A pox on the gambling revolution

Friday afternoon at work, 3 of us decided (I talked the others into it) to have a bet on the football:

Hull to beat Arsenal

Spurs to beat Liverpool

Burnley to beat Chelsea

We all put in £2 each, and with the treble, stood to get £1500 back if all results came in…sadly, none of them did.

We laughed and put it down to experience – £2 each was no big deal, we could afford to take the loss.

A key point here though, was I had to go into the bookies to place the bet – I refuse to have an app on my phone for betting.

And so Monday lunchtime I was browsing the Football365.com website and came across this article. It highlights everything that is wrong with gambling today – the ease of which uncomfortable sums can be lost, the huge range of bets available, the endorsement of famous people.

I lost £2 – I’m not chasing that. I’ll think twice before betting on Spurs…

Home media system

I previously mentioned how the household now relies on content streamed from the office (aka: Paul’s Pit) to WDTV Live SMP players around the house.

Nowadays, we have a number of Android TV boxes running the Kodi media centre. This gives us more options when watching TV/Movies – we can stream from the NAS drives, or stream over the internet. The one thing I’ve so far failed to accomplish with Kodi is to have a centrally accessible library whereby I can start watching a show on one box, and continue from the point I left off on another – this bothers me far more than it should, and to be honest, as all the boxes are running the same version of Kodi, a central MySQL database should make this work…but it falls over every time I’ve tried it (6 out of 10 – must try harder).

Looking forward to being back at work on Tuesday 🙂

The UK’s draconian internet law

As we approach the end of 2016, there are mixed views – so many celebrity deaths this year, but more importantly, the passing of the ‘Investigatory Powers Act 2016’ here in the UK means the death of freedom on the internet:

Broadband ISPs and mobile operators will tonight offer a collective sigh after the Investigatory Powers Bill effectively achieved Royal Asset to become an Act. The new law will force providers into logging a big slice of your Internet activity, irrespective of whether or not you’re even suspected of a crime.

At present ISPs need to see a warrant before logging what customers do online (for up to 12 months) and related logs are also extremely basic. By comparison the new law introduces a system that will require ISPs to store comparatively detailed Internet Connection Records (e.g. the websites / servers you’ve visited) for all their customers and this will also be accessible without a warrant (summary).

The recent Code of Practice suggested that an ICR’s “core information” will most likely include a customer’s “account reference, a source [Internet Protocol] and port address, a destination IPand port address and a time/date” (details), but some providers may be expected to collect more data than this if they can.

However a full interception warrant will still be required to obtain the most detailed information (e.g. the content of your communications), but even without one the ISP would still need to record your basic activity via ICRs (these will be stored for a period of 12 months) and that’s neither easy nor cheap to do.

Now, while I do not visit any sites linked to verboten activities, I do now utilise the services of a VPN provider to safeguard my civil liberties. I encourage everyone to do the same – Windscribe offer unlimited bandwidth on unlimited devices, and in a household with 15 computers, and 4 phones running Linux, Windows, Mac OS, and Android operating systems, a single simple approach is welcomed.

And so, as 2016 comes to a close, welcome to 1984

HTC – the end of their fuckwittery

So, since my last post regarding HTC’s total lack of respect for their paying customers, there has been some movement.

The HTC representative (and apparent resident expert) Ian had touched upon me getting my phone back unrepaired with no charges being made – my response was that I wanted this in writing from HTC before I said yes or no. Imagine my (total lack of) surprise on getting an email on 30th June at 16:55:

Dear Paul Bennett

Device HTC One M9, Serial No. ************, is now awaiting shipment in our warehouse and should be returned to you within a couple of days.

Many thanks,

HTC Customer Care

And there you have it; HTC’s answer to my 2 key questions:

  • Why are you changing most of the components for a simple screen repair?
  • Why does HTC seem to have their own special VAT rate of 23% when the rest of the UK has 20%?

Is to simply send it back and refuse to repair it.

Now, the email was sent on 30th June, and UPS attempted to deliver it to my home on 5th July – it takes that long to travel the 8 miles from Huntingdon to St Neots it seems…

Anyhoo, what with arranging redelivery etc., I finally had my phone back in my hands on Thursday 7th July. I turned it on and it was (still) working fine – just the smashed screen to contend with.

