SAAS – I am not liking you

A British passport with the name of European U...
SAAS - see this? It's like mine - BRITISH.

For those who don’t know SAAS is the government body responsible for withholding as much cash as possible instead of dishing it out to students in Scotland to pay things like course fees, and buy things like food.

Yes, you guessed it. It’s a complaint.

A few weeks ago I filled out their exhaustive online application. This took about 20 minutes and, had I been a dependent, would have gone as far as requesting my parents’ National Insurance numbers. Pretty thorough, it must be said.

Then nothing for almost five weeks until a letter arrived. Prior to this, I was checking the website for an update on my status… which consisted of a page telling me to ring them if I hadn’t had a letter within a month. Great stuff. Very “Web 2.0“. Not.

So this letter duly arrives. “Please fill in form AB10E so we can decide if you are eligible to receive support”. OK, fine. More rubbish.

Date of birth… place of birth… Surname… Address… Parents’ address…

Yes, all previously given in the online application.

Then: Date you became resident in the UK. Reason for entering into the UK. Have you ever paid UK Income Tax? If so, give details.

What. The. Fu…?

Am I reacting a little too harshly when I replied to the “Reason for entering” question with the following:

Mother went into labour. I didn’t really have a choice in the matter.

Or by stating that all the addresses I have lived at since I last entered the UK are “not flipping applicable as I never left”? The fact they give you a small box 7cmx3cm with 5 dotted lines to write down what could be a handful of addresses is a little pathetic also.

Perhaps I have made my point as, instead of giving them my address before taking up residence in the UK, I told them:

I have always been resident on the UK. My parents also. And my grandparents (except for a brief period in 1945 when my paternal grandfather helped storm Normandy). Is this clear enough for you?

As for the income tax question:

I worked, I paid tax. As a British citizen, this is how it works. What details could you possibly need? My national Insurance number is [ahem]. Knock yourself out.

As for the “any other information” box, I just managed to squeeze in:

I am British. I was born British. I have held a British passport since I was around eleven years old. Prior to that I was on my mother’s (British) passport. I have always been ordinarily resident in the UK. I have only been abroad for holidays. I am feeling somewhat annoyed at my nationality being called into question when I made it clear I was British on my initial application.

Given that I’m sending this to a government office, who honestly thinks anyone there will really give a flying fruitbat that all they’re doing is wasting time? I gather from others’ stories that SAAS really suck at their jobs at the best of time. Now I know the depths to which they’ll stoop to try and avoid handing out money which is supposed to be handed out.

Mind you, it seems that withholding money from those who actually need it whilst dolling it out to every Britney, Chantelle and Kylie that comes screaming for it is the British thing nowadays.

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Olympus update

Olympus Corporation オリンパス株式会社
Making up for it...

Following on from the earlier post, I’m glad to say I received an email response from Olympus. First up, a mail telling me that I did have to ring the support number despite how awkward it was for me – but that if I supplied my phone number they would contact me instead.

Secondly, another mail direct from a named person saying that she was looking into the matter personally and again requesting my mobile number which I duly responded with.

This evening, said person called and said that there had indeed been a mistake at their end and that I would be receiving a new camera. This time the new Stylus Tough 8000. All fine and dandy until I asked what would happen about my underwater housing. As ever, each time a new model camera appears, it’s a different size or control configuration to the one I had before so my old housing will be incompatible.

Last time, Olympus swapped it out without a problem. This time, I expect it to happen but the young lady I dealt with is going to have to seek approval before it can be given the go-ahead. They’re also sending me out some packaging so I can return the gubbins to them post-free.

It still raises the question, though, that out of two experiences with their repairs department I’ve eventually been happy but on both occasions had to chase things up due to mistakes at their end. The first time around, they forgot to send out the housing they promised.

My only concerns are that things go missing in the post due to the strikes and that the 8000 hasn’t been getting very good reviews. Robust, yes, but poor picture quality. However, I can’t find any comparisons between it and the earlier models in that range – only against the equivalent Panasonic camera.

Oh, one other issue. Why can I never touch-type “Olympus” correctly on my first attempt? I always, without fail, type “Olymos” unless I concentrate.

