Tuesday, 29 November 2011

To whom it may concern

I'd like to start this month's blog with a question. This question is for o2 and Apple. It's just a little thing really but I was wondering; is there any chance of my new iPhone ever working? Only I'm beginning to wonder what the point is in having a phone that puts everyone straight to voicemail when they call and keeps crashing.

Seriously, I have missed a number of phone calls – some quite important ones – because people have been directed to the answer phone for no reason. I've been cut off mid conversation literally dozens of times now, which I'm sure is down to this awful new O.S. Apple have introduced. The last software upgrade completely bombed out and resulted in me having to do a complete restore. That was annoying in itself but not half as annoying as iTunes not recognising the restored settings which meant I had to set the phone up from scratch.

Seriously guys, who do you think you are? Microsoft? If I wanted something that crashed every 5 minutes I would stick with my PC. Or hire Lewis Hamilton as my chauffer.

If that wasn't bad enough, I don't have internet access. Ever. I gave up with 3G ages ago because the coverage is rubbish. Recently, however, I haven't had any sort of internet connection whatsoever. It seems worse when I'm in my house. It's as if there is some sort of electronic black hole that is sucking all connectivity out of the universe.

This has become so bad that I have very nearly hurled my phone across the living room several times in a fit of rage. I've only refrained from doing this by reminding myself that I didn't take out the insurance.

I mentioned this last month and I'm quite convinced this is the reason why my phone isn't working. I'm sure I'm being punished for being a tight-arse. So my next question is this: Dear o2, would my phone work properly if I blew £10 per month on something I know I'm never going to use just so your staff can have an extra beer at your Christmas dinner or am I going to have to buy a Samsung Galaxy next year?

Kind Regards

Mr Grumpy Pants

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Good news is no news

I haven’t had much to say of late which is surprising given the amount that has been going on in recent weeks. Facebook has once again been pissing off the entire world by changing the layout of users’ profile pages and making it even more illogical than the previous set of changes they annoying introduced last year. Apple’s Steve Jobs sadly passed away and now Blackberry are paying tribute to their rivals by holding a 3 day silence.

How something so monumental could go tits up at Blackberry is beyond me. They do sort of have my sympathy because I know what it’s like when servers explode. Having said that, if I had the resources, budget and technical wizardry of Blackberry, I would have hired a team of experts to ensure that this sort of thing can’t happen.

On an almost related note, my iPhone is irritating me too. I know it's probably more to do with o2 than Apple but my iPhone is now almost utterly useless. I mentioned a while ago that my contract expired and, since then, it hadn’t been working as well. It was slow, the internet connection was rubbish and people kept being put straight to answer phone for no reason.

Having got bored waiting for the iPhone 5 to be released, I went ahead and got an upgrade with an older model (because the phone was free and I’m a cheapskate). Because I had the last phone for over 2 years and never dropped it, lost it or flushed it down the toilet, I decided to forgo the insurance this time (again, because I’m a cheapskate).

Now, whether it’s because I’m now paying the bare minimum for an outdated piece of equipment and o2 are punishing me for being a cheapskate, this new phone is even worse than my last one. The internet connection is spasmodic to say the least, 3G is almost non-existent and people are still being put straight the answer phone. Not only that but it has crashed several times when my beloved fiancée has been talking at me.

So it’s not all bad then.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

New designs and world domination

As well as keeping you all informed and generally ranting on this blog, we also like to try and keep you all informed about the latest goings on within our own company. After all, we care about you. We love you all.

As you may or may not know, we have been slowly re-designing our Securio server behind the scenes (oh that’s where you go to use all your apps and website administration by the way!)

As nice as the current dashboard is, it no longer bears any resemblance to our current branding. It’s just one of those things that we have never been bothered to update. However, it’s really annoying me now so I’ve made a concerted effort to do something about it.

Anyway, we are currently re-designing not only the main Securio dashboard but also all the app dashboards. They will all carry a more uniformed look and will match our website much more.

As part of this overhaul, we are also re-developing some of the apps. Mailermatic and Clickmachine are both being slightly revised (and when I say revised I mean improved) and Mailermatic in particular will feature more…err… features. Alliteration aside, it will be good. There will be a choice of templates, the ability to suggest new templates through your Wishlist and a generally better navigation.

Our improvements go deeper than that as well. In the long term, we are also expanding the Securio dashboard to incorporate everything else. Ultimately, this will be the place you go to view invoices, statements, payments, quotes, jobs and basically everything relating to your account with us. That is a much longer-term plan and will be a phase 2 job.

