Because I forget stuff. Part of

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April 2006

Posts made in April 2006

PowerGen Are Incompetent

My mother just had a wonderful experience with PowerGen (no, I don’t know why their site is so painfully slow), the UK gas and electricity supplier. Yes, the word wonderful was used to mean the opposite there. Let me outline the situation.

Rental property, “keyed” meter. This basically means that rather than getting a monthly bill the electricity is pre-payed by “charging” an electronic key at a convenient store. So you add say £10, plug the key into the meter, you get £10 worth of electricity to use. This has the advantage for the company that people can’t do a runner and leave bills unpayed. Of course you’ll also notice that you can’t possibly owe the electricity company anything. That didn’t stop PowerGen claiming that money was owed for unpayed monthly bills, but that’s another (now sorted) story. No, this relates to removing this inconvenient system and installing the more usual metering procedure. The landlord said this could be done. PowerGen said this could be done. A date was agreed for the magical man to come a replace the keyed meter with a normal style one. He had a five hour window (8 am to 1 pm) this morning. Suffice to say nobody turned up.

That of course solicited a phone call to PowerGen. It’s worth noting, perhaps, that they seem to have out sourced their call centre overseas. Never a good sign. Basically they don’t know what’s happening, they’ll call back. An hour and some later, no call back, second phone call. First the front line support says oh yes, you should have had an engineer this morning. Then try to work out what’s happening and say, “oh no. No record of an appointment”. Er.. time for a supervisor. Out comes the classic response of “they’re in a meeting”, and a promised call back.

Wait more than an hour again (you just knew there would be no phone call didn’t you). A third phone call to “customer support” with an immediate demand for someone in a supervisory capacity. They seemed completely unable to supply such a person, or a supervisor’s supervisor… with an increasingly irate my mother to deal with. To not be able to supply second line support to an angry customer on their third phone call…well…

PowerGen are no longer the electricity suppliers. Southern Electric just got a call (to their apparently Scotland based call centre) and got the business, with no problem at all.

The thing is I just looked at PowerGen’s website (slow!!). Clicking the contact us link gets to email, postal, telephone and “complaints” links. The point is to get any further with any of them they want you’re address. What the hell for. They don’t even know if I’m a current customer. Bah. The public facing side of this company is nothing short of appalling.

There’s not much point writing this. PowerGen aren’t going to read it, and they are no longer being dealt with anyway. I just thought I’d send them whatever Google, Technorati, etc “love” I could.

Mr Wolf, Take Two

Having set the timezone to deal with the fact that the clocks springing forward confused the time of new entries I’ve just realised that it now seems to have caught up, so new entries were being marked an hour ahead of where they should be. Timezone changed back. I give up!

More LloydsTSB

a screen shot of the second stage of the LloydsTSB online login process, showing a request for 3 random characters from a phrase, to be entered using drop down lists Having managed to get online banking I remembered the thing which annoyed me from all those years ago. If you read that post you’ll notice I mentioned the “memorable information”. The screenshot shows what the bank does with this. The login process picks 3 random characters from the “information” and asked you to enter them using drop down boxes. Gaahhhh. As I mentioned the “memorable information” is essentially a secondary password (you can’t have spaces for instance). I already have a carefully crafted pretty secure password used for nothing but this sign in process, thank you. The thing about passwords is that once you’ve learned them they become pretty quick to type in. They offer security (when used properly and respected) without getting in the way. Making me suddenly have to stop and think about which character comes where in a second password is just silly. And the entry method is silly. And this “security” is silly (the letters/numbers chosen at this point aren’t obfuscated and there is no distinction between lower and upper case, no way to have a character which isn’t a number or letter). In fact this is entirely pointless. If I already know the first password then I’m going to know this too—I can think of no realistic circumstances where that is not going to be the case. I wish they’d just drop it so that what should be a less than ten second process doesn’t take more than 30 as I sit trying to work things out.

