What’s so hard about tea

October 21, 2008

What is it about our European and American cousins that they find making a cup of tea so difficult. Even the ultra-lazy method of dropping a tea bag into a mug and adding boiling water eludes them. Instead they deliver a pot of hot water and a selection of individually wrapped tea bags. So instead of a nice refreshing brew you end up with a fairly insipid infusion that somehow masquerades as tea. It’s just not right.


Downloading music

October 9, 2008

Yesterday I got the urge to listen to an old Brian Wilson album, he of Beach Boys and staying in bed for a decade fame. Surprisingly it wasn’t on my iPod although I know that I own the album. One of those that got lost in the split with my ex was the likely explanation. Since it was first released it has been re-mastered and now features demo tracks and Brian’s interludes about the album. It was available on iTunes for £7.99 and hmv.com for £6.99. Every little helps as someone keeps saying so I went with the cheaper option. Here’s what would have happened with iTunes. Click Buy, enter iTunes store password, watch download. Here’s what happened with hmv.com….

Find that hmv.com doesn’t support Firefox, dust off IE
Buy album
Get prompted that I need to download hmv jukebox and download manager
Start software download, box appears with click here when install completed
Software installation wants to close Internet Explorer, including the “click here when complete” window
Try to log back on to hmv.com – IE wants to open the site in a new window – this fails
Remove hmv.* from trusted sites list so IE can actually open it
Download manager pops up message saying that BITS (Background Intelligent Transfer Service) is not available.
Open services manager, see BITS is running
Google problem and find that need to start IE in Administrator mode so that it can access BITS
Download starts then stops
Restart download, duplicates of tracks already downloaded appear in download directory
Finally get album downloaded

Was it worth the £1 saving. No, absolutely not. This was far too painful. If the record companies are serious about thwarting piracy then they need to make sure that it’s a hell of a lot easier than this to download music legally.

Schadenfreude at the BBC

October 8, 2008

There was a time when the BBC was the bastion of excellence in journalism. The now infamous spat with Alastair Campbell about the sexed-up dossier and the subsequent Hutton enquiry threw a new light on their journalistic integrity and the current reporting on the global credit crisis is not helping their cause. Robert Peston, the BBC Business Editor "broke" the story about Northern Rock and it can be argued his reporting worsened the situation.

Today has seen the announcement of the rescue plan for the banks and rather than this being seen as a positive step to bring some much needed confidence to the banking sector it is seen as a £2000 per taxpayer bill by the BBC. What rubbish. We need some confidence in the markets and seeing the dark side of everything is just undermining any moves this, or any other, government makes. Robert Peston seems almost gleeful at the prospect of the economy going into a deep recession.

In the end we will all pay the price for the reporting style being adopted by the BBC. Making a name for themselves seems more important than reporting what is going on in a mature, professional manner. Taking delight in others’ misfortunes is not reporting, it’s puerile and right now, plain wrong.

Doom & gloom

October 7, 2008

Peter Jones, the very tall one from Dragons Den, was on breakfast TV this morning saying we were talking ourselves into a recession and how typically British to do so. His point was that the economy relies on credit and that credit relies on confidence and it’s a lack of confidence that’s at the heart of what is going on in the economy. A little confidence would go a long way right now.

He went on to say that he thought that any recession would be short lived and that the sooner the banks start to trust each other and start lending each other money again the better for all of us.

It was very refreshing to see someone not talking gloom & doom. He should be on more often!

I finally succumbed to the lure of the new, 2nd generation iPod touch. I don’t want an iPhone as it can’t run the TomTom GPS software whereas my Windows Mobile powered smartphone can but the touch seems to pack a lot in.. music, video, games, wifi and it’s small and the user interface is stunning. Travelling through Heathrow Terminal 5 last week gave me the opportunity to get one tax free although I had to find a shop that actually had stock. Initial impressions were that it was all I’d expected and more and since then I’ve become more and more impressed as the days have gone by. I’m even writing this blog entry on it.

So why the ultimate gadget? I can listen to music, watch widescreen video, check email, surf the net, control iTunes from my sofa (this has to be seen to be believed), connect to the IM systems I use, check cinema listings and film times, play games and even update my blog all from a machine that’s a third of the depth of my phone. It’s fast too and it’s the speed that is the icing on the cake. Multifunction devices rely on features, ease of use and speed and the new generation iPod touch has all three in spades.

Living in fear

October 4, 2008

The current economic times are giving us a lot of things to worry about. How safe is my job being the chief one I imagine for most people, myself included. This doesn’t mean that we should live in fear though. Yes we should be concerned and we should be looking at what we would do if the unthinkable happened but worrying about it constantly and letting it affect our lives in a detrimental way is not going to help us. Negativity breeds negativity and there needs to be some level of optimism and hope to balance it or we might as well just admit defeat. Looking back I think I’ve spent a lot of my life living in fear of one thing or another and the time has come for it to stop.

There have been lots of books and articles about the politics of fear. We, as a populace, are easier to manipulate and govern when we’re scared. Politicians wants us to be scared and fearful, so do the media; it makes us pliable and a little more docile than we would be normally. It’s bad enough that these organisations want us to be fearful without us inflicting it on ourselves as well.

