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31 August 2006

Why Won't God Heal Amputees?

Following on from my Wiki Religion proposal, I came across a great site that makes us think about religion, a truly excellent work. Please read Why Won't God Heal Amputees?

Cancer Research UK : Linlithgow Relay For Life

Anyone in the Linlithow area at the weekend, please come along to the Cancer Research UK : Linlithgow Relay For Life which we're supporting. Joscelin will be selling some of her handmade Scottish jewellery and doing some face painting to raise money for cancer research and I'll be keeping the children out of trouble! Hope you can pop in and say hello for a good cause.

Craig

27 August 2006

SNP set to seize power at Holyrood

As reported in Scotland on Sunday today. Blogging it here as the BBC has completely ignored the story. Rather than covering a story that would mean the start of break up of the UK next year, we are treated to another episode of the Tony Blair when will he go soap opera. Ah, good old English Broadcasting Company!

Scotsman.com News - Politics - Poll: SNP set to seize power at Holyrood: "ALEX Salmond is on track to take Scotland to the brink of independence, according to a startling new poll which shows the SNP has opened up a clear lead over Labour.

With just eight months to go until the Holyrood elections, the party has established a four-point lead over its nearest rivals, and appears to be pulling away."

25 August 2006

World gone nuts

The scene: A person on vacation walks into a late night store to buy some nuts.
Present: The person, a shop assistant and a selection of tasty nutty snacks placed out of reach.


The story goes something like this

Shopper: I fancy a bag of salted peanuts, do you have any?

Assistant: You look under 21, can I see some ID?

Shopper: What the? Well, all I've got is my driving licence

The shopper shows his driving licence to the assistant, who checks it

Assistant: Thank you John <funny middle name john would rather not use> Doe, I see you're old enough to buy nuts, but unfortunately due to strict local laws we are outwith the permitted nut selling hours and there are severe penalties for serving nuts late at night, or early in the morning and especially on Sundays.

Shopper: What a ridiculous local law, why can't an adult buy nuts on a Sunday morning - what if I was having a picnic or barbeque?

Assistant: Well you might think so sir, but believe me nuts are a real problem for a minority of the population. First off, we've got small children pinging them and choking on them so it's an offence to give nuts to any young children. Then we've got teenagers congregating in public places eating them and making a general nuisance of themselves so we've banned outdoor nut eating in many places. Not to mention the health risks - did you know that you can be ill if you eat several large bags of nuts a day - see the healthwarning notice on the bag! Besides that there's the obvious allergy problem so even though it says "this is a bag of nuts" on the front, we still need a notice in small print on the side saying "may contain nuts". There's also people who can be addicted to certain foods, let me show you the local notices detailing meetings of nuts anonymous and al-a-nut for friends and relatives. We've also banned nuts in all the local schools because obviously if one child might be allergic then all the children must be banned from taking nuts in.

Shopper: That's mad. Surely the health benefits for the many shouldn't be affected by an allergy affecting a few. What if one child was allergic to bees, would you ban the children from taking in fruit incase it attracted bees to the playground? Surely it makes no sense to ban nuts because you've got all these other nut contaminated products that are just as deadly. Statistically, more children are hurt by dogs but you let the dogs run free in a park where children are playing.

Assistant: That's the rules Sir, we have dedicated nut free areas.

Shopper: I'd better watch out then when I'm walking back to my holiday cottage that I don't enter a nut free zone.

Assistant: Yes, and if you had a car you'd need to drive with the bag of nuts in your boot - people have been known to eat nuts when driving and a loose nut falling between your legs is such a distraction that we've made driving with an open bag of nuts in the car an offence. We've also found that nuts are a major cause of teenage pregnancy, once they get under the influence.

Shopper: How can nuts lead to pregnancy?

Assistant: Well it started harmlessly enough at a party. Everyone was enjoying themselves normally, drinking alcohol and behaving themselves when some troublemakers snuck in with some peanut butter paste in a squeezy bottle. All of a sudden they were eating it, someone got some on themselves and before long they were covered in the stuff. One thing just led to another and the situation got completely out of control. Especially when they started spinning the empty bottle. We had to put a bar on the use of nuts at underage parties.