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Not so impressed with Olympus

Olympus Corporation オリンパス株式会社
Not so good this time

After the superb customer service job they did for me a few months ago, Olympus have decided to make up by being a bit crap. Following are the details of the problem and the email I’ve just sent to them. You’ll get the gist.

1) Back in March I was in Australia and used the camera in a swimming pool, maximum depth 2.3m and with the best above ground pool heater for the perfect temperature all the time. Upon opening it to charge the battery afterwards, I noticed a very small amount of water inside. The camera then refused to believe that the card/battery compartment was closed. I left it somewhere warm with all the “hatches” open and this resolved the issue.

2) See below – just after getting to Belgium the backlight failed.

3) While on the Gili Islands, I was using the camera while snorkelling – maxiumum depth around 2m. While down I did notice a stead stream of bubbles coming from the screw to the left of the power/shutter realease (as you look at it from behind). When I returned to the hotel, I had the same problem as in “1”. When it fixed itself overnight, the backlight was working again!

4) However… I assume due to seawater rather than freshwater having leaked in, I now have to use a knife or similar to release the catch holding the battery in place. It’s simply impossible to move it using my finger.

So at present I have issues removing the battery, a definite leak (I think around one of the screws) and the possibility that the backlight will suddenly go out again.

And my response when the unit came back “Returned Without Repair”:


I received my camera back today. I called the helpline on Thursday to chase, and found that it had been received, checked out and returned very quickly with which I was very pleased. I was also told that it had been logged as “repaired” which was fine.


Having opened the package returned to me I find that the camera has *NOT* been repaired and that the returns slip included simply states “Return without repair – Beyond economical repair – Liquid”.

Well, dur. The liquid damage is due to the camera leaking which is certainly not my fault. It’s a design flaw and not the result of any misuse or mishandling on my part. Therefore it falls within the manufacturer’s warranty to repair or replace the unit. This you did with no problems (in fact you went above with which I was very impressed) the last time.

So I’ve forked out to ship the unit to you, waited two weeks (partially, I agree due to the ridiculous postal situation right now) and now have the same damaged unit back in hand just in time for me not to be able to use it. Again.

Would someone kindly explain to me why the camera was not repaired or replaced? It is, as far as I’m aware, under warranty. It’s less than a year old and comes with a 2-year warranty. It was a replacement for another unit which failed underwater so I’m already starting do doubt the waterproof quality of the cameras. However, I do take a lot of photos and need a camera. I’m not prepared to pay up for another - certainly not another Olympus to fit into the expensive housing I own – when the one I have should be repaired/replaced by yourselves.

I hope this is just come cockup at your repair plant.

I await a swift response and hope it’s not “ring the support line” as they are only open when I am at college and you have only provided an 0800 number which I cannot ring from my mobile.

Thanks (etc)

I seriously do hope it’s a cockup at their end, as I was singing their praises after the way they resolved everything last time. However, I’ve also been reading a bit online about the cameras not being as waterproof as advertised – something I have now twice found to be the case.

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Experiencing BT Broadband

BT Group plc
Blinking Tripe

I’m staying with relatives for a couple of weeks and they’ve just had broadband installed. They decided on BT‘s Option 2 which has a 4.5Mb connection (I think) and a limit of 15Gb per month which should be fine given that it’s predominantly for my little cousin to access CBeebies and the folks to go on eBay.

BT’s policy if you go over this limit is also pretty fair, in my opinion:

If you exceed your monthly usage allowance your service won’t stop working; advisory emails will be sent to your BT primary email address if you reach 80 per cent of your usage allowance each month and further notification if you then exceed your allowance in a particular month. If you exceed your usage allowance for two months in a row, we’ll charge you £1 for each extra GB you use (rounded up to the nearest GB) starting from the second month you exceed your allowance. We’ll continue charging if you keep exceeding your allowance in the following months. These charges will appear on your BT bill.

So you actually get a “free” couple of GB as long as you don’t take the piss, the additional charges aren’t excessive and they do warn you in advance when you’re approaching the limit. Can’t complain about that.

