Archive for the ‘Rant’ category

UKHost4U caught posting fake positive comments

December 18th, 2012

In 2007 my company had a bad experience with the company ukhost4u and I blogged about it. In summery I needed a service, called them to check if they included that service in there package, they said it did, after signing up it turned out they did not actually supply that service, and then they refused to refund the subscription. I blogged about it to warn other and them wrote the money off as one of those things.

After the original post I was getting a lot of comments on it. At first negative and then a few positive. Now as I have pointed out in the past a blog post about a negative experience tends to attract a lot of negative comments from users in the same situation. Satisfied customers will rarely be searching for the words that list such a blog post and hence will not get the chance to comment. I for one remember this when reading negative posts and comments. On my post however there were a few positive posts that struck me as odd.

Anyway, time passes and last Thursday a gentleman called David Eadie posted a comment on my blog post. It was a bit strong and I don’t wish for any company to be made bankrupt but I can understand how Mr Eadie feels.

Then, less than 25 minutes later I receive the following comment in my moderation queue….

I have been nothing but happy with the service provided by UKHost4u. They have always been very friendly and have actually taken the time to fix issues with my web site code which would have normally have cost money and a developers time.

Unlike other providers I have used the telephone calls are answered and most emails that I have sent in have had a reply within 1hr which is much better than the 48hrs that my last provider took to even advise me that it had been assigned to support.

I understand some people here don’t seem to have been happy with them, but I think they will find a lot of much worse providers and when you go with someone with NO telephone support, 48hrs email reply times and 80% MAX up time you will be more than happy to use UKHost4u.

Now, it is odd to get this kind of post because of the afore mentioned reasons, it does sound a bit like marketing spiel, and the web site they entered is for sale. I really do like comments of multiple views on my blog but I also don’t want to be a patsy delivering a fake review for a service I feel is bad. As a result I contact the poster via the gmail address they gave and asked if they can provide a link to there Facebook, LinkedIn, or other profile to help convince me they were a real person. I did not get a reply.

Then I decided that I might as well call the owner of the domain and they were kind enough to take my call and confirmed that they are the owner of the domain and they had not posted the comment. So now I have confirmation the details entered were fake, and logic dictates that is was posted by UKHost4u or an agent acting on there behalf, but there is no proof yet.

So, next on to the access logs for the site. It turns out that the post came from, and guess what, it is a UKHost4u IP address. In fact it appears to be the address used by the UKHost4u server.

I have contacted UKHost4u to give them a chance to comment and perhaps even apologise. They replied and implied it would have been one of there customers using an IP address registered to them. I sent the information they requested and stated I did not believe a customer of theirs would create a fake persona. I have not has a new response.

So, if you are looking for a new ISP and read a positive review of UKHost4u online from someone you don’t know and respect then I would take it with a pinch of salt.

If you are from UKHost4u, and I suspect you will be reading this, then there are a couple of lessons here. First being that putting so much effort in to scraping a few quid from your customers is not only bad customer service but will give a justified bad image online. Second that you are not as anonymous as you think so being dishonest will eventually come back and bite you. If you want to work with me to fix your ways and change your company attitude and image than I am available to help, but I suspect you are more interested in diminishing what I have said than actually fixing your problems.

How not to do Twitter support

January 25th, 2012

Warning: This is a rant. I do it now and then when something annoys me. Call it therapy.

I have an xbox 360 that was kindly given to me by a friend who had a spar, and I am currently working through another friend’s game collection. I say working thought, I am still on the first game, but I am not the biggest games player and you can’t rush these things you know.

Anyway, I was wondering a while ago if the BBC iPlayer was available for it and when I checked I found that it was not because Microsoft insisted on charging for it and the BBC was not allowed to do so. Then last year it was announced that it will now be available on the xbox early this year. If it is available for free then I decided I really should wire up the console to the Internet, and it would make life easer if I know this before next week’s broadband install. It has not been clear if it will in fact be free so earlier this evening I thought I would do something radical and ask.