Shopper: Thanks for telling me, it sounds like there's a lot of red tape around a product that for most people is healthy when taken in moderation. I can't even buy nuts on my way to work as their sale before 10am is prohibited.

Assistant: Yes, because of the health risks and the powerful anti-nut lobby the nut industry is heavily regulated. You can only buy nuts at certain times of day, consume them in certain indoor places and you have to be of legal age to buy them. Exceptions are granted for religion, where you can take nut loaves and fish into communion. The religious minority are keen to ensure that the only nut eaters on a Sunday morning are those in church.

Shopper: Oh, that's perverse. It's obviously far too complicated. All I wanted was a snack, I'll take a packet of crisps instead.

Assistant: Certainly sir, and are you wanting something to drink with it? They are a bit salty.

Shopper: Oh, OK then. I'll take a litre of whisky.

Assistant: Fine then, here you go. Clearly as you are not unduly the influence I see no reason why I shouldn't be serving you alchohol regardless of the time of day or day of the week. You might be surprised but in other places they actually have the same sort of laws for alchohol that we do for nuts, it's completely bonkers.

Shopper: I completely agree, it's totally nutty.

Why not see what the policicians said.

20 August 2006

Crowdsourcing the world's best email service

I've been looking around for a decent e-mail provider for a while. I haven't found one. Well, I have in parts but not all in the same place at the same time. So I thought, why not crowdsource this idea and build one?

Background


Thunderbird has proven that open source can take on Microsoft as an email client.

SpamAssassin has proven that open source can take on spam.

There is I believe a gap in the market for high quality email services to individuals. The major corporate anti-spam players do not serve the individual user. Many ISPs roll their own solution with mixed results. The GUI to many mail systems is also of variable quality. Email has a vast user base. Even if there is a great solution out there, few seem to know about it.

Solution


My ideal solution would have:
  1. A great user interface, at least as good as atmail for Firefox

  2. A great anti-spam solution based around spamassasin rules and avoiding
  3. challenge-response. As good as barracuda who appear to be the market leader (possibly with barracuda or roaringpenguin or similar as the engine)
  4. POP3, SMTP and IMAP access. Especially IMAP for speedy access to 'held' mail from a mail client. No slow websites when you're using your mail client!

  5. The ability for users to set their own spam threshold since a Doctor working in sexual health is likely to have a different spam threshold to a parent wanting to control their children's email. Similarly if you are actually researching spam, being able to discuss spam without said mail being blocked is problematic.

  6. Signing of important mail to pre-clear it through spam filters. This is important for at least two classes of mail. One is legal/business critical mail which must get through without delay. The other is where there is a financial penalty if the mail is undelivered.

  7. Auto-whitelisting any email address you send to, so that I don't send someone a mail and then a reply from them is held.

  8. A semi-reasonable ability to detect forged email addresses so that even if I whitelist an address, really what I am doing is whitelisting that mail address when sent from that company's servers and not the same address as forged by a spammer.

  9. A demo of the user interface that you can play with to get a feel for it before you sign up

  10. To keep my existing email addres and domains and to be able to send and receive email using my existing email addresses.

  11. Free from advertising, or I can opt into advertising and get a share of the advertising revenue.

Way forward

So what would the world's best email comprise and how much would you be prepared to pay for it? Perhaps it could be branded and franchised to e-mail hosting companies. Is there anything out there already that matches these requirements? I've looked at Gmail but it doesn't do much for me.

I asked those folks over at Cambrian House to see if they can build one. The link is below.

Support My Idea at Cambrian House Please support this idea at Cambrian House.

18 August 2006

Still looking for a job

Incase anyone is still wondering, I'm still looking for a job and I'm open to reasonable offers.

