RISC World

Editor's Corner

Aaron Timbrell's own bit of the magazine.

Editors Rant of the month

Doesn't time fly. It only seems like a year go that I was saying it was the last issue of volume 7 and now it's the last issue of volume 8 (idiot - DH). So it's time for my irregular rant based end-of-year roundup...

My legendary patience with the more hard of thinking members of the RISC OS community has been pushed to absolute breaking point over the last few weeks. I am not referring to my customers, bless 'em, a tiny minority of whom could be out thought by the contents of the average sock drawer, but with some RISC OS companies. The RISC OS market is a small one. It's very easy for people to decide to leave it for good. Occasionally things do go wrong with a customer's order, that's unavoidable, but you will often find that your goodwill will be improved no end by sorting out a mess. Creating a mess in the first place, through either laziness or abject stupidity is daft. There are not enough RISC OS user left that one can afford to lose any, especially through situations that could have been avoided in the first place.

I've got dragged into several of these "situations" in the last few weeks. In each case I got involved after things had gone wrong and after the customers had tried to solve the problems with the particular suppliers. Here is the first one that really annoyed me. The customer had purchased a particular item from a RISC OS software developer. They had encountered a problem and rung the developer. To their credit the developer had sorted the problem out, but then "suggested" the customer might like to pay for their time as the "product isn't really supported". What? The customer wasn't very happy with this and rung me. I wasn't very happy with this either. I checked the developers website and there was no mention of the product "not being supported". Given that the customer had purchased the software concerned just over a week before for the thick end of £50 I didn't think the developer was being reasonable. So I rung them, confirmed what the customer has said was correct and then suggested that the developer might want to re-consider their approach to support. The result was that the developer reluctantly agreed to support the product the customer had purchased. It's not right is it?

In another case a customer purchased a copy of VirtualRPC-AdjustSA from a dealer. They had a Vista laptop and have said to me that they told this to the dealer when they ordered. They received the VRPC and installed it, but it wouldn't work. As you would expect they e-mailed me. I was stumped. The customer said they had a "brand new" VirtualRPC, yet the faults they described were known problems with Vista that had been fixed ages ago (before Vista got a retail release). I spent a long time trying this and trying that, all to no avail. For some reason I then asked a couple of questions that revealed the answer. The "brand new" copy the customer had was over a year old. It wasn't even Vista compatible (hence the problems they were having). This was easily fixed by a download from our website. The customer was now happy with VirtualAcorn but very unhappy with the dealer.

A couple of weeks later I had a phone call from a different chap who wanted to ask a few questions before buying a VirtualRPC from the same dealer. "I always support them" he added. For some reason the conversation came around to the price. The customer said that the dealer "was doing them a special price". I asked how much. Wow, that is a special price, very special, 15% more than the RRP to be precise. The customer was surprised, then annoyed, then placed the order with me directly and saved himself some money. I went and checked the dealer's website and low and behold there they were charging more than the RRP for our products. Now it's a free country and I don't fix a price for what I sell. However, do you think overcharging people is likely to encourage them to feel good about RISC OS and RISC OS dealers? I don't.

I wasn't too chuffed with the particular dealer, but OK, I decided to leave it, then something happened that tipped me over the edge. I discovered that when this particular dealer sold a machine with VirtualRPC pre-installed they weren't supplying any anti-virus, spyware removal tools, firewall, indeed the machines were being sold with no security installed at all. How did I find out? A customer who had purchased one of these machines rung me to complain about how slow VirtualRPC was, "when it works at all". They had rung me because they had been "fobbed off" by the dealer. It didn't take long for me to see that the machine was infected up to the hilt. I took the customer through downloading a free copy of AVG and setting it scanning. I also told them to download a copy of Ad-Aware from LavaSoft and a copy of SpyBot Search and Destroy.

A few days later the dealer rung me to place an order. I raised the issue of the customer with Vista, although couldn't remember the chaps name. Not a problem, it was on the tip of the dealers tongue, hmmm. I then raised the issue of pricing and asked what the dealer was doing to justify the profit they were taking. I didn't get a good answer. I then moved on the subject of machines being supplied with no suitable protection. I explained that this wasn't acceptable as the dealer's customers were not used to Windows PCs and asked why anti-virus protection wasn't installed. "Oh we will sell the customer some if they ask for it." That's not a good answer. If the customer was PC literate then, frankly, they wouldn't be buying from you would they?

The conversation made my mind up. Given the problems the dealer was causing, the work they were creating for me and the unhappy customers, I explained that I was no longer prepared to supply them. I won't go into any detail of the conversation, but all it did was make me even more convinced that I was doing the right thing. As you can imagine the dealer wasn't very pleased, but I did explain that this was their own fault. As far as I was concerned they appeared to be just interested in the money and sod the consequences. I won't deal with people like that and neither should anyone else.

The following is about the vehicular faith, not specifically about computing.

I am afraid to say that this is going to be a rather short section. This is simply because I haven't had much time to do anything petrol related since the last issue. The Monterey has remained parked up outside the house as the increasing cost of petrol makes using it hard to justify. Well, hard to justify unless you have something big that you want to move. The last trip it took was almost a month ago when we went down to Brimingham to pick up a new bed frame direct from the importer's warehouse. Emperor sized solid wood four poster anyone? Actually we nearly came a cropper with this trip as the new bed (in disassembled form) only just fitted inside. I had to drive home like a 90 year old with the steering wheel pressed into my chest and my legs wrapped up in a knot in the footwell. Thank god it's an automatic as I wouldn't have been abe to change gear even if I had wanted to.

The Matiz is still in daily service, but has developed two slow punctures on the drivers side. I suspect that, given the tyres are quite new, the problem is that the alloy wheels have started to corrode and the tyre isn't making an air tight seal on the rim. My quick fix to this problem was to buy a cheap £3.99 cigarette lighter operated compressor to take with us, just in case. Slow punctures are an increasingly common problem with modern cars that have alloy wheels and fixing this isn't easy. The tyres need to be removed and the wheel wire brushed to remove any crud. Then the tyre has to be re-fitted with a kind of sealing jelly, a bit like petroleum jelly. Our local tyre fitters (CrapFit) were happy to charge £20 a wheel to do this and were also happy to not guarantee that it would fix the problem. I politely declined. I suspect the best idea will be to find my old tyre levers, take the wheels off and do the job myself. Unfortunately I haven't so far found the time as more important things keep getting in the way, watching TV being a prime example.

I have, finally, done one job on the Porsche. When I removed the head one of the exhaust studs on the manifold snapped. This would mean that the manifold would never seal onto the downpipe. I finally plucked up the courage to drill the old stud, and tap the hole and make and fit a new stud. This wasn't too hard, but the new stud wasn't in quite the same position as the old one and so before I fit it all back together I need to increase the size of the hole in the downpipe slightly. Whilst I would have been happy to do this at the time (whilst I had all the tools to hand) it started to rain at this point and I'm not too happy using a 20 year old Black and Decker corded drill in the wet. So the Porsche still sits there unloved and to add insult to injury has developed a nasty water leak into the cabin that leaves a couple of inches of water in the rear footwell every time it rains. I have promised myself a weekend of work on it. If that doesn't get all the jobs done then I am going to have to admit defeat and either break it for spares or sell it at a loss. Serves me right for not buying a better one in the first place.

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Aaron Timbrell