I was going to use the support section of the web site but as the xbox twitter support account claims to be the “Guinness World Record Holder” of the “Most Responsive Brand on Twitter” so why not ask them on Twitter? This is a transaction of what happened…

Alistair MacDonald (@alistair) 25/01/2012 18:00
@XboxSupport When the iPlayer is released will it be free to use or will I need to pay like the other TV services?

Xbox Support 2 (@XboxSupport2) 25/01/2012 18:02
@alistair We don’t have that information, unfortunately. ^PC

Alistair MacDonald (@alistair) 25/01/2012 19:01
@XboxSupport2 Thanks. Any pointers to find this out would be welcome.

Xbox Support (@XboxSupport1) 25/01/2012 19:04
@alistair Sorry, we don’t have any info. ^PJ

Alistair MacDonald (@alistair) 25/01/2012 19:09
@XboxSupport1 Do you not have the ability to escalate queries you can’t answer?

Xbox Support (@XboxSupport1) 25/01/2012 19:11
@alistair We do, but that info has not been released yet. ^PJ

Alistair MacDonald (@alistair) 25/01/2012 19:14
@XboxSupport1 Wait a moment, I thought you said you did not have any info. Are you saying it is secret at the moment? When will it be out?

Xbox Support (@XboxSupport1) 25/01/2012 19:16
@alistair We don’t have any info regarding that. Let us know if you need anything else. ^PJ

Alistair MacDonald (@alistair) 25/01/2012 19:19
@XboxSupport1 If you could escalate my inquiry that would be great. Thank you.

Xbox Support (@XboxSupport1) 25/01/2012 19:23
@alistair Cheers! ^PJ

Alistair MacDonald (@alistair) 25/01/2012 19:24
@XboxSupport1 When and how will I get a response?

Xbox Support (@XboxSupport1) 25/01/2012 19:29
@alistair We are unable to respond with more info on that. ^PJ

Alistair MacDonald (@alistair) 25/01/2012 19:35
@XboxSupport1 Sorry but I feel like you are sticking two fingers up at me. Can I make a complaint? Do you have an email address?

Xbox Support (@XboxSupport1) 25/01/2012 19:37
@alistair Sorry you feel that way, but we aren’t able to assist. We do have report card coming out, you can check your DM’s for those. ^PJ

Alistair MacDonald (@alistair) 25/01/2012 19:53
@XboxSupport1 I have found the contact details I require through the web site and will take it from there.

Xbox Support (@XboxSupport1) 25/01/2012 19:54
@alistair Ok, sounds good. Let us know if you need anything else. ^PJ

It is true that I always got a response from Twitter, although I can’t say it answered my simple question. For reference I called the xbox live support number on the web site after this last tweet and got an answer straight away. The answer being yes I will need to pay for “gold membership” to access the iPlayer on the xbox, and that is just not going to happen. Why could they not tell me this on Twitter?

Now I don’t claim to be a Social Media expert, but I am an advanced social media user and I know how not to treat people on Twitter. Microsoft got a lot right here in fact, but the big thing they got wrong is treating a person like an idiot and not having a next step when the canned responses they have fail them. Even if they could not tell me then they should have taken the conversation off twitter and politely said that they were really sorry but we can’t tell you yet and why.

Okay, rant over (for now).

Closed Zone RIP

March 27th, 2010

Warning, this post might have turned in to a bit of a BT rant. ;-)

If you have been to a “geek” event that had flaky wifi and I was present you may well know about “ClosedZone”. It is a small and portable wifi access point I have been taking with me that shares any wired, wifi, or 3G connectivity we can get.

Well, last weekend a sad thing happened. The access point (a Linksys WRT64GC) failed completely. Like most Linksys equipment the AP worked very very well, but at BarCampNorthEast3 the PSU died (also like most Linksys equipment I have ever owned). The replacement PSUs are comparatively costly are cumbersome so this might well be the end of ClosedZone as we know it.

Now the ranting… The history of ClosedZone name all started with bit of a BT OpenZone cock-up at BarCampLondon2. This was held at BT HQ in London. You would have thought that a large telecommunications company would have been able to supply a good guest wifi service in the HQ, but sadly not. The wifi was a set of OpenZone hotspots and a nightmare, and when we got a good connection we only had access to OpenZone for 24 hours of the 2 day event without paying. There second PR fail of the event.