Along with the phone were 3 documents;

Image1 Image2 Image3

Document 1 is pretty straight forward, apart from the Polish address (the phone went to, and came back from Huntingdon), and reads exactly like Regenersis are contracted to HTC for repairs and have been instructed by HTC to release the phone.

Documents 2 and 3 are very contradictory though; assuming the US date format, the first is dated June 9th and says it was internally inspected…some 4 days before I sent it in. Pretty impressive huh?

The second document, dated 30th June says the damage was identifiable externally (no shit Sherlock)

Wearing my best wry smile at the confusion created by the documents, I searched online and found a company – RaPhone – based in London, who for an all in charge of £89 will replace the LCD and touch screen of an HTC M9. I packaged the phone up again and off it went first class the following day (8th July). Monitoring online, the phone was received by them Saturday morning, and THE PHONE REPAIRED BEFORE 4PM THAT DAY.

The phone was promptly returned to me on Tuesday (12th July) – only the weekend stopped this being a 48 hours turnaround it seems. Phone is working perfectly – screen, sound etc. all perfect.

So why did HTC feel the need for new components?

Robbing bastards

Robbing bastards

I will still be in touch with HMRC regarding the illegal rate of tax being charged by HTC UK, and I’m sure Trading Standards will be very interested to hear about this whole fiasco.

All in all, it took 4 weeks to have a 48 hours repair done.

I certainly won’t be holding my breath waiting for HTC to apologise for any part of this, and hope my posts here will serve as warning to anybody considering sending a phone to them for repair – if this is you, give RaPhone a call on 020 8453 7088

The saga of the HTC One M9 phone…

Following me dropping my phone and the screen breaking 🙁 I decided to go with the manufacturer’s for the repair, so after calling them and initiating the repair, I sent the phone off never once thinking this would turn into the saga it has.

Being totally disgruntled with the customer service I have(n’t) received from HTC, I typed up a letter for the HTC UK Executive Director (Lisa then took my letter and made it pretty):

Dear Mr Blair

May I start by saying that I have been a user of HTC phones since the HTC S710 back in 2008 and have ensured that my family are also HTC users.  I believe the styling HTC put into their products elevates them above the other manufacturers of Android phones.

I purchased my latest HTC phone (HTC One M9) in July 2015, paying over £500 to own it outright and not be tied to a contract.  I have long been an advocate of owning my phone from day one and not paying for a contract and therefore I have taken great care of all handsets I have owned with each one lasting much longer than the usual contract periods.  My previous handset, the HTC One X was 3 years old when I replaced it and it was in pristine condition.  The purpose of my explanation here is to demonstrate that as I have actually paid out significant amounts of money to own the phone I take care of them as much as possible.

On Monday 13th June, while getting into my car to travel to work, the phone slipped out of my hand and, despite a desperate attempt to juggle and catch it, fell face down onto the road.  When I picked it up my worst fears were confirmed – the glass on the right hand side of the screen was damaged. Fortunately the phone was still operational, just slightly unresponsive around where the glass was damaged.

As I was on my way to work when the incident occurred I continued to use the phone in its damaged state for the rest of the day.  That evening I decided I should really look into getting the screen repaired. The following day a local shop quoted me £99 plus VAT to replace the LCD and touch screen which I thought was reasonable but, wanting to ensure a thoroughly professional job I contacted HTC to enquire how much it would be for them to undertake the repair.

When speaking to the representative I explained what had happened. I made it very clear to him that I had unlocked the bootloader (via the HTC website as I have done with all my phones), S-OFFed, and rooted the phone and was fully aware this voided my warranty.  I was not expecting a free repair – just a genuine HTC repair.

We initiated the return and repair process which entailed him sending out a returns label (addressed to the repair centre – Regenersis – that is based just 8 miles from my location). I returned home that that evening, backed up everything on my phone, removed the SIM and SD card, packaged the phone in the original box and left it at the UPS collection point.

