BT PRICE HIKES
Switching our Internet Service
Over the years I've been
paying steadily more and more money for our phone and Internet.
During the last year BT, who supply us with our broadband, has
been getting too greedy; maybe because they're over-stretched
having started their own TV broadcasts and mobile phone network?
Whatever it is has made me really annoyed. How much is our broadband?
Well, it's £32 per month and whoever I speak to, including
everyone at BT via their help lines, agrees. Sometimes a BT person
can get too cocky and promise to reduce this figure dramatically,
but once they start busily typing away on their computers it
invariably ends with
"I don't seem to be able to get
into your account", or something similar.
Then, usually I'm transferred to queue up again to speak to another
person "who can", but who can't help either. I reckon,
barring hopeless Indian call centre people, I must know most
of the BT staff by now. Mostly very friendly and courteous..Hi
Eileen, Hi Maureen
up in Merseyside. Maureen used to go
to my old school, Holt High School (20 odd years after I left
when they let girls in that is.. small world)
Why am I a puzzle to BT staff?
Well, I'm what's referred to by BT as a "Solus" customer.
In my case it means I've had my Internet with BT for ever. So
long in fact that they didn't even recognise my account number.
Ages ago my better half decided to switch our phone line to the
Post Office when they went into the red. She imagined that this
would somehow help to keep our local post office open. I must
say though that the Post Office charged us less for our line
rental than BT and gave us lots of goodies like making foreign
phone calls free of charge and free mobile calls at weekends.
Sometimes a BT person would
advise me to bring back our phone line to BT and that this would
dramatically reduce our broadband price. The snag was always
that the new price could be calculated only AFTER we'd transferred
the line to them and not before. As I no longer trust BT when
it comes to cash you can imagine why their offer was rejected.
"Tell me how much now and if it's low enough I'll switch",
I said... but all to no avail.
One obvious solution would be
to switch broadband to the Post Office. Not possible it seems,
unless we wished to downgrade our speed by a factor of 7. I suspect
the Post Office, who are really the GPO, can get to grips with
copper wire used from Victorian times but don't understand these
new fangled fibre optics.
A better solution is to switch
both phone line and broadband to a third party; neither the Post
Office nor BT.
The story that follows is long-winded
and still in progress but here goes...
About 6 months ago when our
broadband went up from £17 to £30 I rang BT and tried
to get the new figure reduced. If you've tried something like
this it can be very wearying and time consuming. Mostly I got
nowhere, but one time I spoke to a lady in Enniskillen. She was
very helpful and said I could re-negotiate my broadband without
transferring my line because she was able to bypass the official
channels and just change my payments with a few mouse clicks.
A call would be made to me the next day confirming it had all
been resolved like magic.
As you might guess I didn't
receive the call and, it transpired all record of the promise
was redacted or expunged from the BT computers. I waited a fortnight
just in case the Irish branch were very busy (note "we are
VERY busy" is the automated excuse BT use when you call
them). I then tried to get back to the lady in Enniskillen. I
think that either she or the person due to call me back were
the team that kicks into action when you mention, "looking
at Sky special offers".
After lots of phone calls I
was unsuccessful so I decided to make a formal complaint. This
was not easy. "Complain to me", was the frequent response
"No, I'd rather escalate my complaint", I responded.
This is because a complaint is often quashed because the BT person
was said to have been following their script. "My complaint
is that I failed to receive a promised call which would confirm
my reduced broadband price", I explained. With lots of aggravation
the BT person passed my complaint further up the chain.
I was called back and was informed
(as I'd forecast) that my complaint was unfounded because the
BT person had done nothing wrong
my complaint", I said, "I insist", and after a
few days I received a phone call from a nice lady who apologised
and listened to my story about the promised reduction in my broadband
price and the call confirming this which had never materialised.
At this point it was discovered
that no record existed of the original phone calls. "How
much exactly was the promised price?" I said I couldn't
remember exactly but I think it was around £23 and I was
paying currently about £30. I also said that while I'm
at it I wasn't happy with my BT TV payment. Before I go on I'll
just give you a potted history of our BT Sport experience.