Then BT installed the wifi at Hackday London 2007. This was a large community coding event where access to the Internet was essential, and it just did not work. The venue was wired for OpenZone and for the first day it was as good as dead. We were given many reasons for this, but at least one of them was just rubbish. The second day was better once connected, but getting on was unreliable to the extreme.

Now a year passes and we end up at the same venue as Hackday London 2007 for Mashed. In fairness the wifi did work this time, mostly. The one big problem is that many of the 24 hour passes finishing early, including mine, and we could only use one device each. This is when ClosedZone was fist used in anger.

Since then it has been used on many occasions coping with wifi that either did just not work, did not work well, or was secured beyond practical usability.

I perhaps should also mention the UK Maker Faire 2010 where we stupidly did not bring ClosedZone with us. Extra connectivity was installed by BT for the event and they succeeded in completely screwing the events wifi, and the venues normal wifi. This ended in a Twitter campaign to @btcare (who will not follow me for some reason) to try and get something done as BT were essentially not answering the phone. You should know when you need a twitter campaign (including directors of a leading UK science centre) is needed to lodge an urgent support call you have a problem.

We also had our problems at BarCampNorthEast3 with the same wifi at the same venue, but this is one of the times I can not really blame BT. We installed our backup ClosedZone system quickly, but within hours the lights went out and it was no more. :-(

So lets all have two seconds of silence for ClosedZone. You served us well.

Now some good news. First I am going to stop ranting about BT for a few minutes. They have some good people working for them now and I feel when the people stopping progress retire it will have a much better future. Second I have invested in some new wifi access points supporting MIMO and can create one large virtual network for simultaneously serving over 250 devices. If you need a smallish geek event networking then they are available. Finally, if you know where I can get a small 3.3V 2A UK power adapter as a sensible cost then let me know so ClosedZone can live again.

Why am I not photographing the Apple Newcastle launch?

February 17th, 2010

The answer is simple. They will not let me.

As you know I like to take photographs. Some are what you might call “Artistic” and others are more of a documentation of history. Personally I love looking at old images form when I was younger, or of places before I knew them in the past. Because of this I take pictures of the here and now for people to look back on in the future.

As the an Apple store opening is something that draws the crowds I thought this was something I should look at capturing on (virtual) film. Before I did this I emailed Apple and asked if there was a problem with me doing this out of politeness.

Sadly Apple responded stating that they have a policy of no photography in the stores and would not be able to mane an exception for the launch. They did say that if I queued up and only took a couple of pictures then there “shouldn’t be a problem”. Not overly happy with being told that I am not allowed to take a picture, but almost saying that I could get away with taking a couple, I pushed for a definitive Yes or No. I was not surprised to get back a polite No.

In the end I decided not bother going down to capture the day and I suspect there will be plenty of pictures taken by camera phones. Most of the phones were probably iPhones so the image quality will be low and the pictures out of focus, but at least we have some records of the day. :-P

So, I have had my rant, and Apple have dropped a long way in my estimation of customer relations. In the interests of neutrality I feel it important to point out I did not ask for permission to photograph inside the Sony Shop, but Ikea have said yes (and that is bizarrely true).

I like Twitters Retweet feature

December 3rd, 2009

Can I just put on the record that I like Twitter’s Retweet feature.

In March I blogged about how I would like to see a Retweet feature built in to Twitter and we have recently seen such a feature slowly rolled out.

It takes a little getting use to seeing other peoples’ icons in your stream, but I have grown to find that useful as well. I was also worried that because it is so much easier to retweet that people might get carried away, but this has not happened, and you can block the retweets from just one user but still see there own tweets. What I love the most is that fact that when several friends retweet something I only get it once instead of several times like in the past. I am back in control.

As with most things the reception has been mixed, but on the whole most of the people I am following are using it, and although some like it and some prefer the old way of doing RSs, I don’t think it can be described at “Hated”. I only mention this because of the Tech Crunch article who’s title annoyed me enough to write this post. I feel that article just a personal view of Mike Butcher and not a valid statement of fact.