The next morning I logged onto the HTC tracking website using the ticket number (116232739346) and my email address (paul@sneesh.com) to find nothing had happened – my phone was awaiting collection. The same was shown that evening, the next morning and that afternoon – I finally called HTC back fearing my phone had been either lost in the post, or worse still, stolen.

I was assured my phone had arrived at the repair centre and was awaiting examination to ascertain repairs costs – indeed, within minutes, the tracking website miraculously showed this.

An hour or so later I received an email telling me a quotation was ready to view – I logged in expecting to see a quote along the lines of £150 or so.

Imagine my disgust when I saw a cost of £302.38 for this repair.

Robbing bastards

I was somewhat confused why, when I’d specifically requested a screen repair, there were costs for:

  • etching to the back cover
  • replacement speaker
  • replacement camera lens
  • and most surprising of all – replacement mainboard & bootloader lock (which alone would cost £125.22)

Further to this, I totalled the cost of parts, labour and shipping and got £245.84. Adding VAT at the UK standard rate of 20% gives a maximum of £295.01. HTC’s quote includes VAT at a rate of 23%.

Despite numerous calls to HTC I’ve not had a satisfactory response as to why the costs are so high, why they seem to have a VAT rate different to everyone else in the UK and why I am being quoted for items that are quite clearly NOT relevant to replacing a damaged screen.

I was eventually contacted by Mr Ian Amon on 21st June 2016 who is an “expert” from the call centre based in the Philippines.  He could not grasp the fact that HTC should not be charging a tax rate above the standard UK rate.  He also claimed that my unlocking the bootloader and rooting the phone has caused internal damage which is why the mainboard needed replacing.  I’m sure you and any other tech-savvy individual will appreciate that rooting the phone merely enables me write-access to the system partition and does nothing physically to the phone.

Your expert then insisted that my phone had been exposed to liquid damage.  As previously stated at length, I take a great deal of care with my phones and have NEVER allowed it to come into contact with any sort of liquid.  Mr Amon then changed his mind and said that the ‘liquid damage’ could have been caused by the screen breaking causing liquid damage to the mainboard.  Firstly, if this is the case, how was I able to continue using the phone for the rest of the day after the screen broke and then perform the backup before packaging it up to be sent to HTC?  If the screen break does cause liquid damage then surely this is a major design fault as what should be a simple repair would usually entail almost all new components thus resulting in a practically new phone each time!

During the call your expert also said that my phone had in fact been sent to Poland to be assessed (despite the returns label being addressed to the diagnostic, repair and data erasure specialists –Regenersis – who are based in Huntingdon which, as I’ve previously indicated, is 8 miles from my home address) and the reason there was a different VAT rate was because of posting / shipping costs to Poland.

Even if I decided that I was so disgusted by the behaviour and service from HTC that I wanted my phone back to get it repaired by an independent repair centre I would still be paying more than I should.  The option to pay the administration costs and shipping and not have the repair done has a VAT element at a rate of 23%!  As I am not prepared to pay an incorrect tax rate which is in excess of the standard UK rate if feels like my phone is being held hostage.

Through this entire exercise I have only wanted to have a genuine repair on my phone.  I am thoroughly disgusted and disillusioned by HTC and their extreme lack of customer service and unless HTC are prepared to provide a GENUINE quotation for the work required, I would like my phone returned to me in the same condition as when it was received by Regenersis – i.e. functioning but with reduced response on the damaged screen.  I will then seek an alternative repair centre.  This return should not be charged at a higher rate of VAT than the standard 20% as used by the rest of the UK.

Social media and personal blogs have become very powerful sources for sharing experiences with others and I am absolutely going to share this one.  Whilst I’m sure my blog post (sneesh.com) will not be conducive to HTC’s good name, I can assure you any positive response I get from this email will be mentioned, so I hope you feel able to intervene here and try to salvage what has, so far, been a totally unacceptable response from HTC.

I look forward to hearing your views on the above.

