Sunday, March 25, 2007

Oyster Card. Good in parts.

It seems we have hit upon a bug in the Oyster Card system. We used the Waterloo and City tube from Bank to Waterloo to catch a Eurostar train to Brussels. Unfortunately, due to a track side fire, the Eurostar service was cancelled so we had to just go back home. Using the Oyster Card for these two trips left us out of pocket and exposed us to ridicule by the TfL staff ...

All the times and amounts are direct from the "Journey History" page of my Oyster Card account page on the Oyster Card website. I started the following journeys with £13.10 on my card ...

TimeGate InformationAmountBalance
17:06Bank Entry£4.00£9.10
17:13Waterloo (Bkloo, Nthn, W&C Lines) Exit£2.50£11.60
17:40Waterloo (Bkloo, Nthn, W&C Lines) Entry£2.50£9.10
17:45Bank Exit£4.00£5.10

Note that there is a maximum fee of £4.00 GBP for a tube ride. The oyster system deducts the £4.00 when you start a journey and refunds the "change" when you exit (which makes sense to me). So the first trip has two entries: First I enter at Bank and get charged £4.00 GBP, then I exit at Waterloo and get £2.50GBP "change". All well and good. In total I paid £1.50 for the trip and we can see that the balance after that trip is £11.60 (£13.10 - £1.50). Perfect.

But look what happens on the return trip. I get charged £2.50 upon entry at Waterloo and another £4.00 on exit from Bank. I have been charged £6.50 for the return trip from Waterloo to Bank!

The same happened to Justina, but it was even worse for her. She had only £1.80 on her card for the return trip (which should have been enough) but she could not exit at Bank because the balance was deemed to be too low by the gate which was probably trying to take the additional £4.00 after the Waterloo gate had already taken £2.50. The really bad bit was the attitude and aggression of the staff at Bank station. Very nasty and they obviously believed that the Oyster Card was always right and hence that Justina was a fare dodger.

Looks like a serious bug in both the Oyster Card system and staff training. How good will the Oyster Card people be at fixing this? We'll see.


Update 1: Not a good start. The FAQ for Oyster says that in cases of overcharging the victim should call them on a number that earns them 3.5p per minute! So, Oyster rip you off on using their card and then they charge you as they (slooooowly, no doubt) try to resolve the problem by phone. I've sent in an email message instead which they promise they will get around to sometime over the next 7 working days. Thanks guys! Not.

Update 2: No response from Oyster at all. I'll send another message.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Novell on the SCO slope?

Many feel that SCO, a previously well regarded company and active participant in the FOSS community, was poisoned by Microsoft and encouraged to embark on it's failed but damaging legal campaign.

Are Novell to be poisoned in the same way? ...

Groklaw - FSF Corrects Novell's Steinman and a Request to End the Mystery

... it doesn't look good, which is a great shame. Novell have done some great work, in particular with SuSE. But as SCO fell, so can Novell.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Will SCO go bust on schedule?

Wouldn't it be convenient for companies that compete with Linux based systems if SCO went bust before it had to prove it's claims against IBM and Linux in court? ...

Groklaw - SCO's 10Q

Yes, it would be very convenient. Having spent years spouting innuendo and threats which have dampened demand for Linux based systems SCO may never be taken to task before a court. Who loses? Everyone, except perhaps those who bankrolled SCO in this big lie.

SCO vs IBM (and Linux) case evaporates

The CEO of SCO famously claimed that there was a mountain of their code in the Linux kernel. It now seems clear that this mountain is but a pimple:

Only 326 lines of code said to be at issue in SCO-IBM flap | The Register

When this case finally does collapse for SCO, I do hope that the people who have been behind this "Big Lie" will be held to account.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Fire halts Eurostar

The Eurostar service out of Waterloo is cancelled for this evening and most of tomorrow as well, as explained on the Eurostar website:

Questions & Answers

Which says in part:

Because of the risk of gas cylinders exploding, the fire authorities have stated that it will be 24 hours before they can intervene. There is no alternative route and therefore, Eurostar regrets that it has no alternative but to suspend its entire operation until Saturday 17 March at 17h00 (UK) and 18h00 (CET).
This is a bummer since we were heading out to Brussels for the weekend.

The problems start as companies fall into various states of denial about the implications. The hotel initially tried to tell us that they would hold our reservation, so no need to cancel (what, hold it until the next time we can get across the channel?) and then said that it wasn't their problem because the trip was booked through Eurostar. Anyway, I feel I did the right thing by them to let them know we would not be there.

Now I'm on the phone to Eurostar. The reaction here so far has been to ask if we have travel insurance (we do) and then to hang up on me as I was answering a question! Not good.