September 11th, 2009

I was writing a long post about Freecycle and where it is going in the UK at the moment, but then realised the guardian had already written what I was going to say.

All I want to add is that I have always like the concept of Freecycle and am on the whole pleased it exists, but have always been disappointed by the heavy handed approach dictated by the central organisation. I find the way they threaten legal action against people using the word Freecycle for exchanges not moderated by them disgraceful. Lets hope that the now independent truly community driven versions are a success.

Update: The UK Freecycle groups that have left Freecycle, that to me looks like most of them, have now got together and branded themselves Freegle.

I would also like to give my support to Ema Wright who Freecycle have threatened legal action against on there web site. I believe such comments were a knee-jerk reaction, but still shockingly unprofeciaonal.

Changing DNS hosts again

February 2nd, 2008

As I have babbled on about before I have had a few problem with 123 Reg and eventually decided to move away.

After looking at many domain-hosting services I could not find a low cost host, without a long contract, that was reliable, and gave me the control I require over my domain. If you know of one then please do let me know. In the end decided to use the DNS service with my web hosting ISP and have 123 Reg maintain the Noinet registration.

Sadly my ISP had a few problems and closed the hosting business. The new hosting company, who are honouring the original contracts, do not give me the control over my DNS settings that I desire. As a result I decided to try out a free DNS hosting service.

I gave EditDNS a go, but within a few days the European servers failed. I switched then over the to US ones quickly, but less than a week later there was another problem. Yesterday I went back to this list and decided to try XName. I have also decided to use a backup DNS server from another company so am also trying twisted4life to increase resilience.

I will report back if it all goes wrong, and will be donating to the project if it does not.

SMS to speech at 1:30am

July 21st, 2007

Prepare for a mini rant and waffle…

I received a call last night from an automated service asking “where are you?”. No, it is not the next generating of Twitter, but what appeared to be a service that translates text messages to voice for land lines.

A similar service caused havoc at our office when it kept calling back, then stopping, then calling back, and stopping, calling back, stopping, etc, etc. This was caused by a customer sending a media message to our land line by mistake and a bug in the BT system at the time.

The first thing I did was call the phone company at 1:30am to have it disabled, and they transform me somewhere, and then again, and then to BT faults despite me not being a BT customer and there was not actually being a fault. Fortunately they had the instructions to hand.

The magic instructions were to, and you may want to do this now, call the automated service on 0800 587 5252 and follow the instructions. You can restrict the times it will call you, or disable it completely.

While disabling the service I discovered I should not be called in the middle of the nigh with the default settings. Considering the number I was supposed to call to cancel the service (according to the message) was an 07 number I am presuming it was from another telephone company, or more likely a scam to get me to call that number and charge me a fortune (some 07 numbers are still premium rate).

Update: The originator has not been tracked down! Apparently the message was sent in error, with the aid of alcohol, from a Virgin mobile.

The speed of cheques

July 18th, 2007

Let’s be honest about this, it takes a silly amount of time to clear a cheque with today’s technology, but we have come to expect that. One thing I have relied on is that all cheques take the same time to clear, so if I pay in a cheque and wait a couple of days, it will clear before any cheques I write are drawn.

I know that people say that the money leaves my account instantly and the bank holds on to it for a while, but it has worked for me until I tried to pay the tax man. I received a letter from the bank yesterday informing me of a £39 charge for bouncing my cheque. After calling up it appears that organisations such as Revenue and Customs, and customer who pay extra, can have cheques cleared quicker.

I politely told the bank that they will be refunding this charge, and they did.

I can not log in to your beta

June 14th, 2007

As someone who is interested in web developments I sign up for many beta programmes. I tend to use differing passwords, and many with non alphanumeric characters. It is rather frightening that on many occasions (yes, many) I have not been able to log in because I used these characters and the site creator needed to intervene manually. This is more frightening because I bet most times what I have typed has just been pasted in to an SQL query and is open to SQL injection. This is a personal request to all developers to always escapes special characters when accepting input form the user, and consider using OpenID for authentication.