Strangest Bug Report. Ever.

I’m currently working on a volunteer-run programming project and I just received a very unusual bug report from one of the test team. Not to bore you; but the project allows multiple users to log on to a web-based system and manage various details about themselves – their name, date of birth, gender, etc. – on a kind-of profile page.

Here’s the gist of the bug report:

Bug Report #124: Site has transgender issues

I just made myself male. I have permission to do this.

Surgery is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?

Then, I changed my nickname.

Now, I look like I’m female, despite my not touching my gender.

Maybe you shouldn’t have changed your nickname to “Dorothy.”

It seems if you’re saved as Male, you’re recognised as Female.

If you’re Female, you’re seen to be Unspecified.

Only if you’re in the Ukranian women’s shot-put team.

Geek Night

Geek Night is on as usual tonight, apparently, although I’m unlikely to get involved in more than one game of anything as I’ve got code to do.

But hey; it’s interesting code.

The Saga Of Initial City-Link

A few weeks ago I ordered a Logitech MX1000 laser mouse. It’s a nice mouse – chunky for my big hands, laser rather than LED for significantly higher resolution, wireless because it’s fun (but using a frequency that makes it as responsive as any other USB mouse), charges in a cradle. It’s even got a couple of really cool features like a hardware battery indicator.

Plus, I needed a new mouse. My last optical mouse umm… fell apart… during a particularly aggressive Unreal Tournament 2004 deathmatch.

Because it was my first order with the company I ordered it from, they insisted it must be delivered to my registered card address. Well, that’s not a problem – it was over the Easter break and so Claire would be there to receive it. The carrier was Initial City-Link. Okay; still no problem.

And somehow, they missed us. Perhaps Claire was out (or still in bed) when they called, but in any case, the delivery was missed and a calling card was left. I was instructed to call a phone number to arrange redelivery or collection.

This was Thursday 13th April. On Sunday, we were to begin our grand tour of the UK. And it was a bank holiday weekend (for Easter). When would I get my mouse?

I called the number on the card and was greeted by an automatic voice that prompted me to enter my consignment number – found on the card – into the system. It then gave me three options:

  1. Arrange redelivery. Hmm. That’s not necessarily an option: I’d be away for a week, and the card said that they’d only hold the parcel for five working days… so… yes, redelivery would be good, but only if they’d still have the parcel when I got back, which depended entirely on which of the bank holiday weekend days they were working. I needed more information.
  2. Arrange collection. Their collection centre for this region is in Newtown: about an hour’s drive away. Collection would certainly get me my mouse quicker. Gareth would be driving down through Newtown on Friday, but again – they might be closed. And we could potentially drive through it on Sunday.
  3. Arrange a ringback. A-ha! A chance to speak to a human and have them fix the problem. Excellent. I pressed the button to arrange for them to call me back and waited.

Some hours later, they hadn’t called me back and, concerned about the fast-approaching bank holiday weekend and my subsequent absence from the delivery address, I tried to call back. This time, when I entered my consignment number into the automated service, a voice said, “You have already made a choice. Goodbye.” Great. So, what? I just have to wait?

I looked on the company’s web site and found another phone number and called it. After a bit of hassle, the woman on the other end of the phone told me I needed to call the Newtown branch to get the information I needed, and she gave me their number. For the rest of the day, at half-hour intervals, I tried to call, but it was always engaged. Eventually, I called back the woman at the head office and insisted that they held me. They told me that they were closed Sundays, Saturday afternoons, and the Friday, Monday, and Tuesday of the Easter weekend. I did the maths – that meant, they’d hold my parcel until the day after I’d return to Aber. She confirmed this. Excellent. All I had to do was to call the Newtown depot while I was in Scotland and arrange redelivery.

Needless to say, I never receieved my callback.

On Wednesday, I whipped the “we tried to deliver…” card from my wallet and phoned the number. I’d forgotten to bring with me the number for the Newtown depot – I only had the automated voice number – but I could have found internet access to get back the number had it been necessary. I was surprised, though, that when I entered my consignment number I wasn’t told “You have already made a choice. Goodbye.” Instead, I was told “We tried to redeliver, and you still weren’t there. You’ll now need to collect it yourself or have the sender pay for redelivery.”

What? Well of course I wasn’t there: I’m elsewhere. I called to tell you that the previous week, asked you to call me back – which you didn’t – called a few other numbers – most of which were perpetually engaged – and was eventually promised by somebody that it would all be fine. Now they’re saying that they won’t deliver it at all?

On Friday I was in Preston, with a stable internet connection and telephone signal, so I tired again. I called the main office number and found myself in a queue. I waited in the queue for about seven or eight minutes before it cut me off.

