Friday, 8 June 2012

Scottish Gas Fail - How NOT to book a timeslot online

We just got a letter from Scottish gas to let us know that it was time to book our annual service.

How to book a two-hour appointment slot online
All you have to do is:

  • Log on to
  • Enter your unique reference number: 1234567 and your postcode AA1 1AA.
  • Pick a day and a two-hour time slot that suits you, and that's it - all booked.


You go online to the Scottish gas website, enter your unique number and postcode...and...


Ok, so you call the telephone number provided, and ... "...all of our representatives are busy..."

Yep! Most likely because their website does not work!

Surely, at some point between now and the end of time you can find an appointment. After all you have already been paid!

It really beggars belief that so many large well known companies have such poor and dis-functional websites.

Does it just reflects the overall standard of service you can expect from these companies?

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Rory Cellen-Jones, BBC blogger or Shill for US Corporations?

Yes, US companies do tend to dominate technology today, but what encouragement do we give to our UK companies?

Looking at the last 30 articles by our British Broadcasting correspondent, we can see an article about a British company being sold to a US Giant; British newspapers creating apps for US Smartphone’s; and how bad British broadband really is.

US corporations like Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon get plugs in almost every article. Does Rory or the BBC make any effort to find out what UK companies and businesses are doing?

So once again, the British tax payer is footing the bill to shoot itself in the foot thanks to the BBC and people like Rory Cellen-Jones.

These are the last 30 articles published by this BBC blogger:

1. Amazon buying LoveFilm

2. British Newspapers launch News apps for smartphones and tablets. Of course the Apple iPad gets its usual mention wherever possible.

3. Fundraising for Wikipedia

4. Twitter proves its worth

5. Spotify - giving up on US ambitions

6. Apple launching its Mac App store

7. Is Facebook worth $50bn?

8. Tech in 2012: UK TV; Facebook; Apple iPad 2; Google.

9. Skype

10. Tech in 2010: iPhone; Windows Phone 7; Android; Wikileaks.

11. Foursquare

12. Wayne Ting: US college student not as successful as Mark Zuckerberg.

13. US guys making show for BBC.

14. Bebo trying to make a comeback after selling out.

15. Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook

16. Friendster / Facebook.

17. Network pioneers Friendster / Facebook.

18. Social networking Twitter and Facebook.

19. Google Book Store.

20. British Broadband that fails miserably to tell it how it really is.

21. Google and Amazon.

22. Teachers using the Wii and iPad.

23. Virgin web TV.

24. Google V Regulators.

25. Exo PC V Apple iPad.

26. Hacking smartphones. Mention Apple iPhone, of course.

27. Government Transparency.

28. Children in need. Mention Twitter, Facebook, eBay and YouTube.

29. Google and Amazon.

30. Apple and Google Android.

Of course, one can appreciate that they are the companies making the news, but the BBC must take some responsibility for the UK companies and the UK News that it completely ignores. The UK is lucky if it get 10% of the coverage that US companies get.

Web sites like (a UK shopping website that lets users shop in hundreds of stores whilst only needing to visit one website) or (which is a universal wish list that allows you to add items from any website and could even take the place of Yahoo’s if it goes the way of the dodo).

Small innovative UK businesses like these struggle to reach critical mass because the UK media are totally unaware of the economic impact they create when all of their free coverage is directed to foreign corporations.

This situation is really easy to turn around. Media outlets, like the BBC, and bloggers, correspondents and reporters like Rory Cellen-Jones just need to give UK businesses a more balanced share of their reporting. Try to ensure that 50% of your endeavours and output covers UK business and stop being shills for US corporations on the dime of the UK consumer and the UK taxpayer (and BBC license payer).

The solution does not involve any cost and should be a no brainer.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Prince William and Kate Middleton anounce a Royal Wedding

An interesting idea was posted on the YouCouldgetMe blog. Create your own Royal Wedding Gift Registry.
Sound fun!