Desktop IntelliPanel

September 10, 2008

I was looking for an 8 way extension lead for my desktop (I just have way too many things that need to be plugged in to the computer and the power  at the same time) when I came across this. It’s a neat device – when I turn the computer off, either completely or in standby mode, it shuts off the power to all the other sockets. When I turn the computer back on the sockets get their power back and everything comes back on. It’s also surge protected so has given me the sockets I need, it’ll save a bit of energy when the computer’s not running and it’s a bit quieter without all those fans running. Cool!

Geek Week

July 23, 2008

It’s been one of those weeks where I seem to be in full geek mode. I’ve been playing around with the new iGoogle interface, upgraded my O2 Stellar to the new Windows Mobile 6.1 ROM, switched pretty much all my browsing to Firefox 3, been blown away by the image wall that is PicLens, swapped to Windows Live Writer as my  blogging tool and been controlling my phone from the desktop using MyMobileR (screen shot below). This last one is very cool – it’s like remote desktop for a Windows Mobile phone. Sending SMS, recording bank transactions, uploading photos onto Live Mesh is so much easier using a full size keyboard


BT update

July 12, 2008

Got home last night to find that both telephone line and broadband are back and working normally. A couple of hours later I get a text from BT… “BT Fault update. We are still working on this fault. We will update you again. Thank You”. As I said in my last post, when it comes to BT, don’t believe the text!

A week ago my phone line and broadband connection went down. I’d overheard someone in the local Sainsbury say that there was a problem in the area as it had affected the lottery machines so wasn’t too concerned as I figured BT would sort it out pretty soon. The following day I used http://www.bt.com to do a line test – it recorded a fault and opened a fault case with their system. Later that day I checked the fault online and saw that the initial tests suggested that the actual fault was inside my house and that they would be sending an engineer on the morning of the 9th to fix it. I arranged time off work for the 9th after muttering something along the lines of “how come it takes 5 days to send an engineer out”.

The morning of the 9th came, I got a text from BT to say that my fault would be fixed that day. All good so far. At 12:42, I figured the morning was over and called BT’s fault line. I got a nice automated message saying my fault would be fixed today and I could press 9 to speak to someone about progress. The subsequent call went something like this….

Me: I’m expecting an engineer to visit to fix my fault and no-one turned up this morning
BT: You don’t have an appointment for an engineer
Me: Yes I do. Your online system says that you need to send an engineer, that it would be this morning and I got a text to say my fault would be fixed today.
BT: We’d need access to your property so you need an appointment
Me: I know you need access. Your online system said that. That’s why I’ve taken the day off to be here.
BT: But you don’t have an appointment. I can make one for this afternoon between 1 and 5. You’re lucky to get one today, otherwise it would have been tomorrow.
Me: But your system told me that you’d need access and you’d be sending an engineer this morning.
BT: Not without an appointment
Me: My phone and broadband are down. I logged the fault from work. I used the online system to check on the fault and on the basis of what it told me I took the day off. If I hadn’t phoned you to find out why you hadn’t sent an engineer how would I have ever known that I needed an appointment?
BT: We’d have put a card through your door
Me: Who would?
BT: The engineer
Me: But I wouldn’t get an engineer until I had an appointment
BT: You have an appointment this afternoon.
Me: Thank you. Goodbye

I hung up cursing BT and waited for the engineer. Guess what? 5 o’clock came and went without any sign of an engineer. I called the fault line again. The automated system told me I had an appointment booked for between 1 and 6. Thinking I must have misheard the earlier conversation I gave them another hour. Still no engineer. I am by now livid that I’ve been at home all day and still have no phone line and no broadband connection. Another call to the fault line. This time the automated system tells me that they’re sorry but they appear to have missed the arranged appointment. No shit sherlock! I press 9 to speak to a person and get routed to a call centre in India. The line is lousy. They promise to call engineering, find out why they didn’t turn up and call me back. When they call back they tell me that the engineering office is now closed, there are no notes to say why they missed the appointment and can I call back in the morning to rearrange it. Let’s get this straight…they missed the appointment and I have to call them to rearrange it. My lividness went off the scale. Somehow I politely expressed my utter frustration in having to deal with BT to get this resolved. To her credit the person on the other end of the phone empathised with my anger but that’s the system.

This morning I called the fault line ready to rant. The guy who answered promised to look into it and call me back. When he did he explained that the problem was an area wide one. Someone had stolen some cables and 1200 people had been without phones and broadband for the last week. Most were now back on but 400 or so, including me, were still waiting but the replacement of the cable should be complete by Monday. He had no idea why an appointment was made for me as there would have been nothing the engineer could have done anyway. I thanked him for finally explaining what had happened. He apologised for leaving me sitting around at home the previous day for an engineer that was never going to come.

BT – you suck. Your staff are inept, your online systems are inaccurate which makes them useless and if cable was a viable option for me I would be dumping you and your lousy service in a heartbeat. If there was an area wide problem why couldn’t that have been made clear when I reported the initial fault? It would have prevented so much aggrevation.

If you have a problem with BT, call them and speak to a person and hope you get to the one that actually cares about what they do and will look into it. Don’t rely on their online systems as they’re rubbish, don’t believe the text messages they send you and if the engineer fails to turn up call them before 6.