And since Eurostar have contact numbers for travelers, why didn't we get an SMS to tell us not to bother fighting through the crowds at Waterloo, and then fighting through them again to get home?

The fire is bad news for everyone and is not the fault of the hotel or Eurostar, but being unpleasant to customers it not the right reaction.
Update: well, after 40 minutes held in a queue since the Eurostar guy hung up on me, we think the staff must have just gone home leaving us hanging here. Very poor behavior, Eurostar. Very poor.

Further update: I just called Eurostar again and spoke to someone who was very helpful. It seems that Eurostar have decided to simply refund people affected by the fire yesterday. This incident was not Eurostar's fault, but I think giving refunds is the best thing to do under the circumstances. And in other news on this subject it seems that when services do resume (expected to be at 17:00 today) it will be on a first come first served basis - it'll be mayhem at Waterloo station this afternoon.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Dell: Linux support hard?

Matt Hartley thinks that support should not be an issue for Dell when they start shipping a Linux based operating system: - Why Dell Is Really Saying No to Linux

His view is that Dell should offer no support at all on the Linux boxes they ship and have the distribution vendor provide the support instead.

While I agree that support should not be a big deal, I disagree that Dell (or any other hardware vendor) should provide zero support. Rather I think that a live CD should be shipped with the hardware that can be used to identify any hardware and hardware driver issues. After that avenue is exhausted the hardware vendor can (and should) pass the buck to the operating system vendor and their support infrastructure (which may community driven).

An easy way to try Linux

Wubi looks like a very easy and non-destructive way for Microsoft Windows users to try Ubuntu (a GNU/Linux distribution):

Wubi - The Easiest Way to Linux

Microsoft undermine standards process?

Microsoft have a well earned reputation for avoiding or breaking standards. It looks like they have now moved on to trying to break the standards process itself. Groklaw reports:

Groklaw - ISO will put Open XML on fast track unchanged

The process is there for a reason, Lisa Rachjel. Please follow it.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Britain's Tories love Open Source?

The Register reports that the shadow treasurer for the Conservative Party has discovered FLOSS and transparency:

Britain's Tories love Open Source (true) | The Register

This is all very positive stuff which I hope will be taken up by the government (either this one or a future one).

Gosh. Transparency in Government. How refreshing!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Microsoft excludes oversight

Becta is a government body which has spent a significant amount of money with Microsoft. An MP asked how much and was told that the information was not available because of a confidentiality contract:

Becta throws shroud over Microsoft deal | The Register


Who is Becta to spend my money and refuse to justify it openly? This is really pretty disgusting.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

More Microsoft lockin tactics in practice

A university in the US has decided to use the Microsoft web mail system. Someone wrote in to Slashdot asking how they could have their non-Microsoft email client get the mail (just as you can with Google's GMail). Answer: you can't. Again, Microsoft avoid implementing standards (in this case POP and IMAP) because to do so would leave people with a choice, and Microsoft don't want that. Once they have you, they want you locked in to them.

A comment to the Slashdot post addresses this:

University Migrating Students to Windows Live Mail?

Did you read the bit about not even being able to forward your email? Amazing.

If Microsoft really supported an open market place, they would compete on the merit of their software. Because they know that their software is slipping further and further behind, they must resort to clinging onto customers by any means possible.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

'no win no fee' moves in on banks

UK banks have been extracting fees from their customers unfairly for years, and this is now coming back to haunt them. The government watchdog has made it clear that the banks grossly overcharged and that customers are entitled to a refund. This hit the news and now a great many people are demanding the overcharges be returned.

To get a refund, you pretty much have to just tell the bank you want it with a correctly formed letter threatening an action in the small claims court. Now, though, we see firms of lawyers offering to get the money for people on a 'no win no fee basis' as the BBC reports:

BBC NEWS | Business | 'No win no fee' moves in on banks

If you do win you do pay a fee, of course. The BBC suggest that this is typically in the order of 25% of what the bank cough up.

So why go with the layers when you could just ask the bank? Well, the banks will impose a process on people wanting their money back and the lawyers will know how that process works. So, I can get 100% of my money back if I can be bothered to play the game exactly as the bank insists, but is it worth my time?

I don't think so. I think the lawyers will be far more efficient at extracting the money and I will get a good chunk back for little effort. The banks have already demonstrated that they can be unfair so why trust them again? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

The banks are pleading with people to not use the lawyers. Why? Because the lawyers really are more efficient at pulling the money back from the banks. If the banks want to avoid the lawyers, let them voluntarily return the money to people - a cheque in the post will be fine, thanks.

Otherwise the banks deserve what they get. But I hope they learn, I really do. The UK could do with banks that provide a good service in return for a reasonable fee.