Saturday, 26 February 2011

When Jogglers Go Bad

My Joggler went wrong over the festive period 2010.  It refused to boot, it simply showed the O2 logo on the screen and didn't go any further so it appeared to get stuck during POST somewhere never reaching the boot loader.  I was going to replace it with something else but was (quite rightly) persuaded to use the guarantee to get another one since it was only 8 months old.

I contacted O2 early in the new year via their usual support channel.  What follows shows just how wrong a company can get it when they venture outside their core business.  It seems all support processes and staff just were not cut out for supporting the Joggler.  The best way I can put across my experience is simply to recount the notes I took at each point of contact with them.  I had a feeling at the start of the process this wasn't going to go smoothly so started taking notes from the very first call.

7th January
Called O2 for the first time to report my broken Joggler.  Spoke with "Neil" and agreed the Joggler team would call back in 3-5 days.  Direct Joggler support is not available to the customer, Neil has to email the Joggler team to get them to call me back.  It seems even O2 customer support aren't able to contact their Joggler team via any other method than an internal email.  Neil was not able to find a record of my purchase since I'm not an O2 customer for anything other than the Joggler.  Fortunately, I still had a copy of the dispatch email so was able to look up the order number to locate the purchase on the O2 systems.  I left mobile and work numbers with Neil and was given a support case number.

10th January
Received a call from "Simon" in the Joggler team.  He queried the symptoms of the broken Joggler and asked for it to be sent into O2 for a replacement product to be issued.  I agreed to return the Joggler to an address Simon was able to confirm via email.  He advised this process should take up to 2 weeks in order for me to receive a replacement and that I should obtain proof of postage.

11th January
I returned the Joggler via first class post to the address Simon provided with a cover note including all my contact details and the case ID number.  Proof of postage was obtained.

1st February
No Joggler or correspondence received from O2, twice as long as promised.  I phoned O2 support and spoke with "David".  He emailed the Joggler team once again and I agreed to receive another call-back from the Joggler team by phone for an update on the issue.  Particularly, why four weeks have passed without any contact from O2 when I was promised a replacement product within 2 weeks.

4th February
No call-back yet received from the Joggler team.  I responded to the email sent by Simon on 10th January asking for an update.

7th February
Still no call back.  Phoned O2 and spoke to "Thomas Wright".  He investigated and informed me he thought the case had been sent to the wrong team and he was going to email the Joggler support team.  I agreed that I would receive a call-back from the Joggler support team within 48 hours and left my home telephone number in addition to the details already on record with Thomas.  He informed me everything I had been told so far must have been incorrect and I could now not expect to receive a replacement product and O2 might instead insist on issuing a refund instead.

9th February
Wrote to Matthew Key, the O2 CEO, via email.  I wasn't expecting a response to an individual case query but thought he might be interested in a copy of my notes recounting my poor experience with his company.

15th February
Again no call, email or any form of correspondence from O2.  Phoned O2 and spoke to "Robert".  He investigated and was going to pass me to a senior advisor but none were available after a lengthy hold period on the phone.  He said he would continue attempting contact with a senior member of his team and call me back later.

I raised a formal complaint via email to and copied Matthew Key for his information once again.  I used the advice from the government Consumer Direct site, stating what the issue was with full reference to my notes and case ID and giving O2 14 days to respond before starting small claims proceedings for their breaking the terms of their guarantee i.e. running off with my money!

17th February
Received a call (finally) from O2 but it wasn't from the support department as expected, instead it was a member of the CEO office, Jonathan Moore.  It appears my emails to Matthew Key had got through.  Jonathan was responding to my formal complaint email sent 2 days earlier.  He apologised for the way I had been treated by O2 and promised to take my issue under his wing and follow it through to conclusion.  His thoughts on the issue were that I would be issued a refund rather than a replacement product.  He was not aware of any support systems that might be able to use the case ID I had given him, seem O2 aren't joined up at all and they have several different support systems.

