RISC World

Editor's Corner

Aaron Timbrell's own bit of the magazine.

Editors Rant of the month

I've been trying very hard not to get involved in yet another "you smell", " smell", " smell and I'll tell my dad" argument that's been infecting the RISC OS newsgroups. As usual the argument has quickly polarised into a couple of people on one side and a couple on the other. What's been interesting has been the total nonsense that's been coming out from both sides. No doubt you can guess who the two main culprits are, that's right David Ruck and John Cartmell. Yes you are allowed a big sigh, I've had several...

I was going to write a big long piece on the argument, but you know what, I really can't be bothered with either of them. So I'll talk about something else thats got up my nose recently, but that doesn't smell quite so much...

Earlier this year I withdraw some money (cash) from over the counter at Barclays in Swadlincote. Amongst the notes was a counterfeit. I wasn't happy. The chap receiving the money, for the Matiz in case you are interested, wasn't happy. Luckily the money was still in a sealed Barclays envelope and I had a spare note in my wallet. So I went back to Barclays and asked for the chief cashier. Firstly she tried to claim the note wasn't fake. Please. Finally she agreed to replace it but it wasn't their fault as "they can't check every single note." Sorry? What? Have you not looked at your responsibilities under the banking regulations?

So I now had a "good" note but I wasn't at all happy. So I rung customer services and made a complaint about what had happened. "Oh yes that's not right it will have to be investigated.." said the lady on the other end. Fine, I want it investigated and I want to know why the chief cashier thinks notes don't have to checked, why I wasn't given the counterfeit note form to sign and I also want to know what's going to be done about it. I got a "case number" and prepared to wait. Whilst waiting I decided to open some new accounts at Alliance and Leicester 'just in case'. Then 'just to make sure' I emptied all the Barclays accounts.

Unsurprisingly I didn't get a letter. So I left it a couple of months and then chased it up. "It's still being investigated" I was told. OK, fine, write to me and confirm that. "Sorry I can't do that". Yeah, right, fine. I left it a few more weeks and called again. "Oh yes that case has been closed". Sorry? How can it be closed? I still haven't had the counterfeit note form to fill in and what's been done about it? "Well, it was passed to the branch manager." OK, well what did they do about it? "I don't know". Why not? "Well the system doesn't record it". Well it's not much of a complaints system if it can't record the result of a complaint is it? By this stage I had had enough and told the girl that I wanted my accounts closed. "Oh, I can't do that, you need to go into your branch". Look, my registered branch is in Wokingham, do you expect me to make a 300 mile round trip to close a bank account? " can write in to our head office in Leicester...". Fine that's what I am going to do. So I did.

I wrote to the Leicester head office telling them to close the accounts, all the accounts, both personal and business. After a couple of weeks I finally got a letter back saying that they couldn't close the accounts because I hadn't returned by bank card and chequebook. Do what? Barclays expect you to return a bank card and chequebook together, in the post. Anyway with the account closed they would be no good. If I did post them and they didn't turn up would I be liable for any fraud? I decided to ask. "Err...umm...". Fine, I will confirm now, on the phone that I have destroyed the bank cards and any unused cheques. "Sorry, we need that in writing". No you don't I've checked your terms. "Sorry, we need that in writing." So I wrote. Then a week later I rung up, where the accounts closed? "No, we are waiting for your bank card and chequebook." I hit the roof. "You need to speak to your branch manager to close the accounts". Well at least that was a new one. Can you out me through? After a delay I was told that, "No, sorry she's not taking calls she's in a meeting." Fine I will leave a message for her. "I can't put you through as she's not taking calls." Yes, I know that. Give me her direct dial number. "Oh, I can't do that, you have to come via the call center." OK, through clenched teeth, can you leave a message for her? "Yes". When will I get a call back. "We guarantee to call you back within 3 working hours." So this afternoon then? "Yes".