Just incase Amazon down the road is reading this! (Hi Guys)

Seriously, I've had a few interviews and received glowing feedback from interviews and had numerous 2nd interviews. However, having been on a shortlist of 1 at least three times its rather frustrating when all of a sudden the job "goes away". Reasons have been:

1. Someone internally turned down the job 6 months ago but has now changed their mind and we're recruited them instead.
2. Completely out of the blue and much to the frustration of all the managers we've now got a company wide hiring freeze. Sorry, we don't know how long it will last.
3. We've rewritten the job spec.
4. We thought we had investment for the position, but in fact we're still negotiating it and this will take some months.

and so on. Indeed one positive thing out of this is that having impressed Amazon.com enough for them to get back in touch a year later, and for the aforementioned reasons missing out on jobs through no fault of my own, the agencies that put me forward for those jobs I was in a shortlist of 1 for are now really keen to put me forward for other positions knowing that I'm a very sellable candidate. I've even had major agencies writing to me via LinkedIn wanting me on their books because they've been impressed with my work.

In the meantime, several of my ideas on Cambrian House are doing OK so any votes you want to send their way are more than welcome! The Intelligent Search Spider and tell us how you want to search would both go some way to fixing broken job search sites, of which I now have plenty first hand experience.

Hopefully something will come of all this soon before I get laid off due to my work transferring to Austria in October.

For something as important as this, surely searching for a job shouldn't be as difficult and actually getting a job shouldn't involve this many people spending so much time for no return.

16 August 2006

Suing the spammer

I am getting extremely fed up indeed with the large number of unsolicited sales calls I'm getting to my mobile phone and my wife is getting to her phone regarding "upgrading our phone contract". We don't have upgreadable contracts as the tarrif we are on is rental free. Our numbers are on the Telephone Preference Service and have been so for years, and the registrations are still current. Yet, 4 times on Friday she was called. Even more irritating is that usually said companies hide their number (you can't unfortunately ban anonymous calls to a mobile) and when they do present a number you invariably get a standard message with no option to speak to a real person and complain about it.

Until Friday that is. For the moment, I'll keep the details confidential but we received 4 calls from the same number and they didn't hide their details. I called them back to complain and got the standard greeting of "we'lll phone you back again" and no option of speaking to a real person. However, they did give the company's name (I hadn't heard of them). I called said company to complain and they said they would phone me back. They didn't. Then I got through and they gave me some rubbish about even though I'm on the TPS list, I also have a data line and that was the number they were calling. I've confirmed with my telecom operator that I don't have a data line number. 5 days after they were supposed to call me back and explain themselves, I had to call them again for an explanation.

I spoke to someone who gave me the usual rubbish about "we collect our data from various sources but we can't say where we got your details from" blah blah blah. This is an irrelevant point since a TPS listing overrides such lists unless I have explicitly opted in to receive communications and no I don't tick the 3rd party box. In any case, my wife's number isn't used for anything except emergency calls and friends so there's no reason for a company to have it.

I refer said telephone companies to this widely publicised legal case under the same relevant law. Nigel Roberts, like me a Chartered Engineer with a background not only in IT but an interest in legal matters, won £300 damages as a result of that case involving email spam. I feel a test case involving phone spam will be the only thing that will make the industry stop random dialling and annoying people on the "do not call" TPS list. I have been in regular contact with Nigel Roberts following his victory, which used the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations of 2003 to sue the spammer. Invariably the phone spam companies also claim that they can't tell me who gave me their details because of the Data Protection Act. Since when was the DPA a device for concealing a crime? Evidently they have never heard of a Norwich Pharmacal order then, just what you need to get round that difficulty.

The real truth is that the phone spammers either don't record where the details come from or are simply indulging in random dialling.

We will see when the supervisor calls me back after I asked the person I spoke to for their company's legal address (well obviously I can get this from the companies house website but at least I've got to speak to a manager this time).

The £300 that Nigel Roberts won would be useful, but it's as much for the publicity that I'm doing this since this would seem to be the only way to get the message to the industry that enough is enough.

Craig

14 August 2006

Kneejerk reaction detector

"Instead of wasting hundreds of millions of pounds on compulsory ID cards as the Tory Right demand, let that money provide thousands more police officers on the beat in our local communities"
Tony Blair, sometime prior to 11th September 2001.

Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday rammed home that he saw identity cards as a "major plank" of the new Labour Party General Election manifesto.