I was one of the first customers
for BT TV. Why was this you might ask? Well my better half enjoys
watching baseball. Donkeys years ago we watched baseball on Channel
5. This was tricky because at that time our Channel 5 local station
was transmitting at very low power and about 30 degrees off our
local TV transmitter on the IoW. We had a large aerial specially
erected for Channel 5, a powerful amplifier and a notch filter
and often the picture (analogue of course) would fade into noise.
Oh, and did I mention that baseball was transmitted between midnight
and 6am? Recording this transmission resulted in one of the above
a perfect recording of the game, the game continued after the
published time and we missed the ending, the signal faded out
and we recorded noise or a French station appeared and messed
up the recording. Another problem, which came later. BT needed
to "renew the viewing card validity" periodically and,
as luck would have it, chose to do this by making an automatic
recording starting at 4am so this usually messed up the ending
of our baseball recordings. Live baseball was transmitted from
the US in our small hours
When we started BT TV it cost
about £7 and for an extra £10 we bought a card for
the now defunct Sentanta Sports channel. After a year or so Setanta
was replaced by ESPN. Both had baseball (which was the reason
for taking up BT TV and the fact that Channel 5 had dropped baseball).
Over the years the price for BT TV changed. It went up regularly
until one day it reached about £12.50 and for some reason
no longer included their sports offerings. These had become free
of charge to BT broadband customers. So, essentially we were
paying for all sorts of things we didn't watch and not paying
for things we were watching until a letter arrived. I'll explain...
Back in November 2014 BT wrote
to me and said that soon you'll lose BT Sport. It was moving
from digital terrestrial to the Internet and as my broadband
speed was rubbish I'd lose BT Sport.
Not so fast though
if I rang 0800 678 1968 I could get
an engineer to sort out our line and we could get BT Sport after
all. I'm not sure how exactly this could be done because it says,
"On their visit they'll assess your line from the exchange
to inside your house and get an improved connection", but
anyway I rang the number and, you've guessed it, no-one knew
anything about the letter.
I persevered and an engineer
was booked. He duly turned up rather mystified. I showed him
the letter and he remained mystified. He tested the line and
said it was really good but not fast enough for BT Sport.
I rang BT again and this time
I was offered a dongle. This is the answer I was told. It's a
Google device that lets one watch, on your TV, BT Sport received
on one's computer. But I can't get BT Sport because the broadband
speed is too low I explained. The lady pretended not to hear
and went on to say the special miracle device is worth £30
and you can have it for nothing. OK I said wearily.. send it
and I'll try it.
It duly arrived and of course
the problem wasn't solved.
After more phone calls I was offered super fast broadband. You'll
get 37Megs and, for a bit more you'll get 75Megs. I explained
to the Irish lady that anything sounding too good to be true
probably wasn't true.
Later our local exchange began to get converted for fibre optic
broadband and I was told a cabinet was near enough for me to
get 13Megs using a copper link to the local fibre optic termination.
I jumped at the chance and duly received a new hub and the service
began. I could now get around 13Megs and I could receive BT Sport.
Unfortunately a price hike then raised my bill for broadband
from £17 to £30. I was now paying £12.50 for
TV plus an extra £13 (a total of £25.50 per month)
just to receive BT Sport which was FREE to BT Broadband customers.
That's £306 per year for a free service.. so I rang BT.
So, continuing with the saga
the complaints lady had called.
I explained about my unhappiness
regarding BT TV and she listened to my story. I said we only
moved to faster broadband so we could receive BT Sport. That
was supposed to be free so why was I being charged an excessive
amount for broadband? Problem solved
she said that our
broadband price was now £23 instead of £30 plus she'd
reduced our BT TV to £2. "Unfortunately", she
said, "the computer system isn't amenable to mouse clickable
reductions so I'll credit your account with cash to make up the
and she did.
But all that happened months
now we have a bill of £32 per month for broadband
and £2 for BT TV PLUS £5 for what was our FREE BT
Sports. Oddly that equals £7 which is what we used to pay
for BT TV Sport from Sentanta and ESPN.
In addition we're paying about £18 for our phone line.