This was on Thursday, by Monday afternoon I still hadn't had my '3 working hour' callback. So I rung again. "Oh she's not in the office this week". Well why hasn't someone else called me back? "Well the person who's been manning her phone a meeting." I finally flipped (again?) and told her that she had 1 hour to arrange a call back from my branch or I was taking this to the Banking Ombudsman. I got a call back 20 minutes later. " yes. Well I can see that you've written to us several times." Yes indeed and I have confirmed that all my cards and blank cheques have been destroyed by phone and by letter. "Oh, right well that's odd, a phone call is all you need to close an account. But I can't do it as the accounts is overdrawn..." I interrupted. Look the accounts are overdrawn because of your fees. Which were incurred after I emptied the accounts and whilst I was waiting to hear back from you about the counterfeit note. So here's what we are going to do. I am authorising you to close all the accounts. You will close all the accounts. You will refund all the charges and you will do it now. "Well I am sorry sir but..." Did I mention I was a journalist (yes I know it's stretching the facts a bit but what the hell)? "Ah you hold on a moment." I held on for several moments. "Ah , yes, it's all been sorted out now and the closing statements will be in the post". Thank you. I now have the statements and the accounts are closed.

So what's the moral of the story? Well rather obviously it's that Barclays are hopelessly inefficient and don't deal with complaints. However it's also that you can have a lot of power to make people do what they should if they are scared that you might write about it. If only I had carried on writing that article about David Ruck and John Cartmell....

The following is about the vehicular faith, not specifically about computing.

This is going to be a short bit this issue. This is due to the fact that I haven't really been well enough to do a great deal of automotive style tinkering. I did mention the el-cheapo Porsche that I picked up on eBay last issue so I suppose that I should go into a bit more detail. It's a 1981 Porsche 924, it has a full Porsche history up to 2002, from then on it has piles of receipts. These include new front suspension, new tyres and refurbished wheels, new exhaust and too many other parts to mention. It came with 8 months MOT and 2 months Tax. The seller was local and drove it here. So far so good. Now lets see what's gone wrong...

Firstly the passenger door wouldn't open. After a bit of fiddling (remove door trim, swear etc) I found this was caused by a sticky lock. This was lubricated and worked for a couple of days but is now jammed again. Also the passenger electric window didn't work. I've checked the motor and the mechanism and made the window go up and down. The passenger switch seems to be OK, so I suspect the problem is the driver's switch. Never mind, I can fix that later (ho ho). So, with my free seven days eBay insurance care of Norwich Union we went for a spin. It seemed to drive quite well, the gear change was fluid, all the controls worked but I noticed a couple of things. The steering wasn't right and felt dead. I suspect some joker has tightened up the rack too much, like the window this will be looked at later. The other problem was a lack of grunt at low revs. Years of dealing with grotty, cheap and nasty cars has taught me a lot and my first conclusion was that the ignition timing was out. Having come home I left it idling on the drive and did some more tests. So far so good, but hold on, why is it running very hot? Ah, it's low on coolant. No it's not. I switched it off and left it to cool down. Now I checked the coolant again and it was low. So I filled it up. It was still low. Oh dear. I started it up and checked the hoses. Something was wrong as the water was not circulating correctly. I consulted the supplied Haynes manual. This suggested a stuck thermostat and was right on the money. The thermostat was jammed shut. with a sinking feeling I fitted a new thermostat then re-filled the cooling system. it used a lot of water. With an even greater sinking feeling I checked the dipstick. Bugger. Water.

So, it looked like a blown head gasket. Oh well. I ripped off the injection gear and removed the head (that sounds easy but it was several hours). The head gasket looked OK. But in the process of removing the head two of the bolts holding the manifold to the downpipe had snapped. So they would need to be drilled out before the head could be re-fitted. I went on-line and ordered a new gasket kit, which was suprisingly cheap, and some new head bolts. Something went chunk in the back of my head and I went back and had a look at the timing marks I had made when taking the head off. Well that explained the gutless performance, the valve timing was out and the cam belt was almost new. Oh sugar.

So the car's been sitting their for two months waiting for me to drill the bolts out of the exhaust/head combination lump so I can put it back together. I somehow doubt that I am going to get it working properly and I suspect that something nasty has happened. As a final note did I mention why I bough the Porsche? No? Well I wanted a cheap and easy project vehicle. Cheap yes, project yes, no. Well two out of three can't be bad? Can it?

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Aaron Timbrell