Once we have done that, we will set into motion phase 3, which is our plan for the takeover of the country. Once we have laid the groundwork for that, we will set about taking over the world.

Back to reality and phase 1 (which is the re-designing of the dashboards and apps) will hopefully be finished this side of Christmas. Hopefully the new Mailermatic and Clickmachine apps will be ready early in the New Year. The rest of the administration features will come at a much later date and will largely depend on how hard it is for us to move all the archived gubbins from our old clanky Intranet to the new system and the even more difficult task of convincing our staff not to be scared of new things. We haven’t yet got a fixed date for world domination but we have almost mastered the evil laugh so it’s only a matter of time.

The new look:

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Don't get looted by cowboys

With half the country on fire at the moment and the whole world about to disappear into a financial black hole thanks to America being trillions in debt, it probably isn't the right time to be plugging products and services because no one has any money.

What I will do instead is give a few bits of advice. Firstly, don't go into London at the moment. It's full of idiots who have no moral values. Secondly, be careful in this delicate financial period when looking for cheaper web deals.

It is natural to want to cut back on spending. We are doing it; everybody is doing it. However, when looking for a cheaper deal for websites you have to be very careful. Cowboys don't just exist in the building trade. They are very much in action in the Internet industry too.

If someone offers you a free website or one for peanuts, ask yourself why. Are they really doing it out of the goodness of their own heart? Of course they're not. They are doing it to make a quick buck. Usually in this industry you get what you pay for. If you are on a free hosting site, the chances are it will be slow, unreliable and the service will be worse than Network Rail.

We recently had someone move away from our Webshop app and it broke our hearts. Not just because we lost a valued customer but because it was obvious that their new supplier didn't have a clue what they were doing, had made promises they would never be able to deliver on, and simply saw an opportunity to make a bit of cash. It's sad to see but it happens all the time.

In these troubling times, the World Wide Web is coming into its own. Not only is it the biggest means of networking and getting your message out to the world, it is also one of the cheapest mediums. With well over a decade in the business, we are very experienced in most aspects of the industry, which is why we are still going strong and in a good position, even in this difficult period.

Just be aware that not everyone is as nice or as honest as us. There are some thieving scum out there, not only in London but everywhere in the Internet Industry.

Play it safe and speak to us at Datapartners. We rock!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

I don't mean rat but can't use the S word

Every superhero has an arch nemesis. Superman has Lex Luthor, Spider-man has the Green Goblin, Batman has the Joker, Bananaman has Apple Man. As my alter ego of Web Developer Man, my Achilles heal is VAT. Whenever I have to do anything that involves VAT, my brain shuts down and I find myself unable to perform even the simplest calculations or programming tasks. This is because, like all superheroes, I too have an arch nemesis. One who knows my weakness and can exploit it. He is known as Tax Man.

Because I’m taking more responsibility in running the business side of things, I am learning more about the intricacies of the financial and legal nonsense. This is hard for me because I have little to no patience for idiots. And everyone who works for the evil HM Revenue and Customs is an idiot.

Not only do they take most of my hard earned cash, they also have silly rules. For instance, since moving my secret base of programming operations to my home (29 Acacia Road) I no longer have to personally pay for things like tea, coffee, soap or toilet paper. I can run that through the company. However, I still have to pay for things like milk and biscuits because they are seen as perks. I just don’t follow the logic. Is a chocolate digestive really more of a perk than wiping my arse? I don’t think so.

They also like to make things ridiculously complicated. I recently helped my fiancée fill in her tax return. What should have been a very simple job of writing the income, the expenditure and the net profit was made difficult by silly notes that referenced sub-notes that referenced pages elsewhere that made no sense whatsoever. Being a government site, they tend to talk in double-negatives and use 50 words where 1 will suffice. Not only that but they are keen to tell you what you cannot claim for but there is very little information offering what you can claim for. If that wasn’t enough, they point out at every opportunity that failure to complete the form correctly will result in you being imprisoned, hung, drawn, quartered and then burnt at the stake.

I suggested doing it online because, being a web guru, I think everything should be done online. However, once logging on to their site, I soon realised this was a silly idea because their website is rubbish. Conceived by a moron and designed by an idiot would be my verdict.