It combines, both weddings and shopping.

The idea is that you imagine that you are one of the happy couple and create your own Royal Wedding Gift List and post links to your friends on both facebook and twitter.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

How to Block Unwanted Phone Calls

Are you sick of constantly being interrupted with nuisance phone calls from robo callers and market researchers?

Do you want to find out how to stop these insidious creatures from interrupting your dinner or waking you up from that well deserved nap?

BT has a service called “Right to Refuse” which you can use to block up to 10 numbers. So you can block those robo calls that start with:

  • This is a free message…
  • Hi There…
  • Every Year…

Unfortunately, this is not a free service (it costs £3.35 per month) and it only blocks calls which provide a number on your caller id. The limit of only 10 numbers is probably going to be insufficient to deal with the size of the current problem.

Another option is to use a device such as trueCall (as seen on Dragon’s Den), this has many more options, such as:

  • Whisper - trueCall asks the caller who they are before your phone rings. You can then decide how to handle the call before being connected to the caller.
  • Zap & Star - Your list of welcome and unwelcome callers.
  • Shield - trueCall can ask the caller to press a number to continue before your phone rings.
  • Starred Callers Only - trueCall can be set up to only accept calls from numbers on your Star list.
  • Anonymous Caller Reject - Reject callers who withhold their number.
  • Integrated Answering Machine - trueCall has a standard answering machine built in.
  • Call Screening - Sends all unrecognized numbers to the built in answering machine.

 Advanced Features

trueCall also has a range of Advanced Features:

Internet Control Panel (included free of charge for first year) - You can view your call log and edit your settings on the internet.

Night Shield - Like the shield mentioned above but activates automatically at night

Privacy and Security - trueCall keeps your messages safe and secure.

Personalised Greetings and Announcements - You can record your own greetings and announcements to callers.

Code Access - trueCall can ask callers to enter a PIN before connecting the call. You can also block all incoming calls or send all incoming calls to answering machine.

Phones and Phone lines - trueCall works on a wide variety of telephone equipment. It works on standard BT lines, cable lines and broadband lines.


Optional Extra

  • trueCall Call Recorder - Record your phone conversations as well as archive received messages.

trueCall has some ongoing cost, such as:

  • Telephone sync – Cost of call to sync your device with their central computer.
  • Internet Control Panel – free first year, but will incur a charge thereafter.

Both systems intercept calls before your telephone even rings. Nuisance callers are barred. Unfortunately, that robo caller who keeps calling you with the tag line “This is a free call…” is going to cost you money to stop him.

The BT system may prove a bit limited for some, but the trueCall system will give you the satisfaction of metaphorically telling those phone stalkers to go take a flying leap.




Sunday, 12 September 2010

Silverlight for iPod

Well, no not quite. Although Apple have announced some changes in their terms of service agreement for developers, it is more likely due to a US Anti-trust investigation rather than Steve Jobs having an epiphany and glasnost breaking out in Cupertino, CA.

“Today we are making some important changes to our iOS Developer Program license... to relax some restrictions we put in place earlier this year." -

Apple is not going to allow peace in out time and lay down the red carpet for Adobe flash applications, nor, I am afraid does it open the door for Microsoft’s Silverlight platform, yet.

Silverlight for iPod  is something that fans of Silverlight and Silverlight developers would love to see. The impending launch of Windows Phone 7 on multiple hardware platforms should see a significant revival of Microsoft’s fortunes in the Mobile Phone market.

Today the closest association of Silverlight and iPods is to be found at where you can shop on a traditional HTML/ASP.NET based website or you can shop using the Silverlight version of the website.

Supporters of Silverlight, Silverlight developers, and iPod fans can show their support for Silverlight and satisfy their curiosity about Silverlight by purchasing their new ipods on the Silverlight for iPod version of cheap-iPods.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Dell next business day support - maybe not quite what you expected

We have had this Dell XPS700 since November 2007. It was the 4th Dell we purchased, and only recently we bought our 5th Dell computer, a 15inch Dell Studio laptop.

