All 13 entries tagged Rant

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April 20, 2008

Flash! A–ah!

Writing about web page http://vpi.net/

Dilbert.com has just had a redesign, so I decided to complain about how bad the website of the designers is. Each main point has sub-points*.

  1. It appears to be entirely Flash-based. This is a bad thing:
    • I can't middle click on anything; well, I can but it achieves nothing. If I want to open a link in a new tab, dammit, who are you to stop me?
    • My scroll wheel doesn't work in the sections that have scroll bars.
    • The "Request a quote" button keeps animating. This is annoying; I don't want a damn quote, and no amount of swooshing is going to change my mind.
    • When I point at "Our Work", some more links slide into view. When I move down to "Clients", the options disappear and I end up pointing at "Our Demo"...
    • Pages take too long to load; without flash I'd at least be able to read some text while images continued loading.
    • Loading new Flash pages doesn't appear to trigger Firefox's progress bar, so it looks like nothing's happening when i look at the place I usually look to see if anything's happening.
    • Since the content never stands still, there is no guarantee that the Home page does not clearly identify what the company actually does.
    • If you disable Flash, the plain text version that replaces the Flash one is rather boring. If they hadn't used Flash in the first place, the "proper" website would be interesting. It also isn't even finished...
    • There's probably more, but I'm sick of the website...

Also I can't see any prices anywhere; not even "ballpark" figures. I don't want to "request a quote"; I want concrete or rough figures now.

(I feel I should point out that I have nothing against Flash itself; when used as part of a webpage (as with YouTube and their videos) it's fine. The problem comes when the entire website is Flash.)

---

* There is only one main point; everything that's wrong with the website stems from that one mistake.


February 28, 2008

BACS: The "C" is for "Crap"...

Here are two scenarios:

  1. I use my computer to access my bank's computer-based Online Banking system. I log into their computer and the computer presents the interface. I have already passed the authentication process, so the computer should be happy that I am who I say I am. I tell the bank's computer to send some money to another computer to settle a bill. It does so, but it takes three fucking days.
  2. I physically go to my bank (or the nearest cash point) and physically remove some physical money. I then get in the car and physically drive (let's approximate to a maximum of 8 hours, which it about how long it would take to travel the roughly 600 miles from the top of Scotland to the bottom of England at 70 mph in a straight line) to the physical headquarters of the company that issued the bill. I physically hand them the physical money to settle the bill.

How the hell can I get physical money across the country faster than the banks can send virtual money in the form of electricity!?

If we assume the electrical signal travels at the speed of light, then if it takes 3 days for the money to arrive, that means the signal has had to travel about 2 million times around the equator (I love Google) before it eventually reaches its destination...

I've already established my identity with my bank's computer by passing the log in screen, I have the money available in my account, I'm assuming it's just computers that are handling the transaction, so what takes them so long?!

It's ridiculous.

UPDATE: Just found this on Wikipedia:

The BACS system, and in particular the time taken for money to move between accounts, has been widely criticised by consumer groups as inefficient and archaic, especially as it is the system used for money transfers made by telephone or internet banking. This compares unfavourably with other developed countries, particularly in Scandinavia, where the "Elle" system ("Early Late / Late Early") allows money transferred before lunchtime to reach a payee's account on the same working day, or money transferred after lunchtime to reach the payee's account the following morning.


February 06, 2008

Any oxymoron up there with "Military Intelligence" and "Microsoft Works"...

Writing about web page http://www.bbc.co.uk/consumer/tv_and_radio/watchdog/reports/consumer_goods/consumer_20080204.shtml

On Monday, Watchdog did a report on the DS and how Brain Training doesn't recognise some people's voices. As much as I like Watchdog, there are two reasons why this report was stupid, pointless, and irrational:

  1. All voice recognition is crap; they all have trouble with accents and general recognition.
  2. Even people have trouble with accents (I refer you to complaints about Indian call centres that do not centre around job availability).

Here's a video to back me up:


November 18, 2007

Postal Strikes

I don't understand why there have been all these postal strikes recently.

Presumably someone goes on strike because they don't feel that their work and their reward complement each other.

In the case of the Royal Mail I think this is entirely true. But (and it's a large, full-bodied "but") I think they've got it the wrong way round: given the number of letters we get for the wrong address, given the amount of our mail that presumably goes to the wrong address, given that a postcard clearly addressed to our local MP (in Durham) was recently delivered to Nottingham, given that a postcard clearly addressed to a campaign organisation that just had our address filled in much smaller was returned to us three times despite us adding notes to stop it, I think these postal workers are being paid too much for the work they are doing.

Postal strikes are a huge pain. If they want me to sympathise with their cause (I don't, at all, at the moment), and if they want that sympathy to outweigh the feeling of being pissed off because of the postal strike, they I feel they should first start doing the job they're being paid to do before complaining that they're not being paid enough to do it.