18th February
Jonathan Moore called twice during the day to confirm he was sending out a refurbished Joggler in addition to organising a full refund for the original purchase.  The original purchase include a £10 mobile broadband USB dongle, the cost of which was also refunded.  He had managed to contact both the Returns Department to determine there are in fact a small number of refurbished Jogglers available to send out as replacement products and the order team to organise the refund.

During the week beginning 21st Feb I received a refurbished Joggler and was able to verify a full refund had been credited back to my account.  I don't think I'll be returning this Joggler when it eventually goes wrong as I don't much fancy going through all that again.  While I'm clearly satisfied with the response of receiving both the refund and the replacement I view that merely as compensation for the hours (literally) spent on the phone and costs incurred.

Would I deal with O2 again?  Actually, I probably would but that would very much only be for their mainstream products but if a competitor had a comparable offer I'd probably shy away from them now.  I'm still awaiting a call return from Robert in support and 2 calls from the Joggler support team... useless!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

CEL MT3 Multi Tool

I've been re-grouting my kitchen and bathroom recently, not in itself something worthy of a blog post.  However, I discovered a power tool to make the job far easier and since a few people have already asked me about it...

The MT3 made by CEL UK is an oscillating Multi Tool with all manner of different attachments, one of which is a carbide grout removal tool.  The fact the tool oscillates (rather than rotates, say like a Dremel multi) means you don't fling the grout all over the house as dust.  Vibrations from the tool are enough to remove grout and drop the majority of the mess neatly out of the joints in front of you.

I think at this point you probably already get the picture so here's a fun video of someone using the tool before I splurge out a bit more detail on it:
As you can see in addition to grout removal, it can be used for cutting but also sanding, rasping and probably a whole load of other tasks too.  There's a bunch of other videos on the MT3 and other tools from CEL on their YouTube channel.

As an alternative, the known branded version of this thing is the PMF 180 E from Bosch.  The best deal I found on the Bosch was at Amazon who sell the tool and large accessory pack together for just under 100 quid at the time of writing.  This is more or less the same price as the MT3 from CEL so here's my logic for why I didn't go for the big name product.

Accessories are expensive for both products, but the Bosch is even more expensive than the CEL.  However, the Bosch is only capable of using bits supplied by Bosch themselves where as the CEL is capable of using bits from pretty much anywhere, including Bosch (they include an adapter for Bosch bits).  Given this and the fact the CEL is slightly more powerful I thought I'd go for supporting the small British startup company rather than the large German corporation and if CEL doesn't survive into the future I can always buy alternative bits for the tool from other manufacturers anyway.

Now I've mentioned CEL are a small British startup, it's probably a good point to say they successfully pitched on the Dragon's Den TV programme back in August 2010. You can see the designer and company MD, Chris Elsworthymaking his pitch on YouTube.  However, it seems that ultimately CEL didn't accept the offer of investment.

Dealing with CEL while buying the tool was an absolute dream, one of the best Internet buying experiences I've ever had and really shows how the personal service you can get from a small company makes a difference.  I wanted to buy the MT3-C Pack which at the time was advertised as "coming soon" and is made up of the MT3 Tool, accessory pack, and a case.  Buying all 3 as a pack represented a saving of around £20.

I wrote to the generic sales email address on their web site asking when the pack might be available as I was interested in buying all 3 products together.  Within half an hour I had a response back from their office saying they had all three parts, they were willing to put them together as a pack and honour the advertised pack price on the web site.  This is where it gets really good, in addition they also sent through a PayPal invoice so should I wish to go ahead with the purchase I just had to complete the invoice and they would send the products out that afternoon for next day delivery!  At this point it was a no-brainer, I returned the invoice and followed up via email too.  Again, only half an hour later I had a response saying they had received the payment and sent the product out.  8:30am the next morning arrives and I've got my new tool, brilliant!