Tony Blair, sometime after 11th September 2001.

Kneejerk reaction anyone? The same goes for the current situation with carryon baggage on flights. Carryon being the operative word here as it certainly is a carry on when you aren't allowed to take on a book. What do they think will happen? It's a bit difficult to conceal something of any size in a book isn't it. Let's play "Who wants to be a terrorist" now. You can phone a foreign tent, ask the Axis of Evil or have your motherland invaded by a superpower and partitioned 50:50. You have four choices, remember to choose carefully. OK, let's begin. You need to hide a few pounds of explosive material somewhere and a detonator. Where do you put them?

1. In between pages 666 and 667 of "Bomb making for novices", causing the book to expand to 10 times its normal size.
2. In between pages 1 and 1000 of your autographed copy of "Bin Laden: caves of the world an insider's guide." with a special large cut out section that security will see on an X-ray, or if they open the book or pick it up and notice its making a funny sloshing sound.
3. A schematic of an aircraft with your large bomb carefully wrapped inside, together with Afghan postmarks to carefully disguise it and make it look like a Genuine Parcel.
4. Somewhere else.

Not wanting to give too much away here, but I think "Somewhere else" might be the preferred option. Still maybe they think People With Books will be able to attack the crew and render them entirely helpless by shredding the book at high speed and dispensing mass paper cuts to the entire inflight crew before they have had time to react. Uh-oh, better ban all those in-flight magazines too then. And the safety notice as that's made of laminated plastic and could be carefully used as a weapon by creatively reflecting the reading light off the laminate and a spoon and into the flight crew's eyes rendering them paralysed.

All equally ridiculous and absurd I'm sure you'll agree.

You know it's a kneejerk reaction when you can still take your duty free booze on board and you can't take a bible. A 1 litre glass bottle and a paperback book. Which do you think represents a more dangerous weapon?

Never mind, all will be solved in the post-ID era when we all have ID cards. You'll be able to tell the terrorists quite easily then as they will have "I am a terrorist" on their ID cards. What? They won't? I thought that was the whole point?

I should read more. Fahrenheit 451 or 1984 anyone?

13 August 2006

Wiki Religion

When I read the classic letter to Dr Laura on religion and homosexuality, I thought it was one of the funniest put downs I've ever seen of people who take the bible too literally.

The bible is full of contradictions. Is it an "eye for an eye" or is it "turn the other cheek". Is it "a plague about your houses" or "the meek shall inherit the earth". Who knows? Certainly in a book that says one thing and then another it's easy to find something in there for everyone which is maybe why it became so popular. Oh, that and the religious persecution. And of course the fact that if you questioned religion in the dark ages you might have been put to a nasty death. Or burned for witchcraft. Or stoned. Not to mention the religious wars which have, lets face it, been one of the biggest preventable causes of death in the last 2,000 years. Hmm, maybe not such a good record on "turn the other cheek" then. "Love thy neighbour" might be a problem too. Freedom of thought is often too dangerous a concept for many religions.

Actually, it's not that hard to explain away some of the contradictions. If you look at the overall message of the bible, it tells the initial story of the creation, the explanation of how man came to live on earth and associated with that the folklore which comprised the old testament tales is reflective of those circumstances which were were pretty lawless. If the best that the Creator of the Entire Universe can do to fix things is flood the earth then I guess this speaks volumes. Anyway, the ten commandments saw the first set of order being established and of course much of the old testament points forward to the arrival of birth of Yehoshua and the New Testament (or should that be Testament 2.0, after the first one came out of beta). In testament 2.0, we have "I am the way, the truth and the light" prevailing, and so does an enhanced order using these revised morals and attitudes. So the bible tells the story of increasing order and structure in society and a movement from lawlessness to civilisation. This in part explains away many of the contradictions. However, many remain. The "creation in 6 days" bit is a bit of a problem for scientists. As is "the entire human race began with two people whose children then committed incest". Not to mention "Every species on the planet can fit in a boat", not to mention all the stuff about homosexuality which started me off. Oh and while I'm at it there's also "we have refrigerators now, so you can forget that nonsense about eating cloven hoof animals" and "we're a bit cleaner these days so circumcision is really legalised child abuse" or "perhaps we should look at the cannibalism of communion in a different light".

