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Archive for November, 2011

Blistering Antarctic

The title may be slightly over the top, but we have had some pretty poor weather here in Wark and indeed the Northeast over the past few days. To press the point, here’s a picture I took over the weekend. We were on our way over to Bolam for lunch and spotted this uprooted tree. What’s interesting apart from the sheer size of it (not too well conveyed in the photo) is the fact that it knocked the tree behind it over too.

Tree near Bolam

JavaScript, JQuery and Leading Browsers– behavioural differences

It’s the second decade of the 21st century and the browser manufacturers STILL can’t agree on standards.

Here’s a simple piece of coding – almost too simple – it uses the JQUERY library (not shown) to simplify cross-browser coding.

<script language=”javascript”>
function alertMsg()
var gm=”/admin/ajax_keepalive.asp”;
$.get( gm, function(data) { $(“#myTimer”).html(data); } );
var t=setTimeout(alertMsg,10000);


This simple piece of code works as follows…

The purpose of the code is to put an incrementing number into my web page… that’s all – but the number is coming from another page.. and the purpose of this is to stop session timeouts by making sure that even when the user is idle – something is happening.

The function alertMsg() sets up the address of a web page which returns nothing more than an incrementing number. Every time you call the page, it returns  an incremented number – and the jQuery then forces that number into a SPAN on my web page.  You’ll note that the following line sets a 10 second timeout to call the same routine, over and over.

Finally the routine is called – which puts up the display and sets the timer to call the routine in 10 seconds – ad-infinitum.

Except that it works a treat in Firefox – and doesn’t work at ALL in Internet Explorer.

There are TWO unrelated issues here – showing the differences between the browsers.

Firstly in Internet Explorer, the routine is never called (alertMsg()) in the first place – because the DOM is not ready when the routine runs – so the timer never gets set.  It would not matter anyway because Internet Explorer CACHES the call to ajax_keepalive() – and so it would  return the same value instead of an incrementing value – EVEN THOUGH calling this page directly in either browser WORKS a TREAT.

Here’s a version that works for both (differences show in orange)…

<script language=”javascript”>
function alertMsg()
var gm=”/admin/ajax_keepalive.asp?r=” + Math.random();
$.get( gm, function(data) { $(“#myTimer”).html(data); } );
var t=setTimeout(alertMsg,10000);


Note that I’ve added a random number onto the end of the page call – as a parameter which never gets used – but it prevents cacheing… also I’ve wrapped the function call in a jQuery document ready function that makes sure this code (AlertMsg()) does not run until the DOM is ready.

Firefox does not need any of this stuff – Internet Explorer does – and we’re not talking old rubbish here – we’re looking at Firefox 7.01 and IE 9 !!!

Wet and Ruined Solar Lights

After buying another set of solar lights from B&Q only to throw two of them away today because the rain got into them – I’ve sent a letter off to them to complain – first time I’ve ever done that to B&Q. No doubt I’ll get a response back along the lines of "”very few customers ever complain” – which is probably true – it’s taken me years to get around to complaining about the cheap Chinese rubbish they import..

Anyway, here it is – if you have the same problem – feel free to pinch any information from this letter.


B&Q Customer Services
Torrance House

Dear Sirs

Over many years I’ve purchased solar garden lamps of one sort of another from B&Q and over the years I’ve noticed they are getting LESS reliable, not more.

Just a couple of months ago we had so many part-working sets in our garden we decided to buy a brand new set – you’ve only had them in a while, stainless steel set of 10 solar lamps with remote control (this is the first time I’ve seen a remote control on solar powered lights).

They look like the real thing – stainless steel, good construction, work straight out of the box, SPECIALLY MADE FOR B&Q in China….

The problem is like all the REST of the solar lights you’ve sold over the years, THEY’RE NOT WATERPROOF.

I don’t know what instructions you sent when you have these specially made but could you please add the instruction that it RAIN in Britain.

The set of 10 is already down to a set of 8 and this is typical, I expect half of them will last the winter.