The following hypothetical situation is brought to you by the letter "Pi", and the number 3.14159265358etc:

Me: You're not paying me enough. I want more money.

Manager of Random Store: But you don't work here.

Me: I know, but if this works for Postal Workers...


November 01, 2007

Everything I learned about unfair bank charges I learned from Abbey

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin:

I bank with Abbey. I like banking with Abbey; the Durham branch is right next to a bus stop, their online banking system is easy enough to use, and the staff in the branch are generally friendly. I'd never had any trouble with them until recently.

When I started my third year at Warwick (some time ago, now) my Student Account's overdraft limit reached its maximum of about £1600; a rather pleasant sum. All was well until September this year (the next academic year following my first year as a Graduate).

When I checked my balance online on the 3rd I discovered that I was suddenly a few hundred pounds over my overdraft limit. I was understandably shocked. After looking at the recent transactions and the current balance I came to the conclusion, quite rightly as it turned out, that no money had been taken from my account but that my overdraft limit had been reduced by £600.

I rushed into the branch to try to find out what had happened. It turns out that they gave notice of the reduction and that it's how the Graduate Account works; the overdraft limit is reduced each year (I assume each year; I've only had time to reach one so far...). I was certain then, and am still certain now, that I didn't receive a letter saying that my overdraft limit was due to shrink (more on that later). In retrospect it was somewhat wishful thinking to assume it wouldn't ever shrink, but I still didn't know in advance.

So it shrank at the start of September and I noticed on the 3rd. I transferred the hundred-ish pounds I still had in my savings account into my current account and begged the rest (a couple of hundred) off family to get me Back to Black. The reason I was in such a hurry was that my Vodafone bill was due out a few days later and I didn't want the Direct Debit to bounce. I contacted Vodafone, and they said just to cancel the Direct Debit with Abbey, so I did.

I got the money back into my account as quickly as I could, I contacted Abbey themselves to tell them to cancel the Direct Debit, and I saw on the next statement (up to 3rd Sep) that the £20 charge for going overdrawn had been waived because it's a graduate account and it was the first charge in 6 months (first for longer in reality, but that's how the feature works). I though it was a bit irritating of them to bill me when they made me overdrawn, but since it had been waived, since I was back in the black, and since Vodafone had eventually been paid I assumed this was the end of the matter.

I love the smell of wishful thinking in the morning...

A few weeks ago I made a large purchase that used up all the money I had in my account. Because of this I had to stop buying things for a few weeks while my income built the balance back up enough to cover the next Vodafone bill (I'd got the calculator out, and it would). Since I couldn't spend anything I wasn't checking my balance as often, because I couldn't do anything with it. This is why it was yesterday (31st Oct) when I noticed about sixty pounds of bank charges had been taken on the 25th. Again I was shocked, furious even, and still hadn't expected it (having already covered that fact I assumed the matter dealt with).

Having already covered the waived £20 for going overdrawn, these new charges were £25 for an "unauthorised overdraft monthly fee" despite being fined for going overdrawn and dealing with it within days and within the same month, £1.21 interest which I'm prepared to ignore, and £35 for the bounced DD to Vodafone despite asking Abbey themselves to cancel it.

And not only did I have these unexpected charges, but the charges put me over my overdraft limit again!

Fortunately I was already back in the black before I noticed because it put me only slightly over the limit and some money came in on Monday. But still, not only do I have these charges but I'm probably going to have more because the charges put me over the overdraft limit!

So I shot into the branch again and had a word with the Manager, who has no more power than the lowly cashiers I spoke to last time. She couldn't do anything, and couldn't even comment on the ridiculous size of the charges because of the active case started by Watchdog's report. While I was there, she did cancel the Vodafone DD for me again because it's due on Monday...

So I still had to leave the branch without satisfaction.

When I got back home I must admit I checked my latest statement and there was indeed a tiny section listing the upcoming charges. Well, dammit, I want a separate letter with big flashing lights; this is too important to risk being missed. This is obviously what happened when they shrank the overdraft: it wasn't a letter, but a minuscule note on a statement.

Anyway, that's the story so far (future events expected to be at least another charge for them making me overdrawn). Here's a summary:

  1. 1st Sep: Abbey shrank my overdraft limit without me realising, which put me over the limit without my bank balance changing.
  2. 3rd Sep: I noticed this, and went into the branch, and arranged for enough money to be transferred into my account.
  3. When next statement arrived: Noticed waived charge for going overdrawn (despite the fact I didn't technically; overdrawn went over me...). It was waived, so thought no more about it.
  4. 18th Oct: Spent a lot of money and had to not spend anything for the next fortnight to save up for Vodafone bill.
  5. 25th Oct: Unexpected charges were taken which put me back over the limit.
  6. 29th Oct: Money came in which brought me back into the black.
  7. 31st Oct: I checked my balance for the first time since a few days before 25th in preparation for the Vodafone payment

So there we are, Abbey made me overdrawn and charged me for the privilege. It's a stupid system; I could pull a better banking system out of my a$$, especially since there are at least two dollars in "a$$"...