That equals £57 in total or £684 per annum.
At this point I decided to abandon
BT and move my line and broadband to Sky.
Since June 2015 this process is handled completely by the new
provider so I'm now waiting for it all to happen
My line rental drops to a basic £10.66 plus all free UK
calls including mobiles for £8 and my faster broadband
(fibre + copper) drops to £10. Setting aside the TV bits
and pieces, that's a saving of £21 per month AND we'll
get free phone calls including mobiles anytime instead of just
evenings and weekends for the former and weekends for the latter.
In case you missed that
it's a saving of £252 per
what happened after
I requested the switch
Young Dominic arrived in his van to install Sky TV
Having established with numerous
BT advisors that under no circumstances could they reduce my
payment of £32 per month for broadband without initially
transferring my phone line to them I had decided to move to Sky.
I queried BT over the pricing. It's exactly the same hardware
so how is it that BT consider they must charge £32 whilst
Sky can charge only £10? Surely Sky must pay a wholesale
price for the line and the broadband facilities to Openreach
from whom BT are also supplied?
Lets add together the phone
line and broadband prices. BT would be roughly £50 per
month and Sky roughly £18.66 per month (including £8
for the cost of all UK calls) . That means that the wholesale
price has to be less than that... let's say £16. Sky's
margin therefore equals 13% and that of BT must be 212%. To the
layman that must mean rip-off in fact extreme rip off. BT may
say... but we are offering the deal to new customers for £23
plus £19; but that's still a margin of 85% and why should
a long-established loyal customer be forced to support BT to
the tune of 212%? That's nonsense, and if BT managers are aware
of the discrepancy they must be balmy.
BT may say that the broadband
and phone line charges are interlinked but I pay about the same
amount to the Post Office that BT have quoted. The Post Office
in turn pay Openreach a little less. So Openreach is an independent
No, it's part of BT. Therefore
BT lose only a couple of pounds because my phone provider is
the Post Office. This is patently absurd. Whoever I pay for broadband
and phone whether it's Sky or BT, most of the cash ends up in
the pocket's of BT; so, previously I was paying £32 plus
£18 for broadband and phone and soon I'll be paying £10
and £10.66. In the first instance BT took £50 and
soon BT will take around £17 with Sky taking £3.66;
so BT will be out of pocket by £33, yet refused to cut
my price of £32 for broadband. Absolutely crazy.
Or is it?
The Government needed to invent
a market for broadband and phones. BT had a monopoly which means
they could charge whatever they like for providing the services.
So, BT should supply at wholesale prices these services to other
service providers who can then charge whatever they like. Well,
to stay in business they need to be competitive which means they
must quote lower prices than BT. In other words these providers
must either be more efficient than BT or make less profit. But
there's still a monopoly because BT can set their prices as high
as they wish. So, we'll invent Openreach. They can sell services
to BT and other service providers at much the same prices. That
way it's an even playing field? Not really because Openreach
is part of BT. All that's happened is Openreach holds the monopoly
not BT. But as BT = Openreach there's really no change at all.
None of this explains why BT refused to reduce my £32 for
I blame Libby Barr because she
signed every letter I've received from BT; although I have doubts
that she has ever read any of these letters because they contain
silly errors and surely a Managing Director wouldn't make such
silly mistakes? In fact, speaking to a BT person the other day,
he said these letters are generated automatically by computers.
This being so isn't it strange they should carry a signature?
The last letter said I would
have to pay £108 because I was ending my contract early.
Is this the exact amount of the rip-off due from now to the end
of the contract?
As I understand it, Ofcom have
said that a price rise provides grounds for leaving a contract
without penalty, and you have 30 days to make the decision. I
contacted BT and they told me I can leave without penalty, so
having got that information I began the switchover, so why does
this Libby Barr person believe otherwise?
