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A Hint...

Dear Demon

When you're talking to a customer who is requesting a MAC, who has just told you why, and who has already transferred his domain name away from you the previous week, that may not have been the best time to ask him to fill in a customer satisfaction survey.

On the other hand, if I win an iPod for my "I hate you and I'm leaving you" survey responses, that would be a good note to end on!


End of an Era

Well, after 15 years of custom and numerous comical fuckups, Demon have finally driven me away - a MAC is on it's way to me as I type. Assuming, of course, that they don't screw that up too...

I've ranted about Demon here before - largely because once a year they conspire to seriously mess something up. This year isn't quite as spectacular as the time they accidentally issued a cease order to BT (resulting in a month with no connection), but if I have one more person tell me that the reason for 3 weeks of uselessly slow downlink speeds is because I've been "upgraded", I will pop down the road to Demon Towers with a pitchfork and a flaming torch.

A combination of apathy and a fear of being offline has always put me off moving. This time around I realised that for the same price I was paying, I could have an entire second line supplied by AAISP (much love) and still have change left over enough to keep my old line on a cheapo Plusnet deal as a backup. Combine this with the coolest router I've ever owned which will load-balance across a pair of ADSL lines, and even provides a fallback to a 3G dongle, and nothing short of a nuclear war should be able to knock me offline now.

First step was to transfer our main domain out of Demon's hands. That was fairly easy, although despite Demon being an ISP they insist on such a request being faxed (faxes? have I fallen backwards into the 1980s or something?) or snail-mailed. That was released on Tuesday, and the DNS changes now seem to have rippled worldwide enough that no more mail is going via Demon.

And so this morning, with a heavy heart, I called up the "Customer Relations" team at Demon and asked for a MAC. They did ask why, but once I'd told them "my line's been broken for three weeks and your engineers clearly have no clue what the problem actually is" the fight went out of them. The nice man did valiantly offer to make me "an offer", but conceded that it was unlikely to beat the £6 a month that Plusnet do, so he's put the request through.

There was a comic moment when he asked what I was currently paying - curious, as he presumably had my account details in front of him. I pointed out that the last bill I'd received (earlier this week) was charging £408 for the month, which was just another sign of why I was leaving (their accounts department ineptitude, not their astronomical prices).

With traditional Demon-ic timing, the helpdesk called me 5 minutes later to pass on a question from the engineers of "is it any better". No, no it isn't, but I would suggest they stop wasting their time as I'm not going to be a customer of yours in a matter of days.

So I'm sad to be ending one of the longest customer relationships I've had (off the top of my head, the only company I've ever been a customer of for longer is British Gas). But I'm also angry that a once-great company has sunk so low, and seems to care so little for it's customers. The only reason I'm getting daily calls from the helpdesk (which don't do anything, but at least make me feel loved) is that I kept hold of the number for the incredibly-well-hidden UK-based customer retention team from the last big disaster, phoned them up and shouted at them.

Since it was offshored, their helpdesk hasn't been allowed to actually talk to the engineers. There's no way to escalate a problem through official channels (you have to phone secret departments) and despite occasional claims to the contrary, there is no longer any specific support for business accounts. Gone are the days when you could phone straight through to a technician who understood that at least some of their customers know their stuff.

So, now I'm on a shiny new (and horribly fast) line for my main net connection, and will shortly move to a cheapo provider for my backup. More reliable, and cheaper as well.

All assuming, of course, that Demon manage send me a MAC which works. History doesn't leave me hopeful.


C&W Meet Expectations


I received my "daily" update call from Demon at lunchtime - this is a creative use of the word "daily", but at least they're calling me which makes a change. It's also a creative use of the word "update", as until yesterday the status has remained at "well the engineer call is open but they haven't bothered to pick it up yet, I'll chase them".

Still, the C&W engineers have finally decided to read the call. And their response is to ask if the problem still exists.

"Yes", I say. "It is. Did they actually try changing anything?"

"Err." says the Demon man - I feel slightly sorry for him, but getting yelled at is the price you pay for being the customer contact. "No. But they noticed that the line isn't getting disconnected over the last few days, so they thought maybe it had fixed itself."

