Thursday, December 23, 2004

Trips to the loft...

As usual, it is necessary to venture up into the roof space twice a year in order to bring down the Crimble decorations (and put them away again). Whilst up there, I decided to have a rummage to find where I put my DVD drive as I bought a game recently (Myst 4) that needs it.

I didn't find the drive, but I did find some other semi-useless bits of technology (a SCSI card, an external CD writer, a large heap of obscure cables & some items I know are useless because they are part of something else already skipped). I also found my Alcatel Broadband Stingray ADSL Modem, so I can send it back to BT.

Now where did I put that grey sack?......

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A diabolical (lack of) liberty

I'm very against compulsory ID cards- they won't achieve their claims but will give the state an excuse to pry more into our lives for our own good. I have often voted Conservative over the years as the candidates have frequently been best of a bad bunch. However, their decision to support the ID card scheme makes them unelectable, even more than they were already.

I support NO2ID and have even been welcomed onto the 1952 committee. It might be a spoof but the message is deadly serious, The State is not your friend.

where are they?

I sent a couple of blog postings today by email but they haven't turned up. I'll do it the traditional way tomorrow.

Update: They have made it as postings now without my intervention, there must have been a backblog...

"Ignorance of the law is no defence"

The title of this bloglet is a bog-standard response that is widely known
but perhaps little understood (at least by me!)

As someone who doesn't buy newspapers as a matter of course and then takes
the contents with a pinch of salt, I am probably hugely ignorant of the law
when it comes to all sorts of things that might make a jobsworth policeman
or beurocrat get a gleam in his eye.

I have a house full of all sorts of tools that could cause injury for a
burglar intent on causing harm, although fortunately for him (& it is nearly
always a him) I haven't got much of a clue where they actually are in the
house at the best of times, let alone in a struggle.

I will certainly have some unsavoury images on my computer & backup archives
that may well include illegal stuff involving children or donkeys. I know
this because it constantly arrives in my spambox and doesn't always get
deleted, either automatically or manually. I don't go looking for the stuff
but everyone who has been on the net for a while is in the same boat.

I don't know when lighting up times are, or indeed if they are still
published. I turn my car lights on when visibility is reduced, the best
measure for this is when I can't read my dashboard easily as it is heavily
cowled and tricky when dusk approaches.

I gather it used to be legitimate for a vehicle driver to tinkle against one
particular wheel, something dating back to horse and cart transport. Which
wheel it is and whether it has been subsequently repealed escapes me.

I used to be of the view that the Police Force were there to uphold the law,
banging up the scum of society whilst leaving us law abiding types alone.
Having read the coppersblog I'm not quite so sure of that, someone put it as
the new role of the Police Service to be mediation between offenders and

I used to believe that a policeman had to have "just cause" to stop a
motorist. After having read the Speccy three weeks ago, I'm not so sure and
unclear whether my Victorinox penknife is an offensive weapon (or indeed,
where it is in the house or garage!). Fortunately I don't have any
collapsible batons but have wondered whether a baseball bat might be a good
investment. It could be an engraved trophy fixed to the wall along with my
other certificates & memorabilia but if I put it upstairs I'd want it to be
held in place by spring clips....

How do we ordinary people know them we are on the wrong side of the law,
particularly when our value system is no longer a useful pointer to the
right course of action against bad law?

The darker side of eBay- Dispute resolution

Anyone who dabbles in eBay knows about their "feedback rating". Every time
you buy or sell something, you get a chance to rate the transaction with a
positive, neutral or negative comment of up to 80 characters (and the other
person gets a chance to do the same).

So far I have an unblemished record, all postings positive. That is because
I am a conscientious trader, I try to treat others as I would like to be
treated myself.

I have left a smattering of neutral postings and two negative ones. The
first negative one was for a buyer who didn't pay and didn't respond to any
emails. After eventually losing patience I relisted the item and marked it
down as a minus. Then an interesting thing happened- I received a number of
emails from other traders sharing their own problems with that person- one
even went so far as to suggest she was a bit deranged. She posted a comment
to the effect of "how dare you!" against my feedback but never actually got
round to leaving any negative feedback for me, which I would have simply
tagged as a tit-for-tat.

My second reason to leave negative feedback arose recently when trying to
buy a replacement printer. Despite winning the lot & them taking my credit
card details, when nothing arrived after the promised date and I chased them
(more worried about failed deliveries during my impending holiday) it
transpired that they no longer had the printer and couldn't offer an
alternative. This was still the case 18 days later when I returned from
holiday and I still had to do the chasing, ringing them up after no response
to my reminder email & no mails in the intervening period. They offered
plausible excuses of course (staff holidays, computer error) but it still
didn't really add up. They had taken the money from my credit card but then
they hadn't. It would be shipped on Monday but on Wednesday it was showing
as zero stock. They showed conflicting Ts & Cs on the lot and on their links
page. They accepted PayPal but they didn't, only credit cards by phone.

After chewing the cud and involving one or two other seasoned ebayers at
work, I decided to leave negative feedback. The experience certainly wasn't
positive as the outcome was simply wasted time- mine. The Company was polite
enough but they didn't seem to grasp the concept of Customer Service &
actually discouraged contact somewhat in some of their Ts & Cs. I was a
little uncomfortable with negative rather than neutral but on reflection, it
wasn't an ad hominem attack, simply an accurate reflection of the
transaction. I looked over the other feedback- mostly positive, one other
negative and a surprising number of neutrals. 80 characters aren't enough to
tell the full story but I honed my string down to two factual statements
like a true wordsmith. ;->

Fast forward a couple of days, and I am clearing out my spamtrap mailbox. In
amongst all of the offers for performance enhancing substances and various
banks wanting me to re-enter my personal details, I found an email from an
outfit called Squaretrade. My first assumption was that it was a phishing
scam based on tricking people who had recently left negative feedback but on
closer examination & a bit of burrowing it is a dispute resolution system
for ebay. The dispute in question was the Company wanting me to withdraw the
negative feedback and offering an alternative. It was a bit late for an
alternative as I had just purchased another printer (also through ebay) and
going straight to this service rather than contacting me seemed a little

I made my case back to the person in question and was surprised to then find
that they had already forked out $20 for a mediator, something the process
suggests is normally adopted when an impasse' has been reached. The
background for this mediation is rather odd- they don't make decisions or
pass any form of judgement, UNLESS the other party (me) decides not to go to
mediation in which case they appear to have the power to get negative
comments retracted (or set back to neutral, the documentation & process is
rather clumsy).

This all seemed a bit quick off the mark, so out of curiosity, I emailed the
other person who had also left a negative comment. It seems that they had
also been squaretraded as well, so the Company seemed to be keen to try to
remove negative comments. This is understandable as I always look at seller
feedback when deciding to buy, although I also take what it says in context
as there are a lot of clueless people on ebay and it shows in the comments
they leave.

Anyway, updates on this story as it develops.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Back to blighty

I've just got back from two weeks in Florida. I didn't want to announce it to the world beforehand as burglars can read blogs as well!

I had a brilliant time but seriously question whether the aggro getting in and out of America is worth it as long as they continue with the homeland security stuff. I wasn't singled out for any special ill-treatment, just made to wait a long, long time each way & have to get absolutely everything X-rayed like everyone else.

We spent a lot of our time in the Orlando theme parks, pure escapism & coming back to the real world, especially dirty Britain & drab Morley is a bit of a downer.

However, at least in this Country the bottoms of the toilet cubicle partitions aren't nearly up to your knees & the paper towel dispensers don't give a meagre three inch strip of single ply brown tissue without repeated lever waggling.