an Small Business Server server for a customer whose mail we currently host, I requested the customer arranged for a fixed IP Address with their Internet Service Provider (ISP) who was British Telecom (BT Broadband) and this was quickly and easily implemented.

Once the fixed IP Address had been registered on their Firewall / Router and I had determined it was Blacklist free, I asked my customer to request that BT setup Reverse DNS on the fixed IP Address so that we could move their mail from our servers to their new server. Our customer not being very technical, asked me to send the email request to BT and gave me the email address that BT had given to them to email a request. That email address was reverse.dns@btbroadbandoffice.com. I sent my original request to BT on the 7th January, chased them again on the 12th January and then finally sent a 3rd request on the 20th January. Having heard nothing at all and still not having Reverse DNS setup, on the 26th January I asked my customer to give them a call and ask them what the problem was and why do they not even bother to reply to any emails that they are sent.

After lengthy phone calls between my customer and BT, my customer and myself and BT and myself, BT advised me that they can’t or won’t setup Reverse DNS records without first having an MX record pointing to the IP Address. I advised them that there won’t be an MX record pointing to the IP Address until they configure Reverse DNS. This was standard policy for BT and apparently the same with all other ISP’s. I advised them that they were the only ISP that had ever requested anything like this and that I would probably be advising my customer to use a different ISP, one that doesn’t make such ridiculous requests.

So – at a stale-mate situation and after advising BT what I thought of them – something I regularly do when it comes to BT and their ridiculous policies – I asked them if the addition of an additional MX record would meet their needs and allow them to setup Reverse DNS. They advised me (after putting me on hold again for another eternity), that this would unlock their handcuffs and allow the record to be setup.

So, having waited 48 hours for the new MX record to be propagated in DNS, I asked my customer to talk to BT again and request that Reverse DNS is setup.

With any luck – they will have actioned this and I can complete the mail migration from our servers to their own server.

It has only taken 3 weeks to get something simple setup – something that would take out ISP (www.bethere.co.uk) about 5 minutes to implement – although I am still checking to see if the record has been configured and as of now (00:52 hrs on the 1st February), still no Reverse DNS record is configured as per the latest request.

I am meant to be seeing my customer today to complete the mail migration – somehow I think I am going to have to postpone it yet again.

So – if you ever want BT to setup Reverse DNS – make sure you have an MX record pointing to the IP Address or you will get incredibly frustrated as I have with them (yet again).

Alternatively, don’t bother using BT Broadband in the first place. Find a decent ISP that can accommodate your simple requests without putting up hurdles for you to jump over.

Once upon a time – when I wanted a fixed IP Address with BT – they asked me for £100 to set it up ad £10 a month. Needless to say I moved ISP’s very quickly after I had picked myself up from the floor and had stopped laughing : )

Demon’s (Thus Telecom) Response about their mail server’s being Blacklisted – Do they give a damn?

A customer of ours was having trouble sending us emails recently and the usual reason is that the IP Address of the mail server that was sending the mail to us is blacklisted (our servers check against various blacklists to cut down on spam just like every other good mail server should).

So, after receiving a copy of the email headers from our customer, we checked the sending server’s IP Address 195.173.77.148 and sure enough, on checking on MXToolbox we discovered that they were on 3 blacklists (Lashback / Redhawk and SORBS).

So we asked our customer to get in touch with their ISP (Demon / Thus) and ask them to request that the IP address gets de-listed. That was when the fun started!

After a couple of emails back and forth between us, our customer and Demon (Thus), we received the following response:

—————————————————————————————————————
“It appears that it-eye.co.uk are using SORBS to filter their mail.

There are many blacklists available on the Internet but not all blacklists are created equal. We actively monitor a number of the larger public ones to ensure that we are aware of problems with both our service machines and our customers.

However, it is our opinion that this particular list is a rather aggressive one and sees abuse teams as the enemy rather than an ally.

They also do not appear to provide any evidence for their listings so we will not be submitting any removal requests.

Recipients must understand that if they use such lists, they may very well be losing legitimate mail.

If this is causing you difficulties then there are 2 options available to you:

1. Alter your configuration to send mails directly rather than via our smarthost (if your systems are able to support this).
2. Send your mails to one of the smarthost machines that aren’t presently listed; this is a list of the current machines:

195.173.77.132
195.173.77.133
195.173.77.134
195.173.77.148
195.173.77.149
195.173.77.150

Please note that this is only given as a possible fix for a temporary problem and that you generally should only refer to the smarthosts as ‘post.demon.co.uk’.


Network Abuse Team
THUS
a Cable&Wireless Worldwide business”

—————————————————————————————————————
Having picked myself up off the floor, I decided to check out the IP addresses that they listed and guess what, here are the results!

195.173.77.132 – Blacklisted on Backscatterer.org – (badly configured server) plus Lashback & Sorbs
195.173.77.133 – Blacklisted on Lashback & Sorbs
195.173.77.134 – Blacklisted on Backscatterer.org – (badly configured server) plus Lashback & Sorbs
195.173.77.148 – Blacklisted on Lashback, Redhawk & Sorbs
195.173.77.149 – Blacklisted on Lashback & Sorbs
195.173.77.150 – Blacklisted on Backscatterer.org – (badly configured server) plus Lashback & Sorbs

Now you don’t get listed on Backscatterer.org unless your servers are badly configured and send out Non-Delivery Reports to spammers, so it is very clear that Demon do not have a clue about configuring mail servers and clearly don’t care that their IP Addresses are blacklisted and are not prepared to do anything about it. Please read the Wikipedia explanation of what Backscatter is.

So – ask yourself – are you going to use Demon as your ISP? I certainly know that they won’t be appearing on my top 1 million ISP’s 🙂