"No", I say, feeling a little like Ford Prefect in Hotblack Desiato's stuntship. "I just stopped fiddling with it."

"Oh. Well, I'll let them know and they can get right to work on it."

"Does that mean another week goes by before they ask if it's any better, then?"

"Oh no", he says, trotting out the same nonsense I've received every single time I've talked to Demon's helldesk since they offshored it. "I'm sure it be sorted very soon now. Definitely not another week. Umm. I can't give you an actual time. But I'm sure it will be soon."

I can tell this is going to go on forever, and I have this horrible feeling that when I ask for a MAC in a week's time, all hell is going to break loose because the bloody idiots have LLU'd me without asking, or indeed even telling me. So I try a different tack.

"Can't you just put it all back the way it was? You know, like two weeks ago before you 'upgraded' me?"

"No sir. That's not an option. We had to change the equipment in the exchange to upgrade you to this much faster service."

"How is this faster? I'd be better off with ISDN."

"Well yes sir, but once it's working you should be getting 12meg. At least."

"I don't need more speed. I never needed more speed. I need the speed I had."

"Sorry sir. I'm sure it will be fixed very soon."

Me too. My new line arrives on Monday.


And Again...

It's been a while since I posted here, so it only seems reasonable to mark my return with a rant. And, courtesy of the Demon / Thus / C&W chaos that is my ISP, it's a good one.

Monday morning, my net access is slow. And I mean, painfully, "oh my god has someone replaced my ADSL router with a 56k modem" slow. I went through my normal routine of bouncing the router, but it was still as slow as hell.

Speed tests from various places quoted me downstream speeds of around 0.15mbps; something like 8 times less than I would expect. Curiously, my upstream speeds remained where they should be. Even more curiously, my router was reporting an ADSL2+ connection. On to Google, then...

Turns out, plenty of people have been broken by the "upgrade" to ADSL2+. But I don't think I'm one of them - all their problems are around routers struggling to hold the line; crappy sync speeds, large amounts of errors. Me, I have the same solid sync that I've always had, syncing with a downstream speed over 13mb, zero errors anywhere.

I spent most of Monday afternoon waiting for Demon's Undead Text Chat to respond, before giving up and emailing them. I got an automated reply saying they were far too busy to do anything, but would get back to me in 48 hours.

Considerably more than 48 hours later (not to mention 3 different computers, different router, various config tweaks and a few animal sacrifices to the various ADSL Gods) I bite the bullet and phone their Helldesk. Spoke to a nice man who grudgingly admitted that I might have a problem, but that he couldn't possibly raise it with an engineer until I'd run a number of speed tests from their "approved site", with plenty of time (i.e. hours) between them, so that they were "sure it was a problem".

But, I said, I've been running speed tests at all kinds of time of day and night since Monday - they *all* say exactly the same thing; about 0.15mbps downstream, normal upstream, solid, fast sync on the router. Tough, he says. Even if he did raise the fault now, the Clueless & Witless engineers would bounce it straight back without those tests.

Bute, I said (in a slightly more desperate tone), this is a business line. I pay a lot of money for this line. I need it to run at broadband speeds - I spend a lot of my time using remote access, which at these speeds is ... tedious. Well, I said "unusuable", but you know what I mean.

Sorry, says Helldesk drone. Nothing I can do. Fine, so I'll do the dumb tests, phone the Helldesk again late afternoon and pray that the engineers can be bothered to look before Monday. Like hell I will.

Luckily, since the last total disaster I've kept Demon's ultra-secret "Customer Relations" phone number. Seriously, this number doesn't seem to be linked to anywhere from their website, but I did once find it on a publically visible document so I've never felt too bad about using it. Rather than 20 minutes in a queue, I get straight through to a very helpful man who understands where I'm coming from, even if he can't help technically. He says he'll get a senior tech to phone me, who I might be able to persuade to raise it with the engineers right away. A callback from Demon? Yeah, right.

