Friday, December 17, 2004


I'm sorry for the lack of posts on here over the last week, but I'm afraid work is just taking up too much time again. The customer undertook Factory Acceptance testing phase 2 last week and were pretty well pleased with the results, the problem is the next deadline (Integration Testing) is the 11th January, and the Christmas and New Year holidays are slap bang in the middle of then and now, and there is loads to do.

So much so that the boss has reneged on his promise of closing the office between Christmas and the New Year, instead of 3 days buckshee holidays now, we'll get an extra unofficial day some time in the New Year. We all feel pretty pissed off with the decision as we've been slogging away, dancing to the call of the customers tune for months now. Suffice to say we all feel pretty jaded.

On a personal front I've resurrected my family history project which got shelved around 10 years due to other interests. I found all the records in the loft when I was hunting out the Christmas decorations. The online facilities which weren't available when I was last undertaking research have helped extend the tree no end. Not only that but I have come across a distant relative in Australia who is descended from an elder brother of one of my Great Great Grandmothers, so hopefully there will be a fair bit of data swapping over he next few months.

If I don't get a chance to blog again over the next week or two; Have a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year. May Santa bring you all you have wished for.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

And For An Encore: 

The Car Audio installer turned up at around 15:30 and had efficiently installed the equipment within 15 minutes of arriving. What a pity all the intermediary systems weren't as efficient.

Still I have once again have noise available in the car, to keep me entertained in the rush hour jams.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

For Your Further Inconvenience 

Well the car repair saga continues, having got the replacement CD play in my hands it was time to arrange installation. I phoned the number I had been given and proceeded to try to arrange for an installer to come out at a time that was convenient for me. Things weren't that easy, oh yes they can do it at your place of work or at your home whichever is best. Unfortunately they couldn't come up with a date that I was entirely happy with;

The installers were only in the area of my home, when I was at work, they could only fit it where I worked on a Saturday, that was unless I wanted to wait until after Christmas. Brilliant. I plumped for this Thursday afternoon, and despite being snowed under at work with the customers doing Factory Acceptance Testing this week, the boss oked it for me to be away if absolutely necessary. The other inconvenience is that the installer could turn up anytime between 12 noon and 6pm, though I managed to get them to accept that I couldn't be home before 12:30pm. A small victory I suppose.

Maybe I'll have noise in the car after Thursday, as for other matters, work is an utter pain, it just seems to be slog, slog, slog at the moment. At least the boss has said that if we are in good shape for Full customer acceptance testing by Christmas Eve, he'll close the office down between Christmas and the New Year and give us all 3 days extra holiday. Apparently he wants us all fresh and ready for the New Year 'slog'.

Friday, December 03, 2004

The Myth Of Privatisation. 

Many years ago Thatchers Government laid claim that private companies were better, cheaper and more efficient than government run services and undertook a programme of moving various civil servants out into the private sector in all sorts of places. I was one of them. I had worked in an IT department for around 18 years at the time we were transferred to a private company under TUPE rules and were promised an exciting future. I had been thinking of changing jobs anyway, as I was pretty bored with what I was doing but, with the changeover I thought I'd give the new company a chance to see if improvements were on the cards. I soon found out they weren't, in fact things got worse.

In the old days we it people could just wander round to a customers desk and check out what they really wanted when a requirement seemed a bit stupid or confusing, under the new company people we once saw as colleagues quickly became targets for generating income. If it wasn't in the specification then they would have to pay extra for changes, and those extra charges quickly mounted up, to such an extent that ex colleagues would rather make do with a system that didn't do what they wanted than pay exorbitant fees for something that worked. Of course at times it was fun to 'rip off' an organisation that many had thought had 'sold us down the river' for so called savings, but that soon gave way, for me anyway, to a feeling of revulsion for the utter stupidness of it all.

In 1998 it led to me leaving a job I had once enjoyed and take the real plunge in the private sector. I met some old workmates the other day and things apparently have got a lot worse, they have been transferred to other organisations now, as the first company through the door lot the contract at renewal time. Two companies won the new contract at renewal and the remaining staff were split between the two companies.

The new contract cost the Department an arm and a leg and essentially only covers maintenance of what they already have, anything new has to be paid for at silly rates and they cannot afford to develop new systems. My parting shot aimed at my original department, when I left was 'You'll get what you deserve', I think they have now realised their big mistake, it's a pity the government haven't. The civil service have been able to point to massive savings in wage bills because of privatisation, what hasn't been pointed out to the public is the real cost, ie the extras the service companies charge on top of the normal running costs for anything new or out of the ordinary. I despair at the stupidity of the system and government that hides it's head in the sand to what is really happening.

Today I came across another mess that is a so called efficient private company. It's the aftermath of the car break in blogged a couple of weeks ago. The car door was fixed pretty quickly, but the insurance company, Direct Line, insisted on using their own Audio installers to replace and install the missing CD Player. I said at the time it was daft as FIAT who repaired the car, could have done it there and then, but No! To save a few pounds Direct Line said no we'll arrange that at your own 'inconvenience'. So what happens? The installers will send, by private courier, a replacement CD. When I get it I have to ring them back to arrange for it to be installed, they'll come out and do it at a time to suit me. A pain but sort of workable.

There's one problem, the Radio Installers use a private shipping company to deliver the goods. It arrived yesterday but no one was in, so they left a card. I phoned the courier this morning to say "can you deliver on Saturday?" and was told that it had gone out and would be delivered today. If no one was in another card would be left and I'd have to ring to arrange re-delivery. So I again asked for a note to be made for a Saturday delivery or for it to be left next door where I knew someone would be in. 'Can't do that the girl said, we only deliver Monday to Friday, and we'd have to write to the senders for permission to deliver to another address'.

I was getting rather angered at this point and pointed out that a so called inefficient Royal Mail actually deliver parcels all week including Sundays (I've had 3 parcels from Sunday deliveries recently), so why can't they deliver on Saturdays? The answer I got was a rather rude 'We don't care about Royal Mail, we deliver Monday to Saturday, it's up to you to be in to receive the parcel'. I'm extremely narked now, and am about to phone Direct Line to complain about the stupid system they run. I'm also going to complain to TOAD Services about their stupid system of using a company that can't deliver parcels when and where people can receive them.

I could of course arrange to pick the parcel up on Saturday morning but that would mean drive 20 miles to a town I don't know, of course the inefficient Royal Mail have a sorting office only 2 miles from where I live and would be far easier to get to and if I couldn't get to it I could arrange to pick the parcel up at local post office anyway.

Royal Mail Parcel Force or Initial City Link of Warrington? I know which I prefer, Initial City Link let it be known your service is garbage, you were paid to deliver a parcel and you cannot do it, that is not a service. Having said that I note on their website they are trialing late deliveries up to 9pm for home deliveries, this wasn't pointed out to me or offered as an option, so they are still garbage in my eyes, for not telling me that.

Update: The couriers actually manged to deliver the package whilst Mrs C was at home. I still think any delivery system, that cannot cater for people being out of the home during working hours, does not provide a good standard of service and should be kicked into touch accordingly. Such courier services are aimed at the business community and should not be used for deliveries to the everyday working man.

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