The TWO things that stop these lights from lasting years (this applies to all but a few of your solar lights are:

1. NOT WATERPROOF. The water gets into the circuitry and rusts the boards or the LED leads – and they fail

2. The cover for the photocell is plastic, not glass – and it frosts up in the sun, dramatically reducing the life of the units.

I would willingly pay more for a set of lights that would last 5 years instead of one or two and I’m sure so would others. This is just BAD DESIGN – no other way of putting it. The cost of a little silicon seal and a piece of glass (the latter IS found on some of the solar cells you’ve sold in the past) would make a DRAMATIC difference to these products.

I hope this does not fall on deaf ears, forget refund offers, I don’t have the receipts and I’ve binned the broken units – over the years I must’ve bought at least a dozen different sets – if only they lasted I’d put a lot more in and have them ALL working.

We also bought a couple of the sets with the separate solar cell and a lead – nice glass front on the large solar cell but EXACTLY the same issue – they get soaking wet inside over the winter – and the circuits corrode – there really is no excuse for this.


Peter Scargill

Orange Crappy Modems

Despite my own issues with Orange as a phone company, Maureen has her own longstanding account and continues to use them – the reason is simple – as an Orange mobile customer, for a while they were offering home broadband for a fiver, including free calls (VOIP phone) to /orange mobiles.  As our mobile phones don’t work in Wark, it’s handy to be able to call the kids on their Orange mobiles for free.

Before anyone is daft enough to go down this route however, consider this… originally we received an Orange modem with the deal – you have to use theirs, a large, ugly grey thing, otherwise the free calls don’t work (this is deliberate – you CANNOT use another modem and still get the free VOIP calls). It is without a doubt the crappiest modem I’ve ever owned both to look at and to operate, so much so that I realised some time ago, when it continually packed in at random but about once every few days, that the only way to keep it going was to fit a 24-hour timer and reset it every night. That seems to have done the job. Hardly ideal.

Last week we went to the Orange store and asked about an upgrade. Well, apparently when Maureen’s contract is up for renewal, she can also get the latest modem. I thought there might have been a ray of light here as the model on show in the Orange shop is a sleek black Netgear modem…. that is until I looked at the reviews on Amazon – Orange, true to form have done it again.

Take a look at these reviews… not hand picked but straight off the page. Pretty much says it all, really… this is the new modem – not the old!!! I can see a move elsewhere coming on.

Orange modem reviews

The Future could not be further from Orange

Even when I was WITH Orange they could never get it right – and now that I’ve LEFT them they STILL can’t get it right.

Until recently times I’ve had an Orange mobile phone since, oh, well, last century. I’ve never had a signal in Wark but we live in home and from time to time I’ve written to Orange to try to push them along to improve the signal. Along the way their customer service has been attrocious to say the least and recently it’s been just too much. I’d had enough by mid-2011 and due to that and continued utter lack of signal at my home and no plans to get it, I finally managed to get Orange to agree that I could scrap the mobile contract and go elsewhere – this was in May 2011.

This agreement was put on my record.  I rang them up and confirmed I wanted to leave Orange – and asked what the procedure was. I was to put my phone in an envelope, send it off to them and I’d then get a final partial-month bill – and the info I needed to transfer my number elsewhere.

I sent the phone off and verified with the post office that it was delivered and signed for – that was 2 weeks from first writing the this blog in May. I heard nothing. I wrote to them – and heard nothing.  I went online to their ATTROCIOUS website which never works properly – I had SO MANY attempts…. just to get my final bill for £36.  It said there was a PDF waiting for me – but every time I went there…


I am SO glad I dumped these losers. Oh yes, I went to mobile company THREE and yes, their website works, NO they don’t have a “fair use” policy – and they give you a free premium subscription to Spotify… and their 3G works in every rural area I’ve been to up to how – Orange say they have better COVERAGE – but I think I’m safe in saying that THREE have better 3G coverage. I can play music almost anywhere I go as it streams it off the web, be that Internet radio or Spotify…  what a different world….

Check out this catalogue of errors…..