I have recently come to the conclusion that they are deliberately making things overly wordy and unnecessarily complicated to break our spirits so our resolve will be weaker when they come to steal the rest of our hard-earned wages. I have therefore taken it upon myself to end their tyranny. I believe I have located their secret base. It is in the sewers where they dwell with the rest of the rats. I am going there to destroy them once and for all. I am fed up of having to eat toilet paper because I can’t claim for biscuits.

Friday, 17 June 2011

My phone swims with the fishes

Have you ever heard of a guy called Don Fanucci? You are well educated if you have. If you haven't then I'd suggest you watch the Godfather part 2.

He's a nice Italian chap who runs this great little scheme whereby people have to pay him protection money. If they refuse, he beats them up. It's a brilliant idea. It's also how most big corporations operate.

Take Microsoft for example. We have to pay them obscene amounts of money for the privilege of using their products. During that time we get millions of free patches to download; patches that are necessary because their products are rubbish and full of bugs.

Of course, as soon as one of their products becomes obsolete, these patches pretty much stop because Microsoft isn't interested in supporting them any more. The other thing that happens is the product mysteriously stops working properly.

For instance, I use an older version of Office and I have no reason to upgrade at the moment. The only programs I use are Word, Outlook and Access. I don't use Excel because it's annoying and assumes, always incorrectly, what I want to do before I've done it and I don't use PowerPoint because I'm not an imbecile.

Recently, however, since later versions of Office have been released, Outlook and Word have started to freeze on a regular basis. I can barely move the cursor without it hanging and forcing me to wait 5 minutes before I can compose an email. I often get a message saying Outlook can't open Microsoft Word because it is busy. Well pardon me Mr Gates but I'm the one who's bloody well busy, not Word!

It's the same with Apple and the iPhone. I took out a 2 year contract back in June 2009. It has been brilliant. I've become one of those annoying people who, every 5 minutes, gets the phone out and fiddles with it for no reason whatsoever.

Anyway, recently the thing has started to run a bit slow. The Internet connection is the worst. I can't remember the last time I got a 3G connection and it fails to connect to my email accounts or Facebook on a regular basis. It often takes ages to catch up with itself when I'm composing a text message and there have been a number of occasions where people have tried to call me and it has gone straight to voicemail.

Of course you might argue that the phone is 2 years old and is getting tired. This is very possible but I find it a little strange that it started happening just as my contract came up for renewal. Call me cynical but do you think this could be a deliberate ploy to force me to buy a newer model?

The thing is I, along with everyone else, put up with this because there isn't much in the way of choice. Both companies monopolise their respective markets. Like Don Fanucci, they expect me to wet their beak because I'm just a little punk with no respect.

Of course, Don Fanucci's little business empire collapsed after he annoyed Vito Corleone. So I'm going to take a leaf out of his book. I'm off out to buy a pony and a hacksaw. I'm then heading down to the o2 shop to make them an offer they can't refuse...

Friday, 27 May 2011

Cookie rules are taking the biscuit

Despite having been in the business for over a decade, I still get a sense of enormous satisfaction when I solve a programming conundrum or come up with a fantastically original and pretty design for a website.

However, when I’ve spent a day struggling over a technical issue that stubbornly refuses to do what I want it to, or I’ve been sat in a meeting, I’m left feeling rather deflated.

This is because I like to feel I’ve been productive. People whose roles are defined by sitting in meetings and talking bollocks should be drowned in their own aftershave. Bureaucrats who sit around making up jobs for themselves by coming up with nonsense regulations in a vague attempt to justify their existence are among the worst kind of prat.

Take Christopher Graham. He is an “Information Commissioner”. What the hell that means I have no idea. He has recently made amendments to the “Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations” or PECR for short. The irony of that acronym sounding like the word “pecker” is not lost on me.

Anyway, he is a guy with a receding hairline, silly spectacles and a face that just screams “punch me”. He has taken it upon himself to force websites to ask for consent when they place things called “cookies” on a user’s browser.

Now I’m not talking about biscuits here. Cookies are temporary text files that get written to a user’s computer when they visit a website. They are written when the website needs to remember user preferences. For example, our Webshop app uses a form of cookie when a customer adds items to their shopping basket. The system needs to remember what that customer has added so it stores it in something called a “session” where it stores all their shopping data until they have either bought the item or left the shop. It is the same when that user logs into their account to purchase the items. The system needs some way of remembering who they are so it stores a temporary record on the user’s computer. These files usually expire after about 20 minutes of inactivity.