Never mind, it's useful to take a leaf out of Christianity's book (remember the 10 commandment where the structures got revised and remember also the revision with Testament 2.0?). So I propose we start a Wiki Religion where people can edit the text freely like WikiPedia and then we can have a modern up to date and entirely relevant religion free from 2,000 year old dogma. After all, the bible can hardly be considered to be the work of a deity when you see all the censorship and revisions it has been through.

Where would you start? Ah yes, the beginning. Anyone want to put it in a wiki and see what happens?

We might find out there's more in common between the peoples of the world than the differing religions currently at war with each other would have us believe.

Who knows, Jesus might even be let into a nightclub.

I wonder what they'll call this religion? "Common Sense" or maybe even "Science".

Amen.

11 August 2006

Friday round up

A quick round up of some interesting sites I've visited lately:

Israel and Hezbollah, media bias?

Video showing Sky news getting a well deserved slaughtering from George Galloway. Winner of the "Don't mess with me, I know what I'm talking about" award.

1984, more police state

The Guardian reports that British children, possibly as young as six, will be subjected to compulsory fingerprinting under European Union rules being drawn up in secret. The prints will be stored on a database which could be shared with countries around the world.

Business, redefined.

How turning the rules of business upside down and letting employees set their own salaries is making one company very successful and having people beat a path to their door to learn more.

Friday fun

Entertainment for the end of the week

Star Trek inspirational posters (funny).

Alternative office inspirational posters.

Milk is better for you than you think.

Undergarment disfunction from the author of Dilbert.

Games

Best free game I've seen online in a while (looks like Half life).

08 August 2006

No gods

Following the spectacular Tommy Sheridan victory, the party he founded is now likely to split and in the words of the BBC
All the party's key posts are up for grabs. The stage is set for a political bloodbath.

Regarless of whether you are a supporter of the SSP, the words of Aristotle would seem appropriate:

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.

and certainly Tommy Sheridan is one of the most respected politicians, even if you disagree with his point of view.

With the Scottish Parliamentary elections now only 9 months away, perhaps a split in the SSP will help the SNP in the common quest each party has for Scottish Independence.

In the words of Brian McNeill, sung by Dick Gaughan

And I'm damned sure that there's plenty live in fear
Of the day we stand together with our shoulders at the wheel

Perhaps we will stand together in May, to touch the sun.

It's not just what you're born with
It's what you choose to bear
It's not how big your share is
But how much you can share
And it's not the fights you dreamed of
But those you really fought
It's not what you've been given
It's what you do with what you've got

One of my favourite quotes, from What You Do With What You've Got by Si Kahn.


Heros sought for May, no gods need apply.

06 August 2006

Bothered by Bosch

My article about Dyson's breakdown problems made the front page of reddit and hopefully this article on Bosch will do so too because my experience from the first time around shows that a front page article reaches a very substantial audience and I feel this article deserves similar treatment. Interestingly, as of two days ago, Dyson are now offering a five year guarantee as standard. Perhaps Bosch will follow this lead?

Why I will avoid buying Bosch, even though they are a recommended best buy.

In 1991 I bought an AEG washing machine. It was reliable enough but in 2001 it packed in and was uneconomic to repair. I think AEG were a best buy when I got them but by 2001 the engineer said they were no longer the brand they used to be. Bosch seemed to be better for reliability. After a posting on Usenet and lookup up reviews, including reliability, a Bosch machine I liked got a good write-up on price, features and reliability and were recommended as a best buy from the consumer's association. The machine was installed in June 2001 and after a few minor teething problems with small fingers, it worked well.

That was June 2001. On December 2003 I wrote the following to Bosch - incidentally, I am particularly pleased that my database driven e-mail client allows me to find emails and Usenet postings going all the way back to 1994 with ease.

Our Bosch maxx 2450 machine has completely broken down after less than 2 and a half years. The cost to repair this £400 machine, as quoted by your engineer today, was £340. Are you normally in the business of making machines that become uneconomic to repair after such a short period of time?

