Sunday, December 23, 2012

Satalite Broadband and the Welsh Government Funding

Back in August we had a grant from the capital cost of Satallite Broadband. After a couple of months reflection, I conclude it is of lower utility than an 0.5 MB broadband line unless you only watch films and read email.

We are tied into a 1 year contract we can't get out of for a service that yes we use, but does not in any take the place of a decent broadband service. Lets be clear about what is wrong with it

  1. It does not tend to work at all on a Saturday morning or Sunday evening. For those with an on-call obligation or work to do at the weekend, it is worse than useless (worse because it prevents something better being put in place).
  2. The high latency prevents use of VPN and web browing is very slow where there are multiple components of web page. True that Satspeed turbo makes  a difference, as does tcp buffer and ack tuning, but a 8MB satallite line is slower than a 700k fixed line for normal use.
so you have to ask why the Welsh Government offer grants for this. I suspect there are 2 elements

  1. It does the job for some people who can't even get 0.5MB. It certainly does not replace a 1 MB fixed line.
  2.  It ticks the box that those with poor or no provision have something to make life easier for BT and the people who present statistics.
There are simple improvements that could be made. Other than Google there was no help to find out what options were available. There might have been options open for Broadband over wireless for example where I live, but I could not find it and I suspect I am more skilled at Google searches than most and have a better network of contacts than most. The office that gives out grants needs to be more hands on in offering advice, EU directive or no EU directive.

It is time there was an open minded examination of giving grants for Satallite Broadband by the Welsh Government. However the office that the relevant minister refered my A.M. to do not answer the phone in December !


Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Defence of the Realm : The Authorized History of MI5

If you happened across this blog maybe 2 years ago, you may have noticed that I was reading a book about the history of MI5 I got as an christmas present in 2009. Great news, I have just finished it. That does not mean that it is the only book I have read since the start of 2010, but this one has been read in fits and starts over that time as the mood took me. Sometimes it would be a few months between moods.

It is a longer book, 1000 pages, but quite easy to read. There is just a lot of it. It covers the period from the formation in 1909 to 2008. Obviously there is much left out for operational reasons as they discuss more recent events. The perspective on the Cambridge five is facinating as is the perspective on the Soviet lack of competance at handling their agents.

Would I read it again? Yes, becaues it more a history book with the thread of the timeline of MI5 used as the context around which other events are discussed and that is what makes it interesting, not what you learn about spooks themselves or their methods which would make a very dull book.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Collusion after 6 weeks : scary

A mattress from Argos [or not as the case may be] : simple lessons in customer service

Our mattress is starting to make funny noises when you turn over in the night. The double mattress in the spare room is worse, so we decide to get ourselves a new mattress and inflict our noisy mattress on visitors or for when I need to get up at silly o'clock to travel somewhere. How hard can it be to get a new mattress in Aberystwyth? Umm, yes. The only realitic option we found was to order it via Internet. Myra found one which sounded OK on the Argos web site, so ordered it on the 30th of September. The timeline is as follows. We expect to have to wait 2 or 3 weeks for delivery and were OK with that. Some dates are approximate

  • 30th September Order Mattress
  • around 20 October courier calls to arrange delivery sometime between 8 and 6. Thats OK, I was working from home anyway
  • around 22/11/12, damaged mattress delivered
  • around 23/11/12  : reported to customer service who arrange for replacement. E.T.A. 3 weeks later
  • 7/11/12 van arrives to pick up mattress, does not deliver new one. Customer service claim order was cancelled (wish I had) and money had been returned (it had not). We can order a new matress and that will take an other 3 weeks.
  • 8/11/12 Clive finds email address of Argos C.E. via 30 seconds with Google
  • 9/11/12 Get call from nice chap in Argos Directors Office saying he will sort out new mattress for following week plus some compensation for the hassle
  • Following week, call from courior that it will be delivered on 27th. We refuse delivery on the 27th as commitment  was for that week. So Courior put order on hold, said they would contact Argos for guidance, but seems they never did
  • 29/11/12 Email again. Director Office left phone number in Voice Mail and when I called back multiple time there was no answer.
  • Eventually got hold of the chap trying to deal with this issue called Lee. Very nice man, but seems to have the infleunce of a road sweaper when it comes to getting a matress ordered 2 months earlier delivered.
  • Courier calls and tries to arrange a delivery for the 19th of December. We refused because a) we probably won't be in that day b) its 10 weeks after we 1st ordered it. They said if we don't accept delivery that day (and we had to be in all day), then it would be middle of January before next delivery. Seems manufacturer will not make the mattress until there is a accepted and committed delivery date.
  • Lee from Directors office calls back, can't get earlier delivery, we will have to accept either 19th December or January
  • 4/12 I cancel order and ask for money to be refunded into account
  • Seems Argos are still in the banking stone age, 5 days later I get a cheque, so an other 10 days delay before we can use the money to by a new matress from somewhere like
Argos are now on the naughtly step till 2015.

Lessons for customer service

  • If you leave a customer a number via voicemail, make sure the phone gets answered.
  • This was not a technically challenging situation. If the directors office can't sort such a straighforward issue out once they are aware of it, then the company is in a very bad way.
  • Argos blame manufaturer, manufacturer blame Argos, Courier blames Argos and manufacturer. As a customer I should have no idea of the business model in place and certainly the various parties should not be blaming each other.
  • If the directors office has no influence over a manufacture, then they need to find a new partner.
  • A courier can not expect a customer to be in all day for their convience. Anytime between 8 and 6 is not good enough. Kids to take to school, etc. Quite amazing that Argos tolerates and even supports it. We had already sorted out someone staying in all day twice.
  • If you say you are going to compensate, then actually do it. Don't just forget. It is shambolic and insulting. We don't care abotu compensation, but it is an other let down.
  • An easy solution would be for someone in the Director's Office to order a similar mattress on their credit card from somewhere like, have it delivered to us and expense it. Appears Directors Office staff can't do that, so what is the point of a Director's Office when they are powerless to resolve a situation.