Sunday, 21 February 2010

I'm back!

Followers of this blog may have noted a fallow period of late. May I be the last to wish you a Happy New Year!?!

I've been off the blog for a variety of reasons, linked by a common theme: Communications and IT. The headlines:
  1. Wandering Packets
  2. Keyboard Kapers
  3. Mobile Watersports

Let's begin with the hell that is Broadband when it goes wrong. A month ago, our normally robust broadband service began to behave in a manner best described as "Flaky". Connection dropping off every few minutes, download speeds reduced and, most noticeably, the sound on my all-singing, all-dancing VOIP telephone became "serrated", in the manner so memorably illustrated by Norman Collier. A quick online test revealed that, in addition to a lower-than-normal connection speed, I was suffering a high degree of Packet Loss. I won't go into a long and tedious explanation of this. Suffice it to say that data is split into conveniently sized packets before being lobbed across the internet to you and, if not all the packets that were sent arrive at their destination, that's called Packet Loss. Depending on the sort of data that's being sent, this may not be too much of a problem, as error-correction may be able to fill-in the gaps, or the missing packets may be able to be resent. But if the data is the sound of someone speaking, and some bits are missing, it's pretty certain you're going to hear some gaps. In my case there are more gaps than sound. Not good! (Or "..t .oo." as that phrase might sound on my phone!)

So, I've spent a fair proportion of the last month on the phone to the Helpdesk. This is manned by people who are constantly helpful, polite and eager. All good so far....BUT they are also woefully unequipped to deal with a fault that's not in the script. They do ever so well with telling you to reboot your Router, disconnect everything else, try putting it nearer the window, whatever, but after that they are baffled. So, is there someone else I can speak to? Well, er, No! You see, the Helpdesk exists (a) to read out scripts giving a few basic things to try; (b) to prevent a customer who knows a thing or two from talking to an engineering person who also knows a thing or two.

There's a word for this. Actually there are quite a few words for this. Most of which might land me in trouble under the Obscene Publications Act, so I'll just say: Harumph!

For now, BT provide a variety of responses including, but not limited to:

  • There's no fault that we can see
  • Ah, there was a fault but it's been fixed now
  • The faults team are working on it
  • It should be better in 48 hours
  • Have you tried rebooting your Router? (YES!!!)
  • It might just be your PC (NO it bloody isn't!!!)
  • Ah yes, there's a lot of it about

Ok, so I made that last one up, but it would be at least as useful (and - I suspect - as honest) as any of their other offerings to date.

Now on to point 2 on my list of recent aggravations: my keyboard. Actually, I suspect my laptop may be in league with the broadband, as part of some evil plot to crank my blood pressure upwards. Remember the Packet Loss that's reducing my VOIP to Norman Collier speak? Well my laptop keyboard has started to act in the same way. f it wredoin itcnsistntly, I would knw thattheacual keb. Sorry, let me start that sentence again on a proper keyboard! If it were doing it consistently, I would know that the actual keyboard was defective, but the blasted thing seems to have become delinquent. It behaves perfectly for great swathes of time but then, usually as soon as I stop watching the screen, it turns my typing into tripe. It's very annoying. I don't need unscheduled assistance from the laptop to type tripe. I'm perfectly capable of tryping my own tripe! I did try the manufacturer's online Technical Support, but it only seemed to know how to ask if I'd rebooted the computer recently, so I lost heart.

And finally, Watersports.

Take a tip from me: Don't drop your mobile phone down the loo! It won't survive, you'll wish you'd backed up the data from it more recently than you actually did, your friends will take the proverbial, and it'll generally screw up your life!

In answer to a question I've been asked by a number of people, No, I was not talking on the phone while using the toilet. I never talk on the phone in there. To me, the two activities are definitely mutually incompatible. But, where I go, my phone goes. It travels with me in a little pouch on my belt. It's not that we can't bear to be parted, it's just that I have to put it somewhere, I don't normally wear a jacket and I know that if I carried the phone in my hand, I would leave it on the nearest flat surface and the thing would be lost within minutes.

So, what went wrong? Well, it was one of those "you couldn't do it if you tried" sequences. The velcro on the phone pouch attached itself to a wooly jumper I was wearing. I reached up for the light switch, the pouch spun round and the phone bounced out. In my mind's eye I can see the slo-mo replay...the falling phone performs a neat pirouette on the rim of the toilet seat, I dive towards it in the manner of a Premiership goalie, but no, it's all too late and the unfortunate Nokia takes the ultimate dive.

Without going into too much detail, I can confirm that the phone fell in before any lavatorial business had been carried out, so a prompt fishing-out was not too grim a task, but it was to no avail. Despite speedy depowering, and a 36-hour drying phase, the phone did not live to call another day.

The nice people from Orange replaced it, under the insurance. I had to give a detailed description of the incident. The chap told me that phones going down the loo featured at Number One (no jokes!) in their top 10 of reasons for insurance claims, with the Number Two (I've told you: Leave it!) spot being claimed by "I left it in my trouser pocket when I put them in the washing machine".

The insurers agreed to cover it, but gave me earnest words of advice: "I've been told to tell you", said the nice Orange man, "that if you're ever in that situation again, don't take your phone with you.". "What, do you mean if I ever go to the loo again?" I asked. "Er, yes. That's what I've been told to tell you.".

Thanks to the way the Insurance industry works, I've no doubt that at some point in the future, one will be required to declare the frequency of one's lavatory visits on the Proposal Form and failure to accurately declare this will be deemed yet another reason to invalidate one's insurance.

So, there we have it. A trying time of late, but hey, things can only get better. As D:Ream * sang when New Labour swept to power all those years ago. And how right were they.....?

* The original incarnation of this post credited M People with that song. This was, of course, a test to see if anyone was paying attention. I'm delighted to congratulate Paul F on his perspicacity. If there was any justice in the world, a large prize would now be his. Sadly.....

1 comment:

Paul F said...

Hi Charles,
I've found your blog from that of the Dark Lord Mr Lester.

Good to see you back after your absence. I have to say that I don't envy your experience with BT broadband, but it doesn't surprise me. I had a similar experience trying to persuade one of their repair line numpties that my line had been completely cut off and was totally silent amid threats that if someone called at my house I'd be charged if it was my fault. The guy visited, took 5 minutes to agree with me, and a visit by him to the exchange rectified it. Sigh! Funnily enough my line had been completely cut off as someone had disconnected the cable when switching my broadband service and hadn't reconnected it after!

I'm lucky that my ISP (Eclipse) is staffed by sensible people that aren't scared when I ask them deeply technical questions about my line speed and the like.

I missed the Christmas day show, but I've heard you back on good old R2 at the weekends which is good.

Oh and on your final comment: it was D:Ream that sang "Things can only get better" which was used in the election campaign by the Labour Party in 1997.