Why do we buy from Dell?

· Usually the price is fairly good
· You can configure the box exactly as you want
· Delivery 1-2 weeks.
· Pretty reliable.
· On site service/warranty can be extended to 4 or 5 years.

Normally, we will configure the computer with the latest high spec components hoping that we can get around 4 years out of each PC. This works out pretty good all round and minimises the amount of reconfiguration required when you get a new computer.

Unfortunately, the XPS700 just froze up the other evening. We switched it off, waited for 30 seconds, and then switch it back on again. The screen remained black. There were no keyboard lights. The fan came on and stayed on (normally it would just stay on for 2-3 seconds). The power switch remained a solid amber. We could not run any diagnostics as the machine was totally non responsive.

There was nothing we could do to diagnose what was wrong.

Just in case there was a problem with overheating, we left the computer switched off all night. Next morning we tried again. Same response, or lack there of.

Fortunately, we had taken out a four year next business day , on-site, extended warranty.
I am sure that most of you would expect that all you would need to do would be to call Dell and tell them the problem and an engineer would come and diagnose the problem and then fix it.

NO. As they tend to say these days, “it does not work like that”.

This is what it says in the Dell Warranty terms and conditions, yes I am sure that at the time of purchase everyone reads all of the terms and conditions and that everyone is aware that before a Dell engineer is despatched to fix your computer you will spend a couple of hours kneeling over your dead computer removing memory cards, putting them back, swapping them around switching your machine off and on and reporting the colours of various light switches.

“To complete the diagnostics the customer must have convenient access to the faulty system
when calling technical support…

For each call, the Dell technician has been trained to undertake a process to ensure the
fastest possible resolution. To do this the technician will request the customer’s assistance to
help “troubleshoot” the problem in order for the technician to diagnose the fault. The
diagnostic process will enable the Dell technician to identify the system part that has failed, if
any, so that a replacement part can be provided.

Examples of what can be included in the scope of the fault diagnostics are:
• Running diagnostic tests appropriate for the problem reported.
• Installation of service packs, components, supplements, updates and patches for
specifically covered factory-installed operating systems, firmware and BIOS.
• Installation and default configuration of Dell factory-installed operating systems,
application software and drivers.
• Testing a factory-installed network interface card (including wireless) by testing with
manufacturer’s diagnostics & pinging another PC.
• Testing a factory-installed modem by connecting it to an analogue telephone line
(not a PABX line).
The Dell technician will work together with you to ensure that you are properly instructed on
how to proceed.
Accurate problem diagnosis may not be possible without opening the system. Normal
Troubleshooting procedures may also include opening a system to reseat parts. The Dell
Technician will inform you if this is necessary and work with you to do so. Opening the system avoids delays in resolution but must be done only with the guidance of the technician who will advise of all necessary safety precautions.

I just think that opening up the system, by someone who is completely inexperienced and has had no training on how to avoid static problems, touching memory cards, removing them, swapping them around and switching the system on and off with the cover removed is NOT a good idea. After all, why do you think the customer paid for an extended warranty and on-site support?

After all this, I was told that an engineer would be despatched to replace the mother board. Given what was achieved by opening up the system and playing around with the internals for an hour; the only difference it has made is that instead of an engineer being despatched with a couple of tiny memory cards and a mother board he is being despatched with just the mother board.

We will find out if the mother board fixes the problem or if the customer is then required to further diagnose a technical problem for which he or she has had absolutely no training whatsoever.

24-Jan-2011 Update: If you are OK with opening up your PC case and reseating the memory boards, then you may even consider doing away with Dell support all together and building your own PC. There are an excellent set of articles on the UK Shopping blog starting with Build your own computer or buy from Dell? (Part One).