The drum has stopped moving and the Siemens engineer who called this morning gave us a £220 quote MINIMUM for repair on top of the offensive £50 call out plus he said it might also be the electrics and that would be another £100 on top plus VAT. £340 for a repair? you must be joking!!

My complaints:

1. Spending £400 on a machine EVERY 30 MONTHS is totally unacceptable and for a so-called reliable brand I would have reasonably expected such a critical component to last significantly longer than this.

2. The engineer today did not even bother to take the machine apart to diagnose the problem, this could have been handled over the phone, saving the £50+ callout today. Bosch told us over the phone that they knew the problem (electrics or motor), and we were expecting him to come and actually repair it. Yet he turned up today with no parts to do the work. This means he is going to have to come back again, adding needlessly to delay. With two small children and another on the way we use the machine daily and cannot hang around waiting for you to organise their procedures for a repair. Why was it not possible to bring spares or to attempt to diagnose whether it was the electrics, the motor or both? At £340 for a repair you will lose our business as I see the AEG OKO-LAVAMAT 86741 has now become the Which best buy and I would rather buy that brand instead if you make the repair uneconomic as my last AEG lasted for over 10 years.

3. The engineer only gave us a 7:30am - 5:30pm window for turning up. How many people complain at this outrageous practice? When the engineer has to attend a doctors do they treat their doctor with the same cavalier attitude of "I can't commit to turning up at a particular time, here's a 10 hour window. Clear your books of all other work, take the day off, and deal with it"? Doctors have to deal with both routine work and major emergencies, yet I can still get an appointment at the surgery and I'm seen usually within 30 minutes of it. Why can doctors manage with an appointments system but washing machine repair people from major companies require a 10-hour window?

4. The engineer said the problem might be the brushes and we should have called him sooner. However, the appliance was working fine until last week. How can we tell in advance the brushes are going to avoid this problem happening in another 30 months? We can’t! Where is the warning light "your brushes are about to go, please call an engineer"? How can we detect this fault in future? There is nothing whatsoever in the manual about it.

I note the following and await your response:

Under the Sale of Goods Act, retailers are responsible for faulty goods (that are not 'of satisfactory quality') for up to six years after you bought them. 'Satisfactory quality' covers various aspects that could be wrong with the goods, including whether they've lasted as long as you could reasonably expect.


The upshot of all of this is that the shop we bought the Bosch appliance from (John Lewis, a bastion of excellent service) accepted their responsibility under the Sale of Goods Act and gave us a brand new replacement machine. It had to be an equivalent to the one we had and so we got another Bosch and the replacement model to the one that had broken down.

So the first Bosch appliance broken down after 30 months and was replaced in December 2003. Hey, guess what happens 31 months later on 16th July 2006? Well, I find myself writing to Bosch again. Here's the e-mail that quoted the December 2001 incident.


An identical fault has developed with the replacement machine. Since breaking down seems to be a "design feature" after 30 months, I think I will need convincing to ever use your products again.

Please advise what we should do, I think a letter to the "Consumers' Association" suggesting that your products are too unreliable to ever be recommended by them is in order here.

Also, when I go to your site to locate the manual for the machine, it requires an E-nr number. The site states that this is on the top of the door. All I have there is a blank sticker with nothing underneath it. Perhaps you could have a site like everyone else's that simply allows me to type in the model number and find instructions that way rather than an obscure number in a place I can't find it.

Finally, your website is broken

I keep getting this error when looking for instruction manuals

Internal Server Error
The server encountered an internal error or misconfiguration and was unable to complete your request.

Please contact the server administrator, you@your.address and inform them of the time the error occurred, and anything you might have done that may have caused the error.

More information about this error may be available in the server error log.

Apache/1.3.31 Server at cdcso035.mch.bshg.com Port 80

I think I'll be posting details on my website, 100,000+ page views a month and a particular emphasis on product quality. Your website reliability seems to be on a par with your product reliability.


Their response the next day (17th July)

In order that this matter be fully investigated, could you please supply
your full address and contact telephone number?

