December 2010

Big Up Zen Internet!

Myself and several of the clients that I work with use the web hosting services of Zen Internet, based nearby in sunny Rochdale.

I’ve been a Zen customer for around two years now, and cannot fault them on either reliability, customer service, or technical support. PC Pro magazine agrees, awarding them Best ISP for 2010, the seventh consecutive time Zen have won this award. And perhaps this would be a good example of why…

I was recently asked to help migrate several client websites from another hosting company’s dedicated server, over to a new Zen shared hosting account. More often than not, this would be fairly straightforward. However, one of the websites included an application for agents and franchisees to manage projects, and the database for this particular application included a MySQL Trigger. Problem was that the insertion of MySQL Triggers apparently requires the user to have Super privileges, which would be no problem on a dedicated server but understandably Zen could not allow individual users to have Super privileges on a shared hosting environment.

Following a bit of time learning more about MySQL Trigger problems, and considering alternative solutions, I decided to email Zen and ask if they could insert the Trigger into the database on my behalf, also defining Trigger (but not Super) privileges for a specific database user. I didn’t hold out much hope, and their initial response wasn’t too promising but they said they would look into it. Amazingly, after another couple of emails back and forth, Zen say the jobs a goodun!

I’ve had dealings with dozens of hosting providers over the years, and reckon I can safely say that very few if any would have taken this on, or would have resolved it so quickly. Most likely I’d have spent hours on hold or in a queue for technical support, and then ended up trying to explain the issue to someone who knew even less about it than I initially did.

Nice one Zen!

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Jason Elliott’s Malicious Blackmail Allegation

Jason Elliott of Hebden Bridge Talks Big On Twitter

I thought for my next blog post I’d recount my rather grim experience from earlier this year, a couple of months prior to the UK General Election. It’s a wee bit complicated and there’s quite a lot to tell, but bear with me, I’ll try to keep it short and sweet.

In the six months or so prior to the 2010 Election, I’d begun to notice that one particular Calder Valley candidate was being briefed against by their own party members on local blogs, websites and in newspapers. To the extent that outrageous smears and utter lies were regularly being published, and without any kind of challenge to their validity.

One of the people whom I believe was heavily involved and instrumental in this smear campaign, is Jason Elliott, a local ‘entrepreneur’ with some kind of aspiration toward being a political kingmaker. Jason Elliott’s Hebden Bridge based businesses include British Recycled Products, Low Carbon Products, British Recycled Paint, Eco School Products, and Mobile Web Builders.

Joining Mr. Elliott in this nasty little political coven were (amongst others) his friends Chris Ratcliffe of the Hebden Bridge Web, Hebden Royd Town Councillor and Yorkshire Post journalist Susan Press, and Gareth Binding the boss of alternative education providers Cool UK and Alternative In Mind (AIM) (aka Cool Lancashire).

All of the above people are connected socially with Jason Elliott and each other, plus Gareth Binding and Jason Elliott are also good friends of the now Conservative Party MP for Calder Valley, Craig Whittaker. “Nothing wrong with that!” you might say, however…

Hebden Bridge's Jason Elliott's 10 minute Youtube rant about the Calder Valley Labour Candidate

OK, so there’s the political backdrop, but what came next is the real subject of this post.

I had been critical of a couple of these people in blog posts in the first few months of 2010, simply pointing out their lack of authenticity, or making clear the true, and bitterly personal nature of their campaign to destroy the reputation of another individual. It was obvious to me, that this was no battle of political ideology, but merely a resentful and rather puerile attempt at character assassination on behalf of a certain friend and Hebden Royd Councillor who had their nose put out of joint by losing out on their own opportunity of candidacy. Jason ‘unrelenting’ Elliott did not take kindly to this.

So now it’s March, 7pm on Sunday the 21st to be exact. I have been out all day walking the dog on the hilltops surrounding Hebden Bridge from about 1pm, and I’ve arranged to meet my partner and some friends at The Hole in t’Wall in Hebden Bridge to have some food together. When I get there I realise that I’ve no cash, so I leave the pub and make my way to the cashpoint. On my way there I check my mobile phone and see that I’ve got an answerphone message. Turns out it’s from a Halifax CID officer DC Simon Jenkinson, who asks me to call him back. As I’m doing so and having a conversation with him, I turn the corner to where the cashpoint is and am confronted by six police officers, one of whom takes the dog lead from my hand, whilst another reads me my rights, puts me in handcuffs and bundles me into an unmarked car.

Apparently, I’ve been arrested on suspicion of blackmail and am then taken to Halifax police station, where I’m held for six hours and then eventually questioned. Whilst being questioned, I’m informed that my partner has also been arrested for the same offense (while I was en-route to Halifax Poilce Station), our home completely turned over and searched by a team of CID officers, all mobile phones and computer equipment seized along with dozens of  files and documents (deemed ‘Special Procedure’ according to PACE). After the hour of questioning, the photographs, the fingerprinting, the DNA samples etc and then a mandatory drug test (which was obviously negative, but also unlawful under the circumstances), my partner and I were eventually released from custody at about 2am. Without any charge, but on police bail.

We then spend the next three and a half months on police bail, having to return a couple of times in that period to be questioned again or not as it turned out each time, and then re-bailed. Eventually, in July, DC Simon Jenkinson confirmed there would be no charges and no further action against either of us, and all the belongings which had been seized were finally returned a week later. We were never even questioned once by the investigating officers during that whole three month long investigation.

So why were we arrested? Well, it turns out that Jason Elliott had alleged to the police that I was responsible for hacking several of his websites and had made demands for money to undo these hacks. Yes, I know, utterly ridiculous. But there we both were, worrying about the unlikely circumstance that charges could be brought on some phoney witness statements and maybe even a conviction sought, therefore facing the possibility of up to 14 years in prison for blackmail. As I’m sure anyone will appreciate, irrespective of whether charges were brought or not, the whole experience was deeply traumatic for both of us and our respective families.

So, did Jason Elliott deliberately put us both in harms way by making a false allegation to the police? Yes, in my opinion he most certainly did. I believe the allegation was bogus, extremely malicious and that Jason Elliott deliberately intended to cause harm by doing this. His subsequent braggadocio, gleeful intimidation and threatening behaviour on his Blog (posted the day after the General Election), and social networking websites Facebook and Twitter, merely served to prove that. Jason Elliott’s very thinly veiled threats (along with the outrageous slander alluded to which followed that post) continued well into the following Summer.

Jason Elliott Twitter Twitter Threats 28th April 2010

These events, and the conduct of West Yorkshire Police (in particular DC Simon Jenkinson, DS Simon Archer, and the ‘time-traveling’ Detective Inspector Ashley Hewitt) throughout the whole ordeal, are the subject of a number of extremely serious complaints being made to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and a separate civil action. I could go into a massive amount of detail about what exactly each of those complaints is all about, but I’ll spare you. All that I’ll say for now is that I’m very much looking forward to a positive outcome.

Anyhoo, for the record, I don’t hack websites. I just build them.

EDIT: You might also be interested in this forum thread which examines the potentially unlawful business practices of Jason Elliott.

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