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Snails pace delivery of broadband planned by Tories

Shadow chancellor George Osborne said a [technically ignorant] Tory government would deliver speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) to the "majority" of homes by 2017. For mathematically challenged Tories that is SEVEN Years from now, and not all homes would be included.

South Korea already has the most successful broadband rollout in the world. Something our own politicians could learn from. The Korean government provided $1.5bn to create a backbone network and another $1bn in loans to ensure companies took broadband to rural areas.

Our Knuckle head Tory shadowy chancellor said cabling in rural areas could be paid for by private investors or part of the licence fee.

Both Tories and Labour really are clueless when it comes to moving this country forward, as for the Lib-Dems they are still working on what “clueless” means.

The plan is not “should be” but MUST be (at the very minimum) 100MBs download and 10Mbs upload for every home by the end of 2012. The South Koreans are already planning 2GB/s broadband for everyone in the 2012 timescale. Who says our politicians are clueless and lack vision and ambition for our country?

Homes are looking for HD TV; television on demand; immediate download of movies and music; and support for a whole range of new internet enabled devices.

Remember, Gordon Brown in his first attempt at bankrupting big business with the £20Billion auction of 3G licences, failed to see that in only a few years we would be running out of mobile bandwidth.

The plan would be to create an integrated structure for super-fast broadband that would cover every home and business in the UK by 2012. There are a number of ways to do this:

1. Tell BT that they either create the infrastructure of they lose it.
2. If BT are unwilling or unable to make the investment themselves then other companies would be invited to make bids.
3. The Government could fund the whole project AND take All the profits.
4. A group of companies with or without government support could fund it together. Companies and government would takes profits according to their original investment.

Unfortunately, Tory ideas of the BBC funding broadband or Labour’s idea of a 50p tax are the sort of ideas one would expect from the calibre of politicians the country is electing these days.

Everyday, it appears that we are getting closer and closer to becoming an Idiocracy. You definitely have to watch this movie and make judgements as to whether you think we are moving closer to this political utopia or back to a more sensible way of getting things done.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Limmy's Show

I stayed up late to watch Stephen Fry and company on BBC2 in QI XL on Saturday night. BBC 2 had scheduled a new show: ‘Limmy’s Show’ to broadcast immediately before QI.

Lucky Limmy, an audience who like comedy drawn to his show whilst waiting for QI.

Oh, but you have to sympathise for anyone who actually watched Limmy’s show. It must rank as one of the worst shows ever broadcast. Does the BBC no longer have any standards? How could such unutterable drivel get past any quality control?

A sketch show is not easy to put together, and you will get some sketches that don’t quite hit the mark. Limmy’s sketch show, however, was a complete failure. Not one single sketch could have drawn a smile from even the most happy and easily pleased person in this universe.

I do hope BBC Scotland wake up and pull this show before the public are put to the sword again. Torture is illegal you know.

The person who thought that this show was of broadcast standard and allowed the public to view such utter mince hopefully will realise this was a tragedy of such epic proportions that a career as a hermit would be much more appropriate to their qualifications and taste.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Should Mick McCarthy and Wolves be punished by Premier League?

Mick McCarthy appears to have rested his strongest side against Manchester United. No doubt, reasoning that his side had no chance of getting even a draw at Old Trafford. The reasoning continues that if he rested his strongest side they would all be fit, fresh and raring to go at home to Burnley on Saturday.

There are a number of reasons why such logic does not work and such practices should be severely punished by the premier league.

At the start of this evening Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) were lining up to play Manchester City. Spurs were 10 points behind Manchester United in the table. However, if Wolves had played their weakest side against Spurs on Saturday and Spurs had won and Wolves played their strongest side against Manchester United on Tuesday Night then Spurs could have started the evening only 4 points behind Manchester United. Instead of finishing the evening 7 points behind Man Utd. They would have finished the evening only 1 point behind Man Utd, after their 3 – 0 victory over Man City.

