Thursday, 15 April 2010

* Your Never Too Old.........

Had a call from a chap yesterday asking me to "fix" his notebook computer. It was a little slow particularly when browsing the net and he wasn't happy about the screen resolution.....the fonts were too large. So I picked it up from his house, did the necessary and returned it to him today. He invited me in to look at a porcelain figure of his pet terrier of which he was very proud.

He then mentioned in addition to the notebook he had a desktop PC as well which he mainly used for writing letters and emails but preferred his notebook for surfing the net. I told him that all was well with his notebook now although I found it heavy to carry compared to most because it was a high end widescreen Toshiba. He showed me out and through his garden, up steps to where he had put a newly purchased Magnolia. I had guessed his age to be a fit 70, perhaps slightly less as he didn't wear glasses, had no hearing aids I could see and walked well without a stick.

As he shut the gate behind me and bade me farewell, he added he was 93 years young and going strong !. I didn't doubt it.

Take note those who say they're too old to learn how to use a computer !!.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

*Can you Bank on your browser ?!.

Do you ever get exasperated by the failure of technology to meet your requirements. Well I do and i've just had a bona fida first class example of it today.

Now i've banked with my current provider for over 30 years. At first in the local bank, then by telephone when they were the first to introduce such a system and then online, when again they were at the forefront of online banking. I have never had a bad experience with them, never incurred a charge, always been able to access my accounts and never been frozen out.
However, within the past year both I and my wife have needed to open savings accounts with another banking provider and boy has it been frustrating but nothing compared to the experience I have had over the last two days!.

Now two days ago my wife and I both accessed our accounts online with the new provider and checked the amounts and details. We then accessed online our long standing bank and transferred sums from our established accounts into the accounts with the new provider. Everything ok so far right. However we also had a large sum of cash which we needed to put into our new provider savings accounts and the only way we could do this was go to our local branch and make a deposit.

Then the shenanigans began ! To make the deposit we're asked to use our bank card in the pin reader. Lord knows why......think about it; the money is cash readies, we have the numbers of the correct accounts and we know we're in the correct bank. What could go wrong. So we comply and I put my card in the chip and pin machine and enter the pin code. Incorrect code !. Try again. Incorrect code. I protest the code isn't correct. Its the same I use for other accounts elsewhere and have done so for 20 years. (..........I know......I should use different pins for each account to be safe and sure......) I tell the nice lady behind the bullet proof glass that it's the correct code, that it's engrained in my memory and not written down and I haven't made a mistake.
She asks me if its the original pin code sent to me. I say its the one I use online when I bank with them. She says "not that pin code, that's a different pin code". I tell her i've never used the card itself in a pin machine and don't know any other pin code but it's the one they call "pin code" on their online banking site. After a short but confusing exchange I have to acknowledge it won't work with the pin code that I have, for whatever reason, and agree to the bank issuing a new pin code by post. Since my wife's card will be exactly the same we agree to her's being re-issued as well.
I question whether this will affect the pin codes we use online and am told definately not. I ask why there has to be one code for online and one for the card and she says she has no idea.
She then says she can do the cash deposit for us without us using our bank cards. Saints preserve us !. So why ask for our bank cards originally ?. Bank policy. Doh !.

She then tells us the money can only be transferred into our joint current account and not into the savings accounts which are online only and so we will have to do those ourselves when we get home. I have an uneasy feeling that this isn't over by a long shot yet.

So we travel home and I go online. I enter the usual codes and passwords in the usual screens and guess says incorrect pin code or password entered. I try it again but same answer, incorrect pin code or password !. *!?***/?!* . Expletives deleted as Richard Nixon said.
It tells me i'm locked out but helpfully if I enter various data into the following few screens it should confirm i'm whom I am and will get me the access I require.

So I start filling in the boxes, full name, DOB, postcoe, etc, etc, including current pin code and password. It's almost like applying for a new account !. I complete it, it submits the information, comes back and says everythings ok and presents me with the normal login screen asking for pin code and password.

Hooray, or so I think. I put the information in the boxes and hit next...............incorrect pin code and password !!. *!?***/?!*.
I do it again...........same result. *!?***/?!* *!?***/?!*.

I ring the online help desk. A nice lady verifies who I am . She asks for key characters from both my pin and my password which check out as good and unlocks the account for me to try again. I ring off, go online and go to login again.
Incorrect pin code and password !.
I try again. Incorrect pin code and password !.
I'm locked out again but helpfully if I enter various data into the following few screens it should confirm i'm whom I am and will get me the access I require.
I get that feeling of deja-vu.

I ring the help line again. another nice lady goes through all the usual question to verify whether i'm suffering from the early on-set of alzheimers disease or just a total dork. After verifying that I know what i'm doing and again that the pin code and password are correct, she presents me with a rather unbelievable but possible explanation as to why I can't get online access to my accounts.

She asks how I get to the online banking webpage.
I say I have the bank's homepage bookmarked in my browser and the online banking login link is on the homepage.
She says that is probably the problem.
I say I can't believe that could be the problem.
She says it probably is.
I say how can it cause a problem as it's only a saved web domain link in a browser, the one i've used for many months successfully.
She says she doesn't know why, just that its what she was told in their training.
She says type in the login page address directly into the browser to access it and it should work.

I get the feeling i'm being fobbed off with an excuse and a rather implausible one at that but i'm tiring fast and need to exchange the virtual world for the real world soon. I agree to give it a try.
She never mentions whether it matters what browser i'm using and I wish i'd asked.

I do as she says and type the address directly into the browser bar and go through the login process. Ureka.........its works..........i'm in !.
I log out and my wife logs in ..........same result.

So what conclusions can I draw from this.....
1. Something on their homepage/login pages has changed because using the bookmark has worked many times before.
2. Whatever it is is a bug of some sort in the webpage construction that prevents passage of the login data to the server.
3. It's probably a cross browser bug.
4. The bank know about it.
5. The bank are keeping it to themselves unless they absolutely have to admit it.
6. They are unable to fix least for the present.

The bank is a mainstream high street bank. Ten years ago they had 500,000 customers banking by internet.....lord knows what it is now. How many are having to go through this experience. The most worrying thing is if the webpages have bugs that do this , is there anything happening that could compromise security ?.

I guess i'll never know.