Yours sincerely

snee

 

So, this email will be going off to Mr Blair today and I’ll await the reply…

EDIT:

So last night Lisa and I popped round to see my mum. I was just about to regale her with this story when my phone rang – the ‘unknown caller’ message made me assume (correctly) that this was the ‘HTC expert’ form the Philippines again. The conversation went along these lines after he had made sure he was talking to me:

Hello sir, I have been unable to contact a HTC representative in the UK to talk to you about this, but I have been able to get authorisation to release your phone – unrepaired – to you with no charges being made. Do you accept this?

I responded that while it sounded like a solution, I would need this offer in email before I would commit myself one way or the other. He assured me I’d have that email within the hour.

14 hours later – still no email. Imagine my surprised face…

2ND EDIT:

Apparently the HTC executives have a block on external domains sending them email – smacks to me that HTC are maybe receiving too many complaints? there was one email address that the message went through to though – the CEO, Cher Wang

Work – a four letter word

So, this week I has mainly been in Italy – Lake Como 🙂 for training on pressure transmitters.

There were about 30 of us – ABB sales team, 2 of us office bods, and the alliance partners had sent over some representatives so ~I got to meet people I deal wioth on a day to day basis too.

Hard life eh? in the office Monday, then picked up Tuesday at stupid o’clock and off to the airport, arriving at the ABB factory in Ossucio at about 13.30 in time for lunch and then a tour of the factory – very impressive. The drive from the airport took us to Como, then around the lake so we got to see various views of this beautiful area on the Switzerland/Italy border.

After a couple of presentations and some Q&A, it was back to Como to the hotel – it was decided we’d meet up at 19.00, have a beer, then go for dinner.

I got to my room, unpacked, had a shower, then headed down to the bar – my colleague Alan was there, but no sign of any bar staff, and the room was very stuffy – I told him I was heading outside to the square.

So I headed straight to the outside seating area of a bar and ordered a beer – round about 5 minutes later one of the alliance guys came over, we introduced ourselves to each other the civilised way (more beer), and sat in the sun chatting and watching the world go by. Withing 10 minutes, we had probably 90% of the ABB posse with us and the beer was flowing…it took the organiser quite some time to get us all together to go to dinner (akin to herding cats).

Dinner was fucking awful – shellfish and pasta starter, followed by fish…I HATE fish. Still, beer was good, ditto the bread. After dinner it was back to the bar in the square for a few more hours of drinking then off to bed.

Following day was 07.00 start, down to the hydrofoil and a trip across the lake to Lenno, then 30 minute walk (uphill) to the factory. The morning was taken with presentations and discussions on the product range, then in the afternoon we split into groups – the principals off to discuss sales strategies, us bods to partake in training.

The training was mainly about the new wireless models, so we started with lots of questions regarding security, data verification etc (this was really well inside my comfort zone!), then had some hands-on with the equipment to learn how to setup everything, blah, blah, blah…

The walk back to the hydrofoil port was very hot – temperature was around 29 degrees – and downhill. On cobbled walkways. I was glad I’d decided not to wear shoes, but instead some very comfy trainer type footwear. There were more than a few people complaining of sore feet.

That evening was almost a mirror of the first – the bar on the square had now become our base, and from there we headed off to a different restaurant for dinner (delicious lump of cow this time…nom, nom).

Back to the square and more beer – I went to bed around 23.30 but there was a hardcore of the guys who partied until 04.00.

Thursday breakfast was amusing – I was wide awake and full of beans, but there were more than a few heavy heads. We had a couple of hours discussing everything, then everybody made their way back to the airport and home. Alan and I didn’t have a flight until 21.40 so spent the afternoon in Como, having some lunch, a few beers, and generally soaking up some sun.

And this week: Monday is a bank holiday, I’ve booked Tuesday and Wednesday off, so nothing until Thursday for me…although I do have to paint some fence panels.

Life is good 🙂

 

ANOTHER post? so soon?

It’s Friday people! 🙂 I’ll be finishing early today, then Lisa and I are off to the O2 for the Channel 4 Comedy Gala

Spurs need one more win (from 2 remaining games) to confirm second place in the league. Now everyone says second place is just first loser, but all these people support the Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal et al who have all finished lower…this confuses me until I realise it’s all jealousy – jealousy of our players, of our manager, of the team’s fitness levels…

129 days until Mexico…

Alert! alert! new post :O

Wow, 18 months since my last post…and reading that, things have certainly changed! and all for the better.