Football is a funny old game. Results and performances are unpredictable. A team at the bottom of the table CAN pull off the occasional surprise by beating a team at the top of the table.

What happens if the season has one game to go. ManUtd and Chelsea are level on points. Wolves have nothing to play for, they are already relegated, but Mick McCarthy is a Manchester United supporter, he hates Chelsea, and their last game of the season is against ManUtd. Mick decides to give his favoured team a better chance of winning the league by fielding a team of reserves. Or, what happens if Mick McCarthy is being pressured by a betting syndicate to throw the game?

By choosing to field a weakened side against Man Utd on Tuesday evening, some will argue that what Mick McCarthy did was throw the game.

Arguing that what he did was cynical, desperate, unprofessional, and dishonest; lacked integrity, lacked ambition, and defrauded the fans; perverted the competition and demeaned the Premier League may not be considered unreasonable.

In Scotland, Rangers and Celtic are the strongest teams by far, but every week teams challenge the Old Firm honestly and with even more vigour than against the other teams. Managers get their teams fired up and they play out of their skins. These teams are a credit to themselves and their managers. If they lose, the managers have got the satisfaction that they got their players to perform and the knowledge that they can demand such performances every week.

As a football supporter, I expect my team to go out and do their best to win every week. In fact I demand it. If my team had a manager that deliberately held back or a player the constantly shirked his responsibilities I would not be particularly happy.

As the chairman of a football club, I would not entertain a manager who would deliberately throw a game or thought that a game was a lost cause before taking the field.

Why do Wolves want to be in the premiere league? Why does Mick McCarthy want to manage a premier league team? Is it just for the money?

Players want to be tested against the best. Great players would be disappointed if they were taking on the best team in the World and that team was unable to play their best team because of injury. They would feel insulted if the opposing manager rested his best players simply because the opposing manger thought that their team was inferior.

Real football players want to play every week and they want to test themselves against the top teams and the top players. Real managers are the same.

Thinking as Mick McCarthy does is for LOSERS.

Managers like Mick McCarthy and teams with the attitude of Wolves have no place in the Premier League. In fact I doubt if they would be tolerated in a Sunday League pub team.

The Premiere League should punish Wolves by deducting 3 points and actively discourage this activity.

Wolves should apologise to their fans and every team in the Premier League.

For their lack of ambition and their lack of integrity relegation is what Wolves deserve, this season and every season until they are no longer involved in professional sport.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Let's Have a Totally Democratic Leader's Debate

John Ryley, the head of Sky News, has written to the Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Conservative leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg to invite them to take part.

There should be a debate. It should be open and democratic and not just include the failures from the past aka Labour, Conservative and Liberal.

Gordon Brown has not had an original idea that has benefited the country in his whole political career. The scrapping of the 10p tax level, he had to reverse. The unfair treatment of Gurkhas, he had to reverse, thanks to Joanna Lumley. The most recent his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, only after being publicly humiliated by former Army General Sir Richard Dannatt.

David Cameron, at the Conservative Party conference has proposed a little tinkering here and there. WAKE_UP!!! The country is £800 BILLION in debt. His plan would not even cover a fraction of the cost in interest payments.

Nick Clegg. Poor Nick Clegg. He is in charge of a party so committed to being on the job that they can’t keep their trousers on. Those that can either appear to be too drunk or too old to care. It is a real shame because this country is crying out for a viable alternative to the recent disastrous administrations that have befallen this country.

So let us not permit Sky News, sibling to the airhead bimbos we see on the US Fox channel, home of the page three boobies, and plaything and power broker medium for Rupert Murdoch to screw us again.

The debate should be open to ALL political parties who satisfy certain criteria. We desperately need new blood and new ideas. An open and democratic solution would be to allow any party who, at the last election, had at least two candidates who did not lose their deposits.

A true British debate would include parties from Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. It would include parties that the British public have given a vote to.

A national debate should not pander to past failures.

If you agree, then let your voice be heard, add a comment and pass the word.