So what are all these websites expected to do? Will they now have to ask the user’s permission every time they perform an action? Does this mean that every time someone adds something to their basket a message has to pop up saying “Are you sure you want to add this item to your basket? Your computer needs to be aware of this.”? Whenever someone logs in does a message asking “Are you sure you want to log in?” have to appear? These kind of patronising dialogue boxes are bad enough on Microsoft products. I personally don’t want them appearing on all websites.

And what about web stats? Objects like Google Analytics effectively track a visitor’s activity on a website. Is this spying? Not really. It’s called gathering useful information so the owner of the website can use the data to improve the user experience in the future. Or put simply, good business.

What these idiotic and uneducated EU morons need to realise is not all cookies are invading privacy. They can be used for granting authentication, storing useful data, storing site preferences to make the user’s experience on the site better and gathering useful data about their visiting trends to, again, make their experience better on their next visit.

Sure websites that place invasive or malicious objects on computers should be targeted but then any good anti-virus or anti-spyware program should solve that. Also, anyone viewing websites that install those kinds of Trojans are obviously looking at porn and deserve to be hacked.

So Mr Graham, do you actually know anything about computer programming? Do you even know how to use the Internet? No you don’t do you? You’re just a pointless EU bureaucrat with a very small PECR.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

As easy as 123

Last year when a bunch of new faces took over running our server farm, they helpfully forgot to renew our SSL and then informed us that we would have to sort it out ourselves in future. So I did a bit of searching and found that one of the companies we have registered domain names with in the past offer secure certificates at a reasonable cost.

Despite my misgivings about using them because I think their website is rubbish and their control panel is badly designed and unintuitive, I nevertheless ordered one from them.

That in itself was easy. The only problem was it didn’t work. I emailed their technical support and they informed me that I had purchased an Auto CSR and should have used manual CSR. They refunded the money and I purchased what I was told was the correct one. This was fine apart from the fact that the manual CSR didn’t work either.

To cut a long story short, a number of emails between me and their “support” team yielded no results so I requested a refund and went and bought one elsewhere. Having heard nothing but silence for over 2 weeks, I eventually got an email back stating that they couldn’t refund our money because the money back guarantee expires after 7 days. They then marked the job as “complete” on the support page.

I could have kicked up a fuss but I have more important things to do than deal with petty thieves so I left it alone. But today I received an email stating that the certificate expires in 14 days. It says we will not need to do anything because it will automatically be renewed 14 days prior to the renewal date.

The funny thing was that the email was sent to us less than 16 days prior. Well, when I say 16 days, it was actually sent on Saturday at nearly midnight so I couldn’t actually read it until the day they threatened to take the money out of our account. Money for something we never had in the first place because they couldn’t be bothered to do their job.

Now, I’m not going to be petty and name and shame this company because that would be unprofessional and might get me into trouble. So I will just advise anyone who is thinking of buying anything from a company with such a hideously grotesque website should think twice before doing so.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Not using the gym is saving the planet

I would like to announce that I am writing this article wearing nothing but my pants. As potentially disturbing as this may be to you, it’s actually a legitimate part of my new work ethic.

You see I recently moved into a home office. This means that my commute across the Essex countryside to get into work has been replaced with a slightly shorter commute from my bedroom to what used to be my gym. This perilous journey involves a right turn out of the bedroom door, across the hall and into a nice cosy office with a pleasant view into my back garden. I sometimes have to go left out of the bedroom and take a detour via the toilet before doubling back on myself to get to the office. This adds a bit of time to my journey, but that’s just life.

This move may seem odd to the vast majority of suited up pen-pushers who see a big office in London as a status symbol and wear far too much cologne than is healthy, but it really is the way forward, especially in the Internet industry.

By its very nature, this industry involves being online. Most of my work is online which means I can access it from anywhere that has an internet connection – unless it’s AOL, in which case it’s impossible to access the internet. Ever.

With the ever increasing use of cloud computing, of which Datapartners has been a pioneer, the need to waste precious fossil fuels by driving to an office in Banjo playing country is pointless. So not only am I able to have an extra hour in bed, I’m also saving the planet. Who can argue with that?

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Don't advertise. Buy a doughnut instead

I've never been the kind of person who gets ensnared by adverts. This is partly because I'm not weak-minded but also because whenever the ad break starts I leave the room.

Most adverts are just bizarre. I watch some of them and can't even figure out what they are attempting to sell me. Occasionally someone will produce a funny advert; the old Carling Black Label ones spring to mind, although the humorous commercial doesn't stop the beer tasting like fetid urine.