Firstly, Lisa and I got married – very romantic affair really, it was sold to me that financially it made sense with the properties etc. As such, we got 2 witnesses, Lisa’s dad, and my mum and off to the registry office. We had the Muppet Show theme tune playing during the ceremony, then Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’ (the only ‘sensible’ wedding ceremony song), follwed by Foo Fighters ‘Long Road to Ruin’. We left the registry office to the Muppets ‘Manamana’. Lisa got a ring, I got a ball and chain (seriously – I got a ball and chain, it’s not a euphemism).

So yeah, pretty big change right there.

Work has changed vastly too – for legal reasons I cannot discuss any settlement agreements or wrong doings.

After a couple of months working as a packer on a production line, I got a job doing some data analysis for a distribution company. I actually applied for a basic administration position but got a call back saying they thought I was over qualified for the position, but they’d created a new position for me (which is a huge ego boost for someone of my age).

I then took a job for Liebherr, a German company specialising in tower cranes. My manager had some odd ways of doing things which saw me leave there after only a couple of months. Once again, I was turned down for the original job I applied for, but was offered a different job to match my skills.

After mooching around for a couple of weeks, and Christmas starting to loom on the horizon, Lisa sent me a link one day for a job inside ABB. I applied, and we both agreed that to avoid any bias one way or another, I’d not mention her working for the company.

The application went in, was received with interest, and I underwent a telephone interview – I’m quite good on the phone, and have the knack of sounding knowledgeable about things I honestly know little of. I then received a further callback inviting me to an interview – this would be just before the Christmas break.

At this point, Lisa and I decided she should approach HR and let them know she had initiated the recruitment so she’d get the recruitment bonus (we thought this would be a couple of hundred pounds). HR told her yes, there was a bonus – £1000 if I was successful in the interview, and a further £1000 after 6 months.

Interview day comes around – a Friday (this is key). I arrived promptly for my interview and was met by Al (the manager of the section) who was dressed in jeans and t-shirt. Seeing my expression, he said, “I normally wear a shirt and most days a tie, but Friday is dress-down day.”

For the first time IN MY LIFE, I was the best dressed person in the company. The interview with me, Al, and the other Al went very well, and I was offered the job a couple of days later to start in the new year – January 11th in fact.

I was actually phoned on the 5th to ask if I’d like to attend some training they were holding that day which would be of use for me – having nothing better to do, I did this, and as such, became the first person to start work before my start date…

So, my new career as an Internal Proposals Engineer is a very interesting one – I’m learning the range of products offered by ABB, and was approached by the head of UK sales in late March to say he’d like me to attend some training in Italy in May. Now, in my head I was thinking “Hmm, my probation period runs until mid April, but I’m booked on some overseas training in May – I think I may have this job…”

Sure enough, a couple of weeks ago, Al turned to me and said “Paul, about your probation period”, I turned around and he continued “Yeah, you’re in…despite being a Spurs fan.” (he supports Chelsea).

Which brings me neatly to the current EPL – Spurs trailing Leicester at the top of the table, still (as I write this) mathematically possible for them to be champions – but what a season, what a difference the manager has made, and what effort the players have put in as a whole, they really are awesome to watch – like an unending white wave swarming over defences.

Lisa and I decided to book a holiday in September once the girls have gone back to school, we initially thought Gran Canaria, but due to the problems in North Africa and Syria, it seems everyone is now going to Spain and the Canary Islands. In a nutshell, I was sold on the idea of the lazy river at the hotel in Cancun, so we’re off to Mexico for 2 weeks – lovely stuff.

Cats: Gif has really settled in now, and even tolerates the other 2 cats being quite close to him.

Household media system: Although the plethora of storage devices still exist, we’re moving more onto streaming films/TV shows (the girls love the US Whose Line is it Anyway?).

We’re (Lisa) is now onto the final room in the extended house to be redecorated – our bedroom. Yesterday I was allowed (under supervision), to take out a brick cupboard that used to house the boiler, but was now empty and taking up space.

I’ll upload some pictures later of the wedding, and the house/garden. Until then, ciao


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