Their response on 18th July

In order that this matter can be investigated, please can you provide the full model number - enr and fd number. Once I am in receipt of this information, I will be able to look into this matter further.

Evidently they hadn't bothered to read my mail stating that I couldn't find said number.

I replied right away. Their next response was on 26th July

...
Having fully noted the points you have made, I respectfully advise that an engineer is required to inspect your appliance before any comments can be made. Please contact our Service Centre on 08705 678910 to arrange an engineer. As your appliance is out of the manufacturer's guarantee the callout charge of £59.50 will apply as will any repair costs thereafter.
...


Well, that would have been Bosch support then. 10 days just to advise me that I needed an appointment, that they weren't responding to my point about product reliability or the Sale of Goods Act and like last time were charging me absurd callout charges and day long appointment windows. What I hadn't told Bosch was that I had anticipated this lousy service from the last time around and on the day the appliance broke (a Sunday) I called a repair man advertising in the local paper. He says, he'll turn up at 9am the following morning and there he is bang on time. No callout charge either. Local Guy fixes the machine and it turns out it needed a new electric board (£95 inclusive to replace and fit it, 20 minute job once he gets started). 9:30am on Monday we have a working washing machine. Bosch hasn’t even read my email yet and are still 10 days off a request for setting up an appointment. Their SLA for replying to e-mail is 6 days. I've used their phone support too, but found it unhelpful especially with no e-Nr number available and in any case it's more convincing quoting the Sale of Goods Act to them in e-mail. I wonder if Bosch think it's acceptable for a family of 5 to have no washing machine for nearly 2 weeks when we normally use it twice a day? Reality check required there.

So I gave up on Bosch customer service for the washing machine. However, as of 6th August I have to go through the whole thing again with a different appliance.

Our house came pre-fitted with Neff appliances. I'd call them Naff really as the oven door doesn't close properly, the hob takes ages to light and the freezer door bangs. Incase you're thinking it's just us, it isn't most of the neighbours have had similar problems. The built-in dishwasher is also Neff. Neff is supported by BSH Appliance Care, the same people that do Bosch. Oh, joy and delight.

So the story of the dishwasher. Fitted brand new in 1999 before we bought the house, it failed catastrophically in June 2004 and was uneconomic to repair. The motor broke and the ensuing flood destroyed the electrics. As a result of the flood damage we got a replacement via the insurance. Between the Consumers' Association, the washing machine repairman and the dishwasher repair estimator, the three of them were still praising Bosch so I put down my experience 6 months previously with the washing machine as bad luck and in any case, this was a different appliance. So I bought Bosch dishwasher to replace the Naff one that had broken down and the replacement was actually big enough to take our dinner plates, it rocked.

August 2006 and the dishwasher has broken down, it may have also shorted out the whole house as the master fuse in the house went at the same time. This wasn't my fitting of the appliance either, the electrical part of fitting the dishwasher consists of plugging the prewired plug into the socket. The problem is that the water isn't heating up, the dishes aren't drying and the programme sticks at 1 minute to go for about an hour. My local engineer (open on a Sunday) reckons it’s the electrics. Wow! Three Bosch appliances with failed electrics, all well within 3 years - is this a record? My PC is still going strong after 6 years, maybe I should get the Bosch engineers in to learn something, I would naturally charge them a call out of £60 for my time, even if I don't have to do anything, and naturally tell them to block out 10 hours of their time for a 30 minute job, hurrah!

However, Local Hero can't help me out this time as he doesn't do dishwashers - reason being that Bosch make the parts too difficult for independent repair people to get hold of (according to him). So another phone around is required to see if there are any specifically dishwasher repair people who can fix it such that I don't have to charge the Bosch call out (currently around £60 before they do anything).

However, I had my revenge today. Not only do I get the Consumer's Association magazine but also this month I've been randomly selected to take part in their annual product reliability survey, including Dishwashers and Washing Machines. It's published in January 2007. Bottom marks all round from me for Bosch, top marks for my other appliances including my freezer that I've had for over 11 years with no faults at all.