The first thing I would do is send letters in BIG RED LETTERS to warn people of important things like charges and shrinking overdrafts. And speaking of letters, it's time to draft one to Abbey. I'm getting too old for this shit.

Also, as an aside, how many Pop Culture references can you spot? If memory serves, there are five.


October 28, 2007

Top Gear ∞, 0 Snooker

Follow-up to Dear BBC, re: Bloody Snooker from The randomness of tomorrow, today!

I bet televised snooker never featured The Rolling Stones' Ron Wood...

So nuts to you.


October 16, 2007

Dear BBC, re: Bloody Snooker

Dear BBC

You've cancelled Top Gear for Snooker. Why? Surely a programme that is under near constant criticism by the media doesn't make it to 10 seasons by being unpopular. I think Top Gear is one of the best programmes made in Britain at the moment and absolutely will not accept that snooker achieves even the merest fraction of an iota of a crumb of a percentage of the ratings and following that Top Gear has.

The practice of replacing perfectly good, and absolutely fantastic, regular programmes with utter rubbish like ephemeral sporting events is archaic, irrational, nonsensical, and stems from TVs infancy when there wasn't enough time in the day for one channel to fit everything in.

So why not do everyone a favour and create "BBC Pointless-Crap-That-No-One-Cares-About" for things like snooker, football, and any other upstart rubbish deluded enough to think itself superior to any other programme on TV today (yes, inferior even to that human cesspit that is Channel 4's "Big Brother").

Yours

Someone who wishes you'd see sense.


August 20, 2007

Humanoid

It always annoys me when "humanoid" is used to mean "human". It doesn't; it means roughly "human shaped".

Humans are humanoid; in Star Trek Vulcans, Klingons, Bajorans, Cardassians, etc. are humanoid; in Stargate the Asgard, the Nox, the pre-ascended Ancients, the Wraith, etc. are humanoid; the Doctor is humanoid; in fact probably 99% of all aliens in sci-fi are humanoid, because the make-up is easy.

The one that really irritated me was the later episodes of Star Trek Enterprise with the Xindi. The reptilian fifth of the planet habitually distinguished themselves from humans and the primate fifth by calling them both "humanoid", when all the Xindi (except the aquatics) were humanoid.

It's not a particularly important point, but who said it had to be...


July 28, 2007

Have you ever heard of a little thing called the "Industrial Revolution"?

I hate gas and cannot see the point of it. Why would anyone (architect, builder, or home-owner) choose gas over electricity? Electricity doesn't make a habit of escaping from the cables, you don't need Carbon Mon-electricity detectors, you don't need to panic if the Pilot Electric Light goes out, it can't blow your house up; it's just better.

We've been generating electricity to power stuff since 1881; that's fast approaching 130 years ago! Why, then, are houses still built using gas (well, I assume they're still built; they still exist, at least)? Why is British Gas still in business (presumably because they also started offering electricity)?

So here's a suggestion: why not drag your home kicking and screaming into the 19th Century by dispensing with your gas supply and switching to electricity...


January 12, 2007

A Blog Entry in Two Parts (Part 2)

Follow-up to A Blog Entry in Two Parts (Part 1) from The randomness of tomorrow, today!

Previously, on The randomness of tomorrow, today!:

Discounting actual programmes that annoy me (Big Brother and the like to name but a few) one of the main things that annoys me about television programmes manifests itself in two ways, the second of which is more annoying but both of which are essentially the same sin:

1. Something I can only recall Knight Rider doing off the top of my head, which is providing a short - but detailed - preview of the upcoming episode prior to the opening titles. While it's true that this particular example is easy to skip in recordings since it goes Preview, Titles, Episode - such as to have an easily identifiable break between preview and proper content - it still seems completely pointless to me; if I want to see what's going to happen in the episode, I will watch the actual episode - this is, after all, the point...

2. The most annoying one requires a break for adverts (which makes it even more annoying in shows that don't even have adverts...) which is where they give a detailed preview of what's going to happen in 3 minutes time! That one really gets me - my attention span is not so short that a three minute ad break is going to stop me from watching a program I'm enjoying; and if I'm not enjoying it, no amount of "here's what exciting stuff is coming up" is going to keep me watching...
Also not only do we get the preview before the adverts, but afterwards we get a review of events witnessed just three minutes ago! I don't mind reviews such as prior to some Stargate SG-1 (for example) episodes where they tell you what happened 7 days ago - or possibly several months for some recurring themes - but my memory is good enough to remember what's already happened before the adverts in the current episode.

Also, I hate "Next Week" for precisely them same reason - don't spoil the surprise; the preview of upcoming events is not the basis of my decision to continue watching the series (not that I'm expecting any to read this, but a hint to any writers/producers/directors/etc: Decent content, not previews, are what keep people watching...)

I'm glad I got that off my chest.


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