But no, the senior tech does indeed call. On the wrong phone number, granted, but you can't have everything. A series of questions and tests, and he concedes there's a problem and raises it with the engineers while I'm still on the phone. Adds a note to frigging well look at it this month, what with it being a business line and everything.

So now, I'm in the hands of C&W engineers.

Oh shit.


Badly Drawn Spam

One of the dubious pleasures of having a website is that I regularly get spam from SEO slime, trying to sell me their services, promising to put me at the top of Google (although never for any specific search terms, I notice...) and quintuple my revenues (which are, err, zero) overnight.

In virtually every case it's an obvious mailmerge type letter; it usually starts off telling me how hard it was to find Mamta's Kitchen, which I always find hugely amusing because I only really started getting this kind of spam after it, you know, got to be easier to find because of search engines and stuff.

Today's is no exception, telling me that the SEO "struggled to find you in the first couple of pages". Well what were you searching for then? The first test search I did was for "mums chicken curry" because I know that's popular. Go on, go and google it. I'll wait.

edit to add: my beloved, being smarter than me, did a search for something far more generic - tandoori chicken - and we're still on page one. wow

The best bit, however, was when he was saying that another nail in my coffin was that Google only indexed 808 pages, which is "quite low" on his planet. Small tip; if you're going to spam your crappy SEO services to me, at least add some code into your automated scripts to check the numbers are actually low before sending it out to prospective suckers - ahem, sorry, customers. Sure, 808 pages means that Google hasn't quite picked up every single recipe yet, but it'll get there.

On a side note, searching for "mamtaskitchen" reveals that Google now gives us that funky "menu links" thing under our home page (oh you know, the thing that you usually only get on real websites) :)

On A Geekier Note..

We have a lot of big files, which I want to back up online.

By big I mean 5-10meg each (they're image files) and by lots I mean (at last count) around 35k. That translates to something like 270gig (and rising) so it's quite a lot of data. I could probably filter it down massively but even if I reduced it by 75% (which is unlikely) that's still quite a few dollars even in the world of S3.

I know image files won't be very responsive to conventional compression, but I suspect this is a special case. Given the sheer volume of data, I'd be quite happy to have a HUGE external dictionary that was common across the images, on the grounds that given, say, a 10gig dictionary, even if you only shave an extra few kb off each individual file, you're ahead in the grand scheme of things.

It further strikes me that I can't be the first programmer/photographer to have had thoughts like this, so hopefully someone has gone that extra step and actually tried getting such a thing to work. My Google-fu is weak today, however. Has anyone come across such a thing?

The Sky Is Falling!!!1!!

So, the government response to a massive (well, I guess it [i]is[/i] 150%) increase in PigFluians to 5, is to order up another 15 million doses of Tamiflu, and sending every house in the country a leaflet that will tell us ... well, pretty much nothing because there's no real information to convey.

Either the government is in blind panic "we must be seen to do something" mode, or they know something that I don't. A mildly infectious strain of apparently mild flu is not something I need a leaflet about, no matter how hysterical the media gets (in the absense, presumably, of any [i]actual[/i] news to report) and I don't see how buying enough anti virals (which will have a use-by date which is likely to be reached before 50 million doses are, in fact, required) for every person in the country is spending my taxes wisely either.

I hate mindless dosomethingisms.

Red Dwarf

Was it just me, or was 'Back To Earth' a bit ... crap? I mean it felt like a 90 minute Comic Relief sketch that never quite came off.

Cask Ale Week

In keeping with the spirit of public announcements, this week is National Cask Ale Week, which is an excellent excuse for you to all go down the pub. Go on, go and have a pint (of cask ale, obviously - it doesn't work if you go and have lager or lemonade). Look on it as supporting your local brewery through the recession :)

Curiously, the wazzocks at Weatherspoons have decided to have their Real Ale Festival week next week instead of this; seems a bit of a missed marketing opportunity to me, but hey ho...


Who's This?

Who's This?
Originally uploaded by Ganders
A quick plea to anyone better at recognising birds than I (in other words, everyone on the planet) - anyone know what bird this is?