So far the tool and dealing with the company have both been great so I'm completely sold and wish CEL every success for the future and in creating some more great kit.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Building Native-like Web Apps for Mobile

Sencha Touch
I spent a few months at the back end of last year working on a project to bring company information down to mobile devices within that company.  I took the decision early on in the project to implement the solution using a web browser to host the application and a Javascript tool kit to fake the look and feel of a native application inside the web browser.  It's this technique and tool kit that I want to focus on here.

The first key decision in a project such as this is whether to go with a native application or an app delivered through the browser.  Since in this particular case the people I was writing for all used iPhones, perhaps the natural choice would have been to write a native iPhone application.  They could, however, just as easily have been using Android or a whole host of other devices.  The real benefit of the native application (aside from speed perhaps) is the ability to interact with the hardware on the device your application will be running on.  Since I did not require access to a camera, GPS, accelerometers or any other phone features, delivery through a web browser was a very realistic option.  In giving up the ability to access these hardware features you gain the ability (if done carefully) to write-once run-anywhere.  That is, the application I came up with would be able to run on an iPhone and Android or pretty much any device with a web-kit based browser and a decent touch screen interface, but at the cost of not being able to use, for example, a bar code scanner.

There are probably others but to the best of my knowledge there are currently three Javascript toolkits positioning themselves for the mobile space.  Dojo MobileJQuery Mobile and Sencha Touch.  Did I just say positioning for mobile space?  Lucky you, if you're playing buzzword bingo, sorry!  At the time of creation, Dojo and JQuery weren't options, they are both only now ramping up development in this area and in the case of JQuery releasing early alpha drops.  Sencha Touch was much more advanced and already at a 0.90 beta when I first started playing with it.  I followed it through the beta development cycle over the summer months in 2010.  Fortunately, it seemed the timing of the production release of Sencha Touch was likely to be at the same time the first phase of my customer work went live so it became the obvious choice.

As a bit of background (and again this is my understanding so may not be absolutely accurate) Sencha was formed by the merger of JQ Touch and the EXT JS toolkit when the original author of JQ Touch, David Kaneda, joined forces with EXT development.  Essentially, Sencha Touch is the next generation version of JQ Touch but now has a small army of developers, a community, and a company behind it to provide a support network.

I quite like the approach of delivery mobile apps through the web browser, where it's appropriate to do so of course.  I've already discussed that in my view you can develop a web app in the browser if you don't need access to the device hardware.  If you don't require that sort of access, it's hard to see why you'd want to develop any other way.  As an Android user, I often get frustrated when apps (pointless or otherwise) are released only for the iPhone simply because that's what an iPhone user expects.  One example I had recently was while reading through my subscription of BBC Good Food magazine who seem to provide only an iPhone or iPad application.  In fact if you go to their web site they also provide a Chrome app and a Samsung Wave app, why I wonder?  The magazine simply displays content with little or no interaction from the user, sure the online versions contain video and other features you can't put down on paper but there's nothing there to suggest the maintenance of a myriad of different apps for different mobile platforms is worthwhile.  Not to mention my surprise that an organisation such as the beeb are carving up their community by device type rather than, as we'd expect, supporting the masses as we saw with iPlayer coming to Mac and Linux after their early Windows only versions.  Surely, a javascript toolkit approach here would be better?

In the early days of my playing around with the Sencha Touch beta code I wrote a mobile version of a badminton web site I maintain.  It's not particularly advanced and certainly not representative of all the things you can do with a toolkit like this but thought I'd put it out there anyway.  It should, at the time of writing work with iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry devices and quite probably with others too.  If you're trying on your desktop then make sure you're using a WebKit based browser such as Google Chrome or Safari, or for something a little bit different the great little browser Midori.  For a better selection of demos take a look at the Sencha Touch Demo page and for a developer perspective on the widgets and options available in the toolkit have a look at their Kitchen Sink demo which gives a simple overview of many of the components.