Only there’s still one major issue. How do you know how much data you’ve downloaded at any one point in time? This can’t be difficult and BT obviously have a per-customer record of this that’s constantly updated. How else could they inform you of when you’ve gone over it?

To put this in context, I have my mobile from 3. I don’t have an internet usage limit on it, but I so have a certain number of calls and texts I can use before I get charged. At any time I can go online, either via my phone or elsewhere, and get an up-to-the-second list of every category of phone call and text (and internet, though it’s not relevant to me) used. That way I know as I approach the end of my billing month how much I have to burn through, or whether I need to throttle back.

BT do not do this. There is no way to find out how much data you’ve shifted. Their advice:

To monitor your usage, you can use a search engine to find and download an online-usage meter; search for ‘internet usage meter’. You may wish to try several until you find one that meets your needs.

In a word: pathetic.

They’re pushing wi-fi routers these days, the idea of which is that multiple devices can be connected at any time. A family may have a desktop and two laptops. One of the parents could have work laptop they’re not allowed to install software onto so that scuppers the idea. Then you have to go around all of the devices and total up the data used all the time.

What happens if a friend comes over, or you want to surf the net on your mobile? The 3G signal here is pants so I connect my phone to the wi-fi instead. There’s no such program for the Nokia E71 that I’m aware of and it would be pointless anyway as I’d only want to use it when I’m here. Likewise, if you pop a monitor onto a laptop, you have to ensure it’s only measuring data flow when you’re connected to the home network and nowhere else.

Essentially it’s completely unreliable and useless unless you have one solitary PC hardwired to the internet connection. If a mobile company can manage it, then why can’t BT? All they need is a “customer information” web page you log into which tells you. Easy as. If such a page does exist then they need to tell people about it.

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Jeremy Clarkson is at the centre of another of these ridiculous complaint messes after some comment on Top Gear last week about truck drivers murdering prostitutes (links to the news below). Thank **** the morons who complained don’t read Viz – they have a semi-regular strip about a prozzie-killing trucker.

Being me, I dropped a mail to OFCOM begging them not to persecute the average broadcaster/viewer for the views of a tiny percentage of the populace:

Just for a change – a complaint about a complaint. Or 180 of them according to the news.

Will you please do the HUGE majority of the viewing public a favour and tell the idiots who complained about Clarkson’s “prostitute murdering” comment to get a life and a sense of humour? Kindly ignore them. If people like that take over the world we won’t be able to laugh at anything and the planet will be an incredibly dull place to be.

Frankly, I think if I had dinner with Mr Clarkson I’d want to punch him in the face by the end of it – simply as he’s even more opinionated that I am and a dedicated smoker. But he’s entitled to that opinion, and he’s also bl**dy funny.

I also note that less than 200 people complained to you post-broadcast (before the bandwagon jumpers checked out the show so they could have something to winge about – are they all descendants of Mrs Whitehouse?). Given the viewing figures being upwards of 2 million, this gives us a generous percentage of 0.01% who claim to be offended. Should we really be deprived of a good presenter on a good show simply because a small number of people got out of bed on the wrong side on Sunday?

As for this nonsense about the comment being made on the anniversary (or near to it) of some murders… good grief. As if Clarkson/the Beeb did that on purpose.

I’m begging you, stop pandering to these idiots. The grannies with nothing better to do that complained about Ross and the other guy – the one who thinks he’s funny – should stick to watching Alan Titchmarsh.

If people don’t like something… don’t watch. Clarkson will always be near the knuckle. Did these same people complain about his stereotyping of the Germans in the last series? I doubt it. Why not? Because that was funny to them.

Humour is a matter of opinion and you have to take into account that one person being offended for 100,000 who aren’t isn’t worth considering. The sooner the viewing/listening public susses that out and gets on with their own lives, the better. Nothing gets a show cancelled quicker than bad figures. If 1 person in 100,000 stops watching, who cares?

I don’t envy your job. But please – stop giving so much credence to idiots with too much time on their hands. And kindly don’t point out that I’ve just become one of them!

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