Summary of Bosch

1. Surveys indicate they are reliable, my experience with 1 Neff and 3 Bosch appliances has been otherwise. However, even reliable appliances sometimes breakdown and you need reliable customer service to get you going again rather than 2 weeks dirty washing.

2. Bosch customer service by email is extremely slow and goes backwards and forwards asking questions about address and E-nr number rather than asking for all these up front.

3. Bosch charge an excessive call out fee and have laughably poor delivery windows. I have a thing about poor delivery windows and evidently according to consumers mentioned by Which so do many other people.

4. Local guy can often do the same job, cheaper, turn up at a specific time, has no call out charge and is open on Sunday.

Still thinking about buying Bosch? See how they do in the January 2007 report when my comments are incorporated.

03 August 2006

Web history

I was reading this article about the early days of the web and after a bit of searching found the original post from August 1991 when browser code was first made available on the net.

The BBC article also reports that in April 1993 the first browser to run on PCs was made available. Coincidentally, I'd just started my M.Sc at that point and was doing some research.

Without search engines and without even full Internet access (the University then only had email, no usenet) I still managed to write the following in a research report in June 1993:

The X based program xmosaic is an interface to the World Wide Web (WWW) started at CERN. Xmosaic allows a hypertext document to have links to files on machines across the world. This technology is very exciting and is based on the idea that setting up a connection to other computers is becoming cheap. Imagine hundreds of people on many continents collaborating on a single document. This is what WWW is aiming for and it works today.

You can read the full report here if you want a flavour of what the net was like back then.

What was I doing when Tim posted his note? I was drinking in pub of the year.

However, along with OWL in Edinburgh, who famously turned down Tim Berners-Lee when asked to build a browser, I was also thinking along similar hypertext lines at the time, having seen the help system in X-windows.

My boss at Digital was supportive of the idea and helped me draft a patent. However, there was then a reorganisation after the group manager died unexpectedly. The new manager thought my idea was too far fetched and withdrew support for the patent. It is probably just as well no patent was issued, the opennness and royalty-free nature of the web one one of the reasons it grew so quickly.

I don't suspect Digital would have known what to do with it anyway. In Digital's quest for money following the stock collapse of 1987 and the shift to PC's, the company was on the way out and would soon be bought by Compaq and then later merged into HP. The demise of the once leading altavista search engine, originally altavista.digital.com before they bought the domain for $3Million shows that the company might have had leading technology but lost the opportunity to use it effectively, especially once Google came along.

The pioneer of computing for the masses had lost its spirit by then and the users of the web were now leading the way.

The rest, of course, is history.

Cambrian House post launch features

A few new features now that the mad people at Cambrian House have launched:

Check out my Cambrian House profile Check out my Cambrian House profile.

Become a Top Astronaut and send Diet Coke to Space! Become a Top Astronaut and send Diet Coke to Space!

Vote for ideas, now changed to be like Digg.com and Reddit.com.

02 August 2006

Companies to watch

As mentioned previously on this blog. Cambrian House launches today and the company that fed Google 1,000 pizzas is certainly getting a lot of publicity. Will Crowded Source software take off?

Devshop. Next generation project management. Now in beta, this product is about successful management of software projects. Visit the site for more info and sign up for a preview.

Daxtra.com, a spin off from Edinburgh University, bringing order to the chaos of CV/Resume searching. It looks like things will get better for jobseekers before too long. Daxtra are already expanding internationally. Maybe poor job searches will be a thing of the past?

01 August 2006

Cable Guy

I cut the grass on Saturday. We went to the Safari Park on Sunday. They have a fun fair section view the map, with dodgems.

Putting the two together, I thought you could adapt a lawnmower to have a pole coming out the top like a dodgem, then the power cable could run from the top of the pole to an upstairs bedroom window. There the power cable would be on a reel with an auto rewind, like the ones used in some petrol pump filling hoses

With a complicated lawn with swings, slides, flower beds and the like, this would be a great way for me to cut the grass without the power cord constantly getting in the way, caught in bushes, wrapped round obstacles and so on.

That would make things a lot simpler. Well, until I get one of these, that is.

(Invention listed on americaninventorspot)

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