Update 5th September 2011 : I’ve just returned from holiday to find a bill from Orange (I never did hear any more from them otherwise).  No, it’s not for the outstanding £36 – but for a whopping £114.68 AND they’re threatening to "disconnect" the service – that should be good for a laugh as it has been disconnected since June (07773 819894 – discontinued) – it’s as if they have no knowledge AT ALL of the contract ending. I spoke to someone on the phone today and they have records of me ringing in… but could not progress as the guy I spoke to may be on another shift – or some such excuse  – so I’ve written off to them to point out they have the phone and the contract’s been dead since June…  Amazing.

Update 9th September 2011 : After writing off to Orange a less than pleasant letter in the post regarding the so-called £114.68 overdue bill, I received a call today to apologise for the screw-up – it says “With reference to your recent enquiry, we can confirm that your account is now settled and that no further action will be taken against you. Your credit reference records will be updated accordingly.”

Update 13th October 2011: All the time I was with Orange I had to put up with their total inability to get things right. I’d almost forgotten what it was like – until this morning.  On the 9th when I spoke to them – as you’ll see above, all was well. Well, THIS MORNING I got a bill for £69.33 – I’m sure they just think of a random number, hopefully if ANYTHING still works over there, there recorded messages from the 9th should clarify that this is WRONG – you have to wonder…

Update 14th October 2011:  2 days after Orange sent a bill for the wrong amount – they sent off a THREATING LETTER. This one says they’ve contacted me a number of times “ERM NO!”. Apparently if I’m still within my contract (which they KNOW I’m not) I’ll be liable for monthly service plan charges.  What is it about this lot that make me think of a large office of people walking in straight lines, banging their heads against walls then bouncing off in search of another wall. Dealing with Orange has been this dis-organised since I bought my first Nokia Smartphone from them last century when we lived in Newcastle…thinking about it – there was no signal there, either. Still – I’ll never have to do it again!

Update 30th October 2011: I’ve returned from a short break – this time to find a letter from Moorcroft Debt Recovery Limited who sent a particularly obnoxious for £148.27 (remembering I owed Orange £36 and I had already send them a cheque on 14th October to sort this once and for all despite not having an invoice for it).  I rang Orange (amazingly this simple cancellation has now been going on for 5 months) – the operator put me on hold for his manager, his manager put me on hold for debt recovery – but their phone isn’t working today and so I have been told by the manager, a lady, that this is in NO WAY MY FAULT (you don’t say), that she’s emailed the dept recovery agency to SCRAP this and someone will ring be back tomorrow between 10.30am and 11.30am. I was just about to thank her and put the phone down when she started talking about UPGRADES… I very CAREFULLY explained this was nothing to do with upgrades but due to a cancellation because Orange never has and never will provide a signal where I live.  It is hard to believe that this company actually has computers and keeps records.

A quick look at the timeline…so far…

  • 5th September – no invoices (and no disconnection code either) – but the bill is now £114.68
  • 9th September I’m promised I’ll get a bill for £30
  • 13th October a bill for £69.33
  • 26th October a bill arrived for £148.27 and a load of threats from Moorcroft debt recovery Ltd – and a promise from Orange that none of this is my fault. Meanwhile they seem unaware I’ve already sent a cheque for the REAL outstanding amount together with a long cover note including this blog.

Update 17th November 2011: I checked with Moorcroft and sure enough they cancelled the order against me – and they don’t do anything with credit records – one down, one to go. The latest bill from Orange turned up, no cover letter, nothing – but THIS TIME they OWE ME several pence. Well, I suppose that’s a step forward, perhaps I should get an agency to harass them for non-payment…  but importantly no confirmation that they’ve set the credit record right – and no promised letter to say we’re all done – which means I could just as easily get another bill from them at any point setting us back to square one. I guess another letter is needed to try to wrap this up, again.

Meanwhile my new THREE service continues to work a treat, they’re not immune to incompetence – but at a much lower level. I’ve now had several attempts to stop them sending me text messages every 5 minutes when I’m overseas – their Indian call centre promised me this would never happen again but a text confirmed that the operator had no authority to say that and they can’t actually stop them – well, honesty is a virtue I suppose.

Weird Sounds of a slowed-down Modem

Listen to this – a modem slowed down 700% – it’s WEIRD.