This was the last straw. I did a little bit of exploring of the web site to find some e-mail addresses and wrote a particularly snotty complaint, detailing all of the events above, to one. I’d try to call again on Monday, I reasoned. It turns out that saying that you intend to “make every effort to avoid using your incompetent company ever again” gets through to people.
On Monday, I actually receieved a phone call from them. They apologised profusely, and, after a bit of complaining that now it wasn’t Easter break I couldn’t so easily have somebody sign for parcels on weekdays, had them agree to redeliver on Saturday 29th. A little complaining finally gets a result.

I’ll let you know how the mouse is when I finally get it.

[spb_message color=”alert-success” width=”1/1″ el_position=”first last”]Update: the mouse turned out to be the best mouse I’d ever owned, and I was a little sad when I had to replace it.[/spb_message]

River Bugging

On Thursday afternoon, Claire and I went river bugging in Scotland. I can’t even find a Wikipedia article on it, it’s so little-known as an activity, but apparently it’s gaining popularity in New Zealand (presumably a direct result of access to white water rapids and a suitable level of insanity amongst the general population).

The activity first appeared, I’m told, when somebody using a floating “fishing chair” was whipped away by the current in his unanchored personal boat. The bugs we were using didn’t look far from this – inflatable armchairs that left your feet dangling in the water and let you either sit upright or lie right back (in the traditional lazy angler position – although I was distressed by the lack of a beer holder integrated into the chair). The river had only just defrosted the previous week from a particularly long winter, so we put on two wetsuits each (ever tried to squeeze into a wetsuit when you’re already wearing one?), and activity which, for my sister, Becky, seemed to take up most of the day. We wore wetsuit gloves with webbed fingers to act as “paddles”, and propelled ourselves through the water (whether aboard our bug or not) by paddling and kicking furiously against the clinging of our double-wetsuit constriction.

The photogapher managed to take some fantastic pictures, some of which I’ll share with you here (you can see the rest too, if you like). Just click on a picture to see a larger version.

Dan carries his river bug down the road. Carrying river bugs. They're surprisingly heavy. Claire under instruction. Dan attempts to capsize to practice escaping once underwater. Dan going over the first waterfall. Claire goes over the edge. In the splashpool. Another waterfall. Preparing to go over backwards. Dan goes over the big one! Dan tips over. Dan's down there somewhere.

As you can see, it’s a particularly wild ride. Despite Claire’s difficulties with some of the other activities (descriptions to follow!), she excelled at river bugging, even managing to stay upright after going over the largest of the waterfalls we paddled over, a feat nobody else managed. That said, she was too small to carry her bug up a hill. Bless.

It’s worth a go. The number of places you can do it in the UK can be counted on one hand, and if you enjoy it, two hours isn’t really long enough to do it justice (on the other hand, if you decide that you don’t, it’s perhaps a bit long for a taster session).

In other news, the script that’s being used to provide the funky image slideshow effects if you click on one of the images, above, on my blog, is Lightbox, and it is pretty cool, isn’t it? If you’re reading my blog through a newsreader, Abnib or, worse yet, Livejournal, you won’t see any of the effects. Try reading in the original context.

Le Grande Tour

Firstly; thanks to everybody who tested my kitten-based authentication system yesterday. It seems to be working quite well.

Claire and I are undergoing a grand tour of the United Kingdom this coming week, as follows:

  • This afternoon, we’re driving (in Claire’s car) to Cardiff. Coincidentally, Gareth, who was visiting us this weekend to help me with a programming project we’ve been working on quite a lot this month, is also travelling from Aberystwyth to Cardiff today. In Cardiff, Claire and I will be meeting up with my mum, her boyfriend, and my sisters, to see the War Of The Worlds Musical. My mum and I have had tickets for this every year since Red Planet Productions – who were trying to get it started back then – announced it, but this is the first year that they’ve actually performed it. It could be good, or it could be disasterous. We’ll see.
  • After the show, we’ll either be (a) retiring to Gareth’s parents’ house for a few hours sleep; or (b) driving straight on to Preston: this mostly depends on how tired Claire, who has to do the driving, is. My personal preference would be to drive right on up to Preston – the night-time traffic will be far better than the morning’s traffic (even on a bank-holiday weekend), and there’s a bed, rather than a couch, waiting for us at my dad’s house. In either case, we’ll be in Preston either very early in the morning or very early in the afternoon.
  • Next stop: Scotland – in Preston, we transfer into my dad’s car, and we’re joined by his colleague and family, by my sisters (who are staying overnight in Cardiff and travelling North in the morning), and burn our way up the country to Aviemore. For those not familiar with Scotland, this is a Long Way North… so; yeah… more travelling.
  • Tuesday morning – snow permitting, we’re skiing in the Cairngorm mountains, near Aviemore. Wednesday, more of the same. Claire’s never been skiing before, and people have been, in a curiously counterproductive way, trying to reassure her that it is both safe and fun by recounting their horrific skiing injuries to her. Yeah; thanks guys.
  • On Wednesday night we’re driving South to Stirling, and, at this point, Claire and I will make our way three miles East to visit Kit and Fi. It seems silly to travel the first 600 miles of the journey to their house up there and not the last three.
  • On Thursday and Friday(?) we’re going to Nae Limits, an adventure sports activity centre thing. Zorbing is off, so we’ve cast votes on the activities to take part in, and I’m not yet sure what won. Claire and I voted for river bugging (in which participants are strapped into what are basically inflatable armchairs and pushed over waterfalls) and canyoning (in which we’ll probably be climbing back up those same waterfalls). Having watched The Descent last night at a special Troma Night at Adam‘s house, canyoning doesn’t feel like such a good idea any more! They don’t have subterranean flesh-eating monsters in Scotland, right?
  • Immediately after this, on Friday afternoon, we’re travelling back to Preston… via Gateshead. My dad’s got his new business to run over there, and has set himself up a flat in which to live the weeks he’s working on that side of the country. Guess who needs his ADSL set up?
  • Back in Preston, we’re off to The Comedy Store in Manchester.
  • And then, finally, on Saturday, we’re travelling back down to Aberystwyth… just in time for Troma Night!