LloydsTSB Online Banking

Today I completed the sign up process for LloydsTSB online banking. I used to use this several years ago (long enough ago that IIRC it was just Lloyds at the time) but somehow stopped and so totally forgot my login details. When I got around to trying to sign up again last week (something I’d been meaning to do for a long time) it turned out that whilst I’d forgotten the computers hadn’t. They wouldn’t let me simply sign up because they recognised that there were login details associated with that account. That meant that I had to go through the “I’ve forgotten my customer ID” process, which basically results in them sending a new one out through the post (there is of course a question as to why—the customer ID isn’t supposed to be part of the security; the same passwords would still be valid with the new ID. Why send it through the post rather than generate a new one there and then. I suppose under some circumstances it might be slightly more secure but I’m not sure the play-off with convenience is worth it). Anyway, having received my brand new customer ID (and I think they don’t simply use account numbers not for security but because you can have more than one account associated with the ID) I had to then go through the forgotten password process. It’s seeming a long winded already, isn’t it.

Continue reading the rest of this post


A photograph of the scoreboard showing the glorious 1-4 full time score Oh yes!! :-D Bye bye mackems. I feel it may be some time until we meet again. Ah the game. Frankly we were woeful first half, and possibly not doing much better second (though even then all the enemy…

Read the rest of the post on Diary of a Fan

Free Rolling

Ah, the wonderful special offers of newspapers, particularly local ones. The Newcastle (and Gateshead) version of such a rag is the Evening Chronicle (note the word Evening there). Today it proudly proclaims on its front page “Free sausage roll for every reader”. Seeing this I made the oh so comical pantomime of looking through it to find where they’d taped this free sausage roll. Of course they haven’t really, but instead supply some form of coupon to redeem in exchange for the snackish item. Out of curiosity, rather than any actual desire to claim such a prize, I leafed through to find the coupon. It is at this point that I will remind the dear reader that this is an evening newspaper. Whilst early additions are indeed available mid-afternoon it is the sort of thing is which most likely to be purchased by people returning home from the days activities, or even be delivered to await their arrival (there is a morning sister paper as well, so it’s not as if this whole evening thing goes unacknowledged). So it’s interesting that the delicious coupon is valid for today only, which isn’t much use when the chain of bakeries at which it is valid are almost certainly all closed by the time you read it. Indeed, selling this at around six in the evening (a far from inconceivable concept) would seem to make the phrase “for every reader” not so much misleading as more damn right lying.

And the worst thing is, I’ve went from a not caring less moment of humour to actually wanting my sausage roll, just for the hell of it.

Extending Myself

I wrote my first Firefox extension today. Well, I say wrote. I more or less based it on another one but that’s often the best way to start learning. Basically I wanted a couple of buttons to do a couple of fairly simple things but I couldn’t get Customizable Toolbar Buttons to work (well, I could, but had issues with the buttons not actually wanting to consistently show). So working from Simple EMButtons (because it does something as simple as add a couple of buttons—see the connection) I grabbed a GUID and wrote my own. It wasn’t really that difficult (along with the how to do it docs, some help and some guidance).

There doesn’t really seem much point in releasing it properly though, as it’s a fairly specialised thing (oh, all right. If you have Firebug [and want a button to toggle disabled/enabled], Accessibility Extensions [and want a button to toggle the toolbar] and want a button to change the title of the current tab, then my extension is here [incidently the button icons are simply taken from the Durango Research set from IconBuffet])

Well Done Ed

Ed visited me the weekend just gone. We played some Gradius V (badly) and some other stuff. Sunday morning I was able to impress him by wandering down to the quayside to show off The Sage (which is slowly growing on me as a building—I still think it’s slightly large for its site though) and the wiffly bridge (some photos are available). We wandered along the Newcastle side (where the market failed miserably to capitalise on the rain and try to sell us an umbrella–though someone did offer a towel for the unbelievable price of £5) and up into the middle of Newcastle too.

After all that excitement we both headed off to York, for Ed had his PhD viva on Monday. We travelled on the most crowded train I’ve experienced for quite some time. Eventually we were able to find a little space by the luggage (and why do people feel the need to retrieve their bags at least twenty minutes from York when the train terminates there anyway??). Conveniently engineering works conspired to increase the normal one hour journey time to something more like twice that.

Anyway, Ed of course passed the viva (well, I did proof read his thesis so claim all the credit). Drinks were drunk. Ed ended up with Glyn’s sofa two nights in a row, just because he’s a doctor (oh, wait, so am I!!!! Scary)

On a completely unrelated note, why is Livejournal so bloody hard to navigate around.


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This Crazy Fool

Dr Ian Scott
Croydon (and Gateshead), United Kingdom
Bullding Services Engineer (EngDesign), PhD in Physics (University of York), football fanatic (Newcastle United), open source enthusiast (mainly Mozilla)

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