Some adverts are designed simply to ingrain a message into your brains. These are usually the really annoying ones like that Brummie bloke from the Halifax who everybody in the country wanted to choke. The company that buys any car dot com is one that is deliberately maddening and I refuse to even visit their website out of principle. Still, can anyone get that tune out of their head?

Recently, however, I have succumbed for the first time to TV advertising. I have been convinced by a subliminal message through my box to download Queen's "Flash" as my iPhone ring tone. I have even purchased the single and I'm not even a fan of Queen. But I'm still not even slightly tempted to buy one of those Innocent Smoothies. This just proves to me that advertising is, in fact, bollocks!

So as a marketing test I have included a picture of a doughnut to this blog. My hope is that, in future, whenever you see a doughnut you will think of Datapartners. It'll be interesting to see if it works.

Datapartners: Doughnuts.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Show me the money

The recent news that Facebook has purchased the domain fb.com for $8.5 million just goes to further emphasise the fact that some people have far too much money.

Still, it’s good to see companies like that splashing out a bit. Firstly because, according to the press, there is apparently no money left in the world but also because, in my experience, the people who have money are usually the ones who are less likely to spend it.

You all know the kinds of people I’m referring to. They are the loud pompous ones in meetings who will bang on about their new BMW Z3 whilst showing off their Rolex watch, and then quibble over a £30 invoice. The same people who will phone up and ask you to do work for them and expect you to do it for free. And think it’s perfectly acceptable to ignore invoices and statements for a year.

It’s always difficult to demand money off people but it needs doing sometimes; if only so I can afford to put food on my plate. Given this alleged recession we are in, I happen to find myself spending more money than ever. As well as continuing to pay a mortgage of a squillion quid a month, I’m also getting a new kitchen built this year. I’m also planning an extension on the house. As well as that, I’m also getting married in November and that not only means a huge expense for the wedding itself, it also means that I’ll soon have a wife and that means I’m going to be in debt for the rest of my life.

On the business side of things, Datapartners is continuing to prosper nicely. We are shortly moving offices and employing a new member of staff. Over the next year or so, the plan is to build a purpose built office. This, of course, involves huge personal expense and, although it is an investment opportunity and I expect to make a good return over time, I am left wondering how the hell I am going to pay for all these exciting developments.

I have therefore decided to purchase a cricket bat. Any payment stragglers will get a visit from my colleague, Mr Big. Failing that, I will email Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg and ask if he’s got a spare $8.5 million he can lend me.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Sometimes the truth hurts

Here at Datapartners we pride ourselves on our honesty. We also pride ourselves on our devilishly good looks and charisma but that’s a different subject altogether.

The point is, with well over a decade of experience in pretty much all aspects of the web, we have a rather vast catalogue of knowledge. As a result we also pride ourselves on being geniuses.

So when people contact us with questions and advice, we are more than happy to put our knowledge to good use. The trouble is that sometimes we have to disappoint people by stating that what they are asking for might sound easy but is actually very difficult and consequently costly. Sometimes we have to politely explain why an idea someone has isn’t very good and isn’t going to make them rich. Sometimes we have to point out that a brilliantly original idea someone has is neither brilliant nor original and has already been done by Google, Facebook and Twitter.

It comes down to the age-old problem of people not realising what goes on behind the scenes of a working website. Sometimes it comes down to people not considering that the general public don’t possess the same intricate knowledge of their business and need things explained in idiot speak. Sometimes it is just plain crazy. It shouldn’t be that difficult to understand that having grey text on a black background in a really small font isn’t very clever. It is common sense not to present people with a million different options in a variety of sub options if they choose one of the options of the options in the options sub-set under options. Keep things clean, presentable, accessible and simple!

Sadly, some people choose to ignore the advice given and will go elsewhere to get the job done instead. This is always sad for us because it not only means that we lose a valued customer (and a part of us dies a little inside every time that happens) but it also leaves us feeling helpless in the knowledge that they are wasting their time going to someone else who won’t be as honest, will offer to do everything they ask in order to get the money and, in most cases, fail to deliver.

The good news is that sometimes people come back because they have had a bad experience with their newer suppliers (usually for the reasons stated above). This makes us very happy indeed.

So, rather than wasting your money with cowboy companies, please listen to our expert advice. Even if you don’t like it, we are saying it because it is generally sound advice. Here at Datapartners we always have the interests of our customers at heart. We want to look after you.

Choose Datapartners and LOVE your business!