All's well that ends well. The
new router works much the same as the old one except it's network
address is 192.168.0.1 instead of 192.168.1.254. This meant some
changes where any network addressing wasn't set to "Auto"
and of course our network printer stopped working until I'd manually
reset its address in its menu. The Post Office and BT have both
told us there's a refund pending.. so no penalties. Since July
or August of 2015 all the previous problems of switching broadband
provider have magically disappeared so don't forget... if your
ISP hikes up the price within an existing contract you can switch
to another and gain the benefits of special offers without a
penalty for cancelling the contract. The only slight drawback
is your email. Each ISP has their own email system. This is based
on a server which responds to whatever email address you've chosen
and naturally the details are never "standard". Dropping
your old ISP means losing your old email address if it was with
the ISP and going through the process of modifying Outlook or
Outlook Express or whatever you use, not to mention letting everyone
know your address has changed.. Not necessarily though because
at least one ISP allows you to keep your old email address when
you switch broadband provider. BT give you 30 days grace and
then for a little over £1.60 per month you can retain your
old BT email address. In fact I believe you can have up to ten
I'm now writing this note in
March 2016. My next door neighbour popped over last week to ask
if our phone was working as he had no dial tone. I checked and
it was fine so he called his phone provider and a day or two
later an Openreach van and cherry picker was outside our gate
(that's where the telephone pole is). A second Openreach van
was parked round the corner.. not too far away. I stood by our
gate and the chap up the pole shouted that the line was OK, then
corrected himself... sorry... wrong line. A day or two later
and it's my phone that's missing dial tone. Is this a coincidence
or did the Openreach chap forget to tighten the screws on the
"wrong line" I wonder? I contacted Sky, to whom we
pay the line rental. The Sky chap said one of the phone wires
was disconnected and Openreach will fix it within 5 days....
I get most of my work via the
phone so it looks like I'll be getting a few days off... time
to catch up on some gardening.
Fortunately broadband works,
albeit only a quarter as fast as it should be. Signs of losing
one of our pair of wires between the pole and the house? Something
a little odd... when you ring my number you can hear ringing
but the phone remains as dead as a dodo, and of course there's
no dial tone... but when you hang up the mobile a red LED next
to a button carrying a picture of an envelope on the landline
phone lights up and if you press this my mobile phone number
appears on the dial. Apparently there must be some signalling
going on that doesn't rely on both wires being connected?
Well, the Monday following the
weekend we lost our phone at around mid-day broadband lost sync
for ten minutes and when it came back we had dial tone again.
AND A FEW DAYS LATER
I received a letter from BT,
from "Yours Sincerely Libby Barr" stating that as from
6th May 2016 our Premium Mail price was raised from £1.60
to £5 per month. This is an increase of 312.5% and is certainly
more than inflation. Of course it's plainly a ruse to make me
switch ISP to BT. Fat chance as this must be the third time they've
used Mafia methods on me. I've sent them a formal letter of complaint
and also contacted OFCOM. Watch this space...
A few days later the phone rang
a nice Indian gentleman from BT said he'd received my email and
said the charge could be discounted (whatever that meant) and,
could he "close the complaint". I said he could close
the complaint once the price was put back to £1.60 so he
said he'd transfer me to "accounts". After lots of
music and ringing and messages about "we are very busy"
a nice Irish chap answered. I explained the position and after
lots of questions he finally said I could have my email free
of charge and a letter will follow. Too good to believe? We'll
wait and see....
Next, I got an email telling
me that from now on I wouldn't be charged for BT Premium Mail,
"and this is constant". Great, it was worth complaining.
Oops, now, 5 days later I got
another email telling me I'd be paying £5 instead of £1.60.
I rang and after an eternity
in a queue I spoke to an Irish chap who said he'd find out what
was going on and was it OK if he put me on hold.... the line
went quiet and then.... I was back in the queue for another 28
minutes. Eventually an Indian lady answered and, after explaining
all over again, I was told the order giving me my free email
hadn't been processed properly and would I wait while she spoke
with her supervisor for two minutes. She returned after 5 minutes
and said the order for my free email hasn't been actioned despite
the fact I have it in writing that my email will be free, plus
the following statement. Quote "Please accept the above
statement as true and consider this e-mail as confirmation and
evidence of the same".
I re-opened my original complaint....
That was quick... the nice chap
who'd been handling the complaint said the foc order he'd raised
had gone wrong but he'd now raised a new order. This was copied
to me and indeed shows free email for 12 months before reverting,
not to £5 but to the original £1.60 after 12 months.
The order was signed by Libby Barr, so if I need to open a Small
Claims Court dispute I know the name to use. Below is part of
the new order. I included the very unfriendly T & C which
is getting very common these days and hopefully will eventually
be ruled unfair, then illegal, before too long.
Clearly the statement that a
price increase can be made willy nilly must be unfair. In these
days of price comparison websites it is patently absurd that,
having selected a new provider one day, that provider can bump
up his price the very next day by any amount is wrong. I always
understood that a contract lays down, in concrete, the terms
and conditions to be valid for the length of the contract and,
as price is the most important part, it is wrong to make this
a variable quantity.
Although everyone sees this
as unfair, Ofcom, who are supposed to be looking after public
interests have merely wriggled a bit and said all they can do
is to make this unfair stipulation a valid reason for a customer
to leave the contract within 30 days of notification without
penalty. This basically gives the green light to anyone wishing
to attract new customers by offering stupidly low prices in the
hope that the customer won't notice if the price goes up, or
just can't be bothered to swap a second time (customer inertia).
You can click here to see here what Ofcom's
solution is. As my new contract with BT gives me email "Free"
for 12 months I can't see how this can be subject to a price
hike. Time will tell.
BT Premium Mail
Thanks for choosing BT Premium Mail, which gives you:
Unlimited storage for large files and emails
Protection against viruses, spam and other online threats
Technical support to help you when you need
Up to 11 email addresses for you and your family
Access via webmail, internet-enabled mobile phones and email
You'll get BT Premium Mail free for 12 months (starting from
the activation date), then it's £1.60 a month by Direct
"Our prices and terms may change
at any time while you're in contract with us
We'll let you know about any important changes before they happen."
I moved to Sky. The price of broadband
dropped dramatically and I accepted the option of free phone
calls including mobiles. I also took up, at great expense their
offer of TV. Helping this switch was the fact that I was shortly
to get a free over-75 TV license.
I must admit that although I now have
Sky E-mail, I rarely use this.. but it is listed within my Outlook
accounts so if anything untoward happens I get an error message.
Recently, I received what I thought was a phishing e-mail from
Sky telling me to change my password.
At Sky we take the security of your data and
information extremely seriously. To help keep your account safe
we have reset the password for your Sky account.
You will now need to choose a new password to
access your account. To reset your password, please visit https://skyid.sky.com/resetpassword/skycom
and enter your email or username.
Were sorry for any inconvenience caused.
Of course I ignored this
message because I receive lots of vaguely similar messages, often
about things I don't have.. but after a few days I received an
error message from Outlook, and googling the problem revealed
it was indeed Sky changing passwords. The reason is likely to
be nothing whatever to do with user security, but the gradual
leaking of information resulting in free Sky TV for non-subscribers.
I changed my password and all was well, but today 5th Sept 2019,
another error message popped up. I tried email over a period
of an hour or so but still got an error message. I tried to check
my Sky account but couldn't log in. The only option presented
was to change my password (ie. it was MY mistake). I did this
but still could not log in. Now I was getting confused. Which
password would allow me access? My old one or a new one?
I rang the 0333 Sky help number
and a quiet recorded voice said that there was an email problem
and Sky would not provide any assistance to individual customers,
so I googled Sky e-mail problems and found dozens and dozens
of complaints dated today, 5th September. Most blamed Yahoo,
who it seems are now "handling" or "mis-handling"
Sky email (take your pick). I now recall that ages ago, BT decided
to ditch Yahoo after having lots of problems with them. Now it
seems, all the problems suffered by BT-Yahoo have now migrated
to Sky-Yahoo. Presumably some errant programmer has changed some
important code without first checking it was OK?
can't get the staff these days...
What really annoys me is the
general view by all providers of services is that it's a customer's
error that always explains the reason for a problem. Rarely does
a provider of a service accept any blame on their website or
help options. So.. in the case of Sky.. they advise you to change
your password and everything will be hunky dory. When will my
Sky e-mail be sorted out?? If my password was indeed changed,
will my Outlook password be wrong? I can't even log into my account
now and I've tried all my passwords.
I just tried and after a couple
of goes, after waiting an age to get directed (after being validated)
got the messages below...
We are experiencing some technical difficulties
Temporary error: 15
Then after trying "Learn more" saw
Whitelabel Error Page
Thu Sep 05 11:21:08 UTC 2019
This application has no explicit mapping for /error, so you are
seeing this as a fallback.
There was an unexpected error (type=Bad Request, status=400).
No message available
I kept trying and by about
3pm, after around 6 hours Sky email was working again, albeit
after I'd changed my password because it had been suggested that
would provide a fix.. which it didn't...
After about 6 years I'd
noticed our Sky bill creeping higher and higher, and when a Sky
advisor got my e-mail working after some sort of technical glitch
he happened to mention that our monthly subs seemed excessive.
For a Sky chap to say this meant they must be really high and
he suggested we apply for a new contract. Our Sky box and router
were of course 6 years old and likely to pack up sooner or later,
so with that in mind and after delaying for a month or two decided
to ring Sky and attempt a reduction in our bill. The delay had
been due to fear of being on the phone for hours sorting things
The first chap who sounded like
he was on the other side of the world suggested a new Sky Q router.
I asked if this was free and he rambled on and on and on but
when I re-iterated I was looking for a new contract he said his
department couldn't deal with monthly subs and only new boxes.
I'd already said I wanted a 4K box to match our new TV and after
much to-ing and fro-ing with "talking to my manager"
etc etc he said I could have a new Sky Q box foc and once arranged
I could be transferred to the subs people. I said I'd rather
talk to them first and reluctantly he redirected my call. It
was now 40 minutes since I'd rung and the subs people said they
couldn't see how I could get a free Sky Q box, but as I'd been
promised one they suggested I ring a further department, supplying
the number to ring. This I tried and surprisingly it was a strong
Scots accent from the Sky chap instead of a far eastern voice.
I explained my predicament and
after another 60 odd minutes it was all sorted out. My Sky Q
box would be £29 (not foc) and an engineer would come and
fit this in a week or so. My subs were reduced from £168
to £96 and I added BT Sport and Netflix as extras. A couple
of days later a new router arrived. I hadn't expected this but
I think it has something to do with the requirements of the Sky
I decided to install this but
made a big mistake in doing so. Let me explain and save a lot
of hassle for anyone that follows the same path....
The problem is the Wireless
aspect of the router. Searching for a wireless connection you'll
probably see several choices, with the stronger one being your
own router. This will be identified by what's called an SSID
and access will be via a password usually of 8 or more characters.
The new router had a different SSID and a new password from our
old box. That means anyone visiting your house with a phone or
laptop will need to add the new SSID and password to their listing
in order to access wireless and hence the Internet. Now emerges
my problem; we have no less than 4 Alexas and lots of smart plugs
and other so-called "smart" devices. After intalling
the new router I spent ages sorting out the Alexa boxes but when
it came to the smart things they turned out not to be smart at
all. Far from it they were as thick as planks. What I should
have done, and I did this later, was to install the new router
and immediately change the SSID and password to match those of
the old router. After doing this... it was easy enough.. I redid
the Alexa boxes.. and all the smart things were suddenly back
in business.. except our smart kettle. As far as the Alexas are
concerned the kettle is working fine.. I can check its temperature
and turn it on and off with voice commands but the actual kettle
just sits there unresponsive. It had taken me some 20 email exchanges
with the manufacturer to get it working in the first place and
it had been fine.. but now it can only be turned on manually.
It sounds like everything, apart
from the kettle, was easy to sort out but in fact using my Amazon
Fire to handle everything proved this was just not up to the
job. The "smart" software was absolutely awful. My
main grumble is a complete lack of feedback from the device and
so-called "Apps". I was never certain that commands
were actually being expedited or my finger hadn't been recognised
or a delay was in progress due to a download or access problem.
It reminds me of that ridiculous Post Office system where users,
not waiting for feedback, kept repeating commands, not realising
that every time they did this a brand new transaction was starting.
And of course the famous time at Plessey when secretaries were
all presented with computer terminals to send and receive company
messages. Because of slow line modems and slow computers and
poor software, the same message could be transmitted on each
press of the "Go" button. Because of a delay of say
60 seconds (and no feedback.. such as "please wait")
the Go button was pressed maybe 50 times (in desperation) resulting
in the delivery next day by post of hundreds of A3 sheets carrying
multiple copies of just a few messages.
Anyway... I'm now waiting for
the new Sky Q box which I'm told will be maintained foc by Sky
unlike the old box which became my responsibility after 12 months.
I was reminded of this very frequentl by letters demanding a
large sum of money for its "insurance".. oh.. and of
course endless scam phone calls warning of dire consequences
if I didn't sign over pots of cash and in the procees giving
them unrestricted access to my bank account!!
Whilst on this subject. a new
phone scam from yet another fake BT Engineering Department somewhere
in the Far East and often employing fake UK phone numbers on
one's phone display, suggests you run "netstat" and
having noticed the word "Foreign" heading one column
download a program letting the scammers take over your computer
and steal your savings from your bank....
the start of the "digital revolution" many problems
can be traced to bad software or bad firmware (just semantics).
Clearly, now that microprocessors are running virtually anything
these days we are entirely dependent on the quality of software
produced by programmers. Bearing in mind the huge number of software
updates needed to keep Microsoft's products running smoothly..
what about everything else depending on programmer's code?
Recently we had a huge failure of the
National Grid. Their excuse was that two large energy generators
had failed at the same time. OK.. fair enough.. but what exactly
was the reason? Was it a hardware problem? Was it a firmware
problem? We shall probably never find out. Could it even be due
to a Windows 10 update? If it was a hardware failure.. what was
it exactly? It could even be a firmware fault within the hardware...
I can reveal to you something slightly
more technical concerning that mains outage. It concerns software/firmware,
as I predicted.. but not in the National Grid. Most of us are
accustomed to mains outages these days. Many
generally last for only a short period and some are accompanied
by surges in the supply voltage that can wreck your equipment.
Often you'll turn on a TV and find one
of the set-top boxes has screwed up. Everyone now knows (if you've
spoken to an Indian Call Centre rep), that all you need to do
is to unplug the box and replug it and all will be well... after
sometimes a long boot-up phase. This also applies to my Sky router,
which frequently seems to become deaf to demands to open an Internet
browser. My beef is that surely the firmware should be able to
diagnose a problem and automatically correct it, or failing that,
put up a message to the user to unplug-replug? But no... we need
to mess around checking all sorts of things before the unplug-replug
What happened in the Southern rail network
recently (Summer 2019)? A major power outage caused loads of
trains to just stop. No mains power.. no motors could run, unless
there was a backup diesel motor. In fact there is extreme pressure
to ditch diesel-powered trains and go for electric trains.. and
indeed electric cars. So.. the Southern trains just stopped and
when the power returned you'd expect the motors to run and the
trains to move into the nearest station. What actually happened
was about half the trains rebooted their software and they were
able to make the next stations. What about the other half? Alas..
a recent software change thwarted the reboot and these trains
had to disembark their passengers who were obliged to walk to
the next station, or sit and wait in the carriage. Why did they
have to wait? Because the programmer, whose latest software release
had been incorporated into the trains computer, had seemingly
forgotten about what would happen if power was lost. The program
locked up and remained so until a software engineer turned up
with his laptop to get things going again (and again and again
I bet.. pound to a penny.. both the
National Grid outage and the severe delays to trains were due
to similar problems. A errant programmer... you just can't get
the staff these days. I'm not saying that hardware is 100% reliable..
far from it. If it was I wouldn't have my self-employed business
of repairing circuit boards.
Take for example a motor cycle battery
charger just received for repair... I opened it up and after
studying the circuit boards for anomalies noticed two KSP2907A
transistors soldered back-to-front (see below). As I said.. you
just can't get the staff these days. I sent some pictures to
the UK distributor showing the two odd transistors and am awaiting