Additional missions we’re on include:

  • In accordance with tradition, if we visit anywhere with a Tesco, we’ll bring back cookies and doughnuts, although we anticipate you’ll all be full of chocolate this week anyway.
  • Paul‘s asked if we can get him some shortbread while we’re up in Scotland. I’m sure we can manage that.

Any other missions you’d like to assign to us while we’re out? No, Matt, you can’t have a cornetto. You’ve got perhaps a few minutes to tell us before we go.

I’ll be trying to keep online with e-mail access and perhaps even a blogpost or two while I’m away, but I can’t promise anything about my connectivity. Phone signal should be okay if I’m needed in an emergency, though.

Good Friday

Yes, I’m at work. On Good Friday. People keep asking me why I’m here, despite the fact that I don’t have to be, so I thought I’d try to explain myself:

It doesn’t really matter whether I have to be here or not; I’m here by choice anyway. I’m off next week to do various sports in Scotland with my dad, Claire, and my sisters, so anything that needs to be done before the 24th has to be done this week.

And I promised a client that I’d get his site launched by this weekend, so that he can spent the long weekend playing with it and setting it up before he starts his advertising campaign next week. The guy who’s paying the bill for this project is giving up his weekend to get his new business off the ground – I don’t think it’s the end of the world that I lose a bank holiday (when I’m getting a whole week off next week anyway).

But there seem to be some folks who can’t understand this mentality: as if Good Friday is some god-given holiday (ahem) that must be respected above all else. Or are they just so desperate for whatever days off they can get that they pounce on every single bank holiday like it’s their birthday… I don’t know. The point is, it’s no big deal: I enjoy my job, and I want to get this particular project finished and mark up another satisfied customer, and I volunteered without provokation to do this. In the end, a promise is a promise.

[begin plug] If you like this kind of mentality from your software developers: SmartData [end plug]

In other news, you might have noticed the change in layout to my blog. That’s not all that’s changed – I also replaced the buggy “type the number to prove you’re human” test on placing comments, and replaced it with something far cooler (and cuter!). Leave a comment if you want to see it: I’m sure you can think of something to say about my masochistic tendancy to work on public holidays.

An Update From Gareth

We’ve not seen so much of Not-Gay Gareth of late. He’s sent me an e-mail to let me know why this is, and he’s allowed me to share it with you all, so anybody who cares can see quite how busy he is:

AAAARGH!!!! I feel I should owe everyone an email to explain exactly why no-one’s heard from me in ages. So firstly, i want to apologize and say how much I am missing everyone, which is absolutely true! It pains me when i grab a peak at the various weblogs people write and see what i’m missing out on. But nonetheless, finding time is a hideous nightmare! As you’re aware, I’m doing a fulltime Masters degree at the moment with 4 essays and a dissertation all requiring attention.. on top of that I have my job in the cinema and the film programming, which takes a lot of time, my job in the gallery 2 days a week, and my job as Front of House Manager…..which all take all my time up to the point of exhaustion. If you’ve not heard, the other projectionist has just quit, leaving me with even MORE hours to work in the cinema, (possibly 7 days a week until i’ve managed to find and train a new projectionist) which will literally take forever, all the while I have these essay deadlines looming on the 27th April…….. which again means that every second away from the 4 jobs I’m doing, i have to work on my essay until i fall asleep from stress and exhaunstion. It’s basically not going to get any easier until my classes (if i don’t quit my MA, which i’m thinking about) finish……. So in other words, i want to apologize toooo strongly for my absence lately but i hope this small email goes some way to make you realise that I am in no way ignoring or avoiding you all, just that I am extremely sad that i’m not spending as much time with my very close friends as i would like to. So please forgive me, and hopefully understand that it’s not by choice, just that once my classes are over and essays written (if i get the extensions that i’m going to have to ask for) then i really do hope that I can have even the smallest bit of social life again!

So there you have it.

Sundeep Versus Blogging

By the way: everybody did notice that Sundeep deleted her blog, right?

I mean, deleted it entirely. Not just made the whole thing “private” (so much as such a thing exists) or even, presumabley, backed it up (although I can’t confirm that for sure) : actually just wiped the whole thing.

Funny girl.

Murder Mystery Night 2

Last night, Ruth ran the second of her murder mystery nights, which was cool. It didn’t work as fluidly as the first – partially owing to, in my opinion, a less well-conceived pack, and partially because it turned out that Paul‘s character, who’s gender Ruth had changed to facilitate the number of people available, was intended to be not only a murdress and an adultress, but also a wife and a mother, which made the plot somewhat confusing as we tried to patch the holes with convenient “spot fiction”.

Nonetheless, Ruth and JTA put on a great night of food and fun; everybody’s costumes were great (I’ll try to ensure that some make it online soon), and the evening wore on and folks trickled away home (or staggered away, in Paul’s case) and those that remained drunk themselves philosophical and all was well with the world.

There’s nothing quite as funny as Paul in a drunken fight with a cigarette holder.

Paul vs Smoking


Of Unusual Troma Nights

Well, Paul‘s mid-Troma Night fire was still on, so after watching The Wicker Man we all raided the nature reserve for wood, raided the filling station for petrol (mmm… accelerant) and went and set up on the beach.

Hollywood Pizza were good enough to bring us our pizza on the beach, which was awfully nice of them, but the damp conditions made lighting the fire hard. It’d just started to char the wood when it went out, and, too impatient to wait for somebody competent to go and help him, Paul decided that he’d have a go at putting a little more petrol onto it.

He doesn’t seem to have the knack of it. Here’s a visual guide.

Paul vs. Fire - Frame 1

Experts at “pouring petrol onto fires” (e.g. Jimmy or me) will immediately see Paul’s mistake in the first frame. Not only is he badly-drawn, but he’s holding the jerry can upside down over the naked flames. The correct approach is to swing the can in order to “throw” petrol onto it, and even that is assuming that you rule out the *real* correct approaches of never putting petrol on a lit fire or never trying to use petrol as an accelerant to a bonfire in the first place.

Paul vs. Fire - Frame 2

The inevitable occured, and the petrol can caught fire in Paul’s hands. It took him some time to realise this, however, despite everybody else standing and shouting at him. He calmly and carefully put the can down on a rock before looking down and seeing that it was ablaze.

At this point, the correct course of action would be to attempt to extinguish the flaming can of fuel before it got out of control: perhaps by throwing something over it or by moving it into the sea. But what Paul did was…

Paul vs. Fire - Frame 3

…screamed like a girl. Many of the spectators ran for cover (many of them under the delusion that an open plastic petrol can with a flame burning the gas above it [like a wick] was in some great risk of exploding): Alec hid behind some rocks further down the beach while Paul was still trying to work out what he should do.

Paul vs. Fire - Frame 4

Paul’s master plan was to run blindly towards a number of sharp, knee-high, wet, slippery rocks. This had two effects. Firstly, it put a significant distance between himself and the petrol can which he should have been extinguishing, as the time in which it was safe to do so was growing short. Secondly, it caused him to fall badly onto his leg and injure it, tearing a reasonable-sided chunk of flesh away from him.

Meanwhile, I started to walk towards the can to try to get it moved into the sea and thereby put out the fire – the plan being that I might be able to salvage some of the petrol and make our bonfire more sustainable with it.

Paul vs. Fire - Frame 5

That’s me, wearing the cape like the superhero I am. I wasn’t actually wearing a cape, but I probably should have been. As I approached the can I saw that it was already too late to pick it up – the petrol vapours were being heated by the flame and were escaping the neck of the container and licking around the handle, so I opted to kick it as hard as I could towards the awaiting ocean.

Paul vs. Fire - Frame 6

It was at about this point that Alec popped his head out from behind the rock to see if the coast was clear. The petrol can narrowly missed his head as it flew past him – by this point, just a ball of fire. It fell short of the sea, and it took until a few waves had broken over it a couple of minutes later before it was extinguished, but it was too late: the petrol had already burned it’s way out through the bottom of the can, and our fuel was gone.

If you have photos from the night, please upload them to The Wicker Man gallery on Abnib Gallery. Paul’s particularly interested in